Actor James Franco has revealed he was the subject of rumours which claimed he had raped a former boyfriend.

In an interview with Playboy magazine, he said he had been a victim of false accusations that he had dated a man for six months and then beat him up.

Franco, who has been nuanced when discussing his sexuality, said his lawyer warned off two gossip magazines, telling them that no police report had been filed. Franco added that the man who made the allegations later admitted he didn’t know the star.

However, gossip website Gawker then ran a ‘blind item’ claiming that a Hollywood star with a movie out soon had raped a former boyfriend.

Franco said: “Then Gawker picked that up and did this ‘Gay Rapist’ story that was so f**king offensive because I have friends who have been raped. They did a very classy online reader’s poll asking which actor who had a big movie out that summer had beaten up and raped his boyfriend and then paid him off so it wouldn’t go to court.

“The poll had me, Will Smith, Christian Bale and maybe Tom Cruise or some others, and the readers voted for me. Because it was just an innocent poll, they could report this.”

The actor, who revealed he had split from girlfriend of four years Ahna O’Reilly, has a long history of taking on gay film roles, including Milk, Sonny and James Dean.

Hinting at further gossip about his sexuality, he told the magazine: “I was in Milk, a movie I felt strongly about. Some more great rumours will be coming up.”

When asked about his fascination with homosexuality, he said: “Between World War I and World War II, straight guys could have sex with other guys and still be perceived as straight as long as they acted masculine.

“Whether you were considered a ‘fairy’ or a ‘queer’ back then wasn’t based on sexual acts so much as outward behaviour. Into the 1950s, 1960s and so on, the straight and gay thing came up based on your sexual partner.

“Because of those labels, you do it once and you’re gay, so you get fewer guys who are kind of in the middle zone. It sounds as though I’m advocating for an ambiguous zone or something, but I’m just interested in the way perception changes behaviour.”

Read the full interview here.