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Could the James Franco Instagram scandal be an elaborate marketing hoax? That theory is going around after the trailer for his new film just dropped.

In Palo Alto, James plays a teacher seducing a student. Coincidence?

Here’s the detailed background on the story if you missed it yesterday:

On Tuesday (April 1), 17-year-old Lucy Clode met James Franco, 35, outside his Broadway show Of Mice & Men and filmed an Instagram video.

He asked her to tag him in it on Instagram. She obliged, and then – according to leaked screen grabs – the actor proceeded to flirt with her hard.

On April 2, an apparent exchange between James and Lucy went viral. In it, he asks her how old she is (she says 17), then asks when her birthday is.

The conversation goes on for some time, with Franco allegedly proving it’s him, then asking where she lives, what hotel she’s at, and for her number.

Eventually, when she reveals she’s turning 18 in May, he backs off.

Weird, to say the least. Later, James responded to the story, sharing a photo of himself with text over it that read, “Why are you thirsty for underage ones?”

He re-tweeted the picture with this surprisingly direct message: “I’M NOT! I HOPE PARENTS KEEP THEIR TEENS AWAY FROM ME! Thank you.”

There’s no proof these messages were real, but they sure looked it.

However, April 1 was the day of the alleged chat AND the date James’ new movie trailer was released. And the movie itself seems to tie in perfectly.

Palo Alto is a drama about a forbidden romance between single father (James) who coaches a high school soccer team, and a young student (Emma Roberts).

James is known for his sense of humor, so concocting this Instagram scenario – even though it makes him look shady – would not be a big stretch.

Check out the trailer below, then tell us what you think: Real or hoax?

Palo Alto Trailer