Outspoken equal rights advocate and Hollywood actor James Franco has responded to discussions on why he chooses to opt for so many gay acting roles, saying “I guess that a lot of the figures that I love were gay.”

Speaking to The Daily Beast, Franco discussed his career-wide decision to act in and also direct a whole host of gay-themed cinema, including films such as Milk and Howl, and the upcoming docufiction film, Interior. Leather. Bar.

He said: “It’s not like it’s my mission to tell the stories of as many gay men as possible, although in some cases, I think it is the point.

“In Milk, the point is to show one of the great fighters for equal rights for the gay community, so I was happy to do that. With characters like Allen Ginsberg, my love for him started with his work when I was a teenager. So his sexuality is secondary to me.

“It’s an important aspect of who he was and his character, but it wasn’t like, ‘Yes, I want to play another gay role,’ it was more, ‘Yes, I’d love to play another one of my heroes.'”

In September, Franco also appeared in a “Roast” by US television network Comedy Central, in which the actor was lampooned for his persistent portrayal of gay characters in film.

He responded in kind, saying: “I don’t even care if people think I’m gay, so it was like, ‘Awesome!’”

But the 35-year-old also says that his portrayal of gay characters is more of a case-by-case basis than it is a “mission.”

He added: “Once I choose a subject, if that’s part of who they are and their character, I’m not going to shy away from portraying that. And of course I’m for equal rights and will do whatever I can do to help make that happen.

“But I feel like because I’ve done more gay characters, gay scenes, or gay projects than most straight actors, people see it as some sort of mission.

“It’s more of a case-by-case basis, and just trying to capture figures that I love. I guess that a lot of the figures that I love were gay.”

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.