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Letterman accuses filmmaker of going through Meryl Streep's purse

John Paul Filo / CBS

David Letterman is accusing a former guest of rifling through Meryl Streep's purse.

Monday night's "Late Show With David Letterman" wasn't just entertaining, it was illuminating. That's because during a visit with actor James Franco, the host explained why he once banned Franco's pal, filmmaker and former legendary Letterman guest, Harmony Korine.

Korine, whose newest movie, "Spring Breakers," stars Franco, appeared on the "Late Show" three times during the 1990s: The first being in 1995 to promote the controversial movie "Kids," which he wrote when he was 18 years old. In 1997, he appeared on the show to promote the movie "Gummo." Korine's third appearance, in which Letterman described him as "pleasantly odd," took place in 1998 to promote his book "A Crackup at the Race Riots." During this appearance, Korine appeared spacey and disheveled (although very entertaining).

Korine was scheduled to appear on the show a fourth time -- reportedly to promote "Julien Donkey-Boy," a movie he directed and wrote, but was mysteriously absent from the show despite having been announced as one of that night's guests.

Franco seemed determined to get the true story behind the incident, which took place on October 29, 1999.

“The legend is that he came back, and it’s in the books, he was here, and he came back a fourth time, and it says in the books, ‘Not interviewed,'" Franco said. "So he was bounced.”

Although Letterman at first seemed reluctant to discuss the incident, he finally admitted to remembering the circumstances that caused the eccentric director to get banned from his show. He told Franco that the story about Korine pushing fellow guest Meryl Streep backstage was, in fact, false, and then proceeded to reveal what had really happened that night.

“I went upstairs to greet Meryl Streep and say, ‘Welcome to the show.’ She was not in there, and I looked around and I found your friend Harmony going through her purse,” Letterman said.

Franco found Letterman’s tale hard to believe, but the late-night host insisted he was telling the truth.

“True story!" Letterman said. "So I said, ‘OK, that’s it. Put her things back in her bag and then get out of here.'”

Earlier in the interview Franco offered a possible explanation for his friend's strange behavior during that time period.

“Harmony is a very sane guy now," Franco said. "He’s a great artist, he’s a great person to work with. I think he had a period where he was going a little off the rails, so maybe he was on something that night ... but we’re talking about 10 years ago.”

Korine recently told HuffPost Live that he'd make another appearance on Letterman's show "in a second if they asked me back."

When asked what he did to warrant the ban, Korine neglected to admit to the alleged purse-picking incident.

"I've heard a lot of different things and I probably don't want to go into them all," he said during the interview. "I was pretty out of it back then, so I guess anything is possible. Honestly, I have no recollection."

Letterman doesn't appear to hold a grudge against Korine for the incident, telling Franco Monday that he'd be "more than happy" to have Korine back on his show.

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