"Everyone thinks I'm a stoner, and some people think I'm gay because I've played these gay roles," the actor, 32, tells the Advocate magazine in its October issue. "That's what people think, but it's not true. I don't smoke pot. I'm not gay. But on another level, there's something in me that is able to play roles like that in a way that's convincing."
Franco is again playing a gay role onscreen, as Beat poet Allen Ginsberg in Howl, opening Sept. 24. Previously, he portrayed the lover of Harvey Milk (Sean Penn) in 2008's Milk and a swimmer who hooks up with an older man in the 2002 indie film, Blind Spot.
As for indulgences, he doesn't drink or do drugs ("No time, really," he explains), and with a girlfriend of five years, Ahna O'Reilly, on his arm, he says he enjoys tackling these roles because of the challenge they present.
"In this history of cinema, there are so many heterosexual love stories," he says. "It's so hammered, so done. It's just not that interesting to me. It's more interesting to me to play roles and relationships that haven't been portrayed as often."
So – hypothetically – would he come out if he were gay?
"I guess the reason I wouldn't is because I'd be worried that it would hurt my career," he says. "I suppose that's the reason one wouldn't [come out], right?"