James Franco and the acting school he founded is being sued by two students who claim he pressured them into sexual situations beyond what was acceptable to be taught in an acting class.
Toni Gaal and Sarah Tither-Kaplan were students at Studio 4, Franco’s acting school that opened in 2014 and closed in 2017. They claim that Franco made the students perform sex scenes in an orgy setting.
They had auditioned for a class called Sex Scenes, which was supposed to teach actors how to manage intimate scenes professionally. Tither-Kaplan said it didn’t teach anything about actor’s rights during such scenes.
According to the lawsuit, female students were expected to be topless and then perform sex scenes, including orgies, as well as performing fully nude with none of the guidelines in place that the industry expects for sex scenes.
The suit claims that Franco, “sought to create a pipeline of young women who were subjected to his personal and professional sexual exploitation in the name of education.” It also claims that students were told that they would get film roles if they did what they were told. Tither-Kaplan said she later received roles as a reward for her participation.
Tither-Kaplan claims the class was an abuse of power because it sought out young women (between the ages of 17 and 24) who were young, powerless in their careers, and able to be written off easily.
Tither-Kaplan was among the women who spoke up about Franco when the #MeToo movement was going strong in January 2018. When Franco wore a Time’s Up lapel pin to the Golden Globe ceremony, Tither-Kaplan said it was like a “slap in my face.”
Last year, Franco said, “If I’ve done something wrong, I will fix it. I have to,” in response to the stories of sexual misconduct. He also said, “I completely support people coming out and being able to have a voice because they didn’t have a voice for so long, so I don’t want to shut them down in any way. I think it’s a good thing and I support it.”
His attorney, Michael Plonsker, responded to the recent lawsuit saying that the team had reviewed the previous complaint in-depth previously and already debunked it. He says that Franco will seek damages against the women for filing suit.
The women want an apology, any videos they were in to be destroyed, as well as monetary damages. They are also hoping more people will join the suit so that it will become a class-action lawsuit.