Outspoken equal rights advocate and Hollywood actor James Franco has responded to rumours and jokes about his sexuality, saying “I wish I was gay” because being gay is “awesome.”

Speaking to The Daily Beast, Franco discussed a recent “Roast” by US television network Comedy Central, in which the actor was lampooned for his persistent portrayal of gay characters in film.

He said: “There’s two sides to what happened in the Roast. If that’s what they were going to make fun of me for, I was like, ‘Great! Bring on the gay jokes!’ because these aren’t insults at all.”

“I don’t even care if people think I’m gay, so it was like, ‘Awesome!’”

“I mean, I wish I was gay — part of it is that movies are a place where people can project things and identify with characters, and it’s the same thing with actors outside of their roles. And it’s been that way since Hollywood was around.”

He added: ‘That’s why there’s a lot of conjecture. That’s been one of my things, too.

“My relationship with my public image over the past four or five years has just become weirder and weirder, because I look at it and it’s me, and it’s not me, so if other people want to use that for their own purposes or needs, I’m fine with it.”

Franco has starred in several movies exploring gay themes, such as Milk, where he played Harvey Milk’s partner, as well as Kink and Leather Bar, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this year.

The actor said he believes he is losing work due to his portrayal of gay characters and appearances in films exploring the theme because companies do not like his new image.

He said: “I know that it’s directly related to the films that I put out at Sundance.

“So you could say that there’s still this kind of homophobia or prejudice against certain kinds of material in mainstream cinema.”

In March, Franco addressed questions around his sexuality, and went on to say that he thinks it is time for high-profile actors in Hollywood to come out.

He said: “One of the things that’s very much part of my public image is the question of my sexuality. It’s not something that bothers me in the slightest. It hasn’t gone away and I get asked about it from all sides. It’s partly my doing and partly not my doing.”

Not the first time Franco has been subject to rumours in the media about his sexuality, in 2011, after rumours that he had been dating a man, he was falsely accused of assaulting him. Franco’s lawyers warned off two gossip magazines because no complaint was ever filed with the police, and the accuser later admitted he had ever met the star. 

Then, 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.”

A long time advocate for gay rights, Franco has a history of taking on gay film roles, which has inevitably stoked curiosity about his sexuality. In a 2011 interview he said “maybe I’m just gay”.

Earlier this year, he teamed up with a gay art-porn director to produce and star in an indie film which re-imagines footage lost from the 1980 film Cruising which starred Al Pacino. Franco’s film, Cruising, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in February.