Two aspiring actresses and former students of Hollywood actor, James Franco, have accused him of sexual exploitation and filed a suit against his acting school for ‘pressuring them into uncomfortable activities and promising acting opportunities that never materialised’ – according to this report in the New York Times. The two women identifying themselves as Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal claim to be Franco’s students in the acting program, that became defunct in 2017.
In the suit, Tither-Kaplan and Gaal accused James Franco and his partners of having ‘engaged in widespread inappropriate and sexually charged behavior towards female students by sexualizing their power as a teacher and an employer by dangling the opportunity for roles in their projects.’ It also goes on to add that it was this ‘environment’ created by Franco, which led to further sexual exploitation in and out of the class.
James Franco’s lawyer, Michael Plonsker has denied the accusations labelling them ‘ill-informed’. In the same report, Plonsker responded to the suit by saying, “James (Franco, his client) will not only fully defend himself, but will also seek damages from the plaintiffs and their attorneys for filing this scurrilous publicity-seeking lawsuit.”
Both plaintiffs claim to have joined the LA branch of Franco’s acting school, Studio 4, in 2014 by paying a fee of $300 per month in which they were also promised opportunities to audition and star in Franco’s own independent films. There was a Masterclass for sex scenes, that was an additional $750 per month. In auditions and classes, the women recount being encouraged to push beyond their comfort zones and pressured to engage in simulated sex acts that went beyond the ‘industry standard’. Gaal claims to have auditioned for the sex scenes masterclass, but wasn’t accepted after she voiced her unease about how it was being run.
Franco has previously faced the public’s heat for trying to ‘pick up’ a 17-year-old on Instagram, something he admitted to and apologised for. Around the time, when Franco won the Golden Globe for his role for The Disaster Artist, he was seen sporting the Times Up pin at the Hollywood gala. Soon after that win, Franco was accused by five of his former student of inappropriate behaviour in this report published by the LA Times. The 127 Hours actor denied the accusations by calling them ‘inaccurate’ and also went on to add that he supported the rights of women to call attention to acts of sexual misconduct.