Two women are suing James Franco for sexual exploitation and fraud, alleging that his now-defunct acting company was little more than a scam to give him and his male collaborators unfettered access to young, female performers.
In a lawsuit filed Thursday, actresses Toni Gaal and Sarah Tither-Kaplan detail how Franco and his business partners “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,” which led to “an environment of harassment and sexual exploitation both in and out of the class.”
Both women were students in Franco’s Studio 4 film and acting class, a since-shuttered school that was opened by Franco in 2014.
Tither-Kaplan’s attorney’s said of the school,
“In essence, Franco took the ‘casting couch’ to another level by creating a ‘casting class.’”
While this news is, of course, disgusting and disappointing, it’s not surprising. Though Franco’s career has remained relatively unscathed during the height of the #MeToo movement, rumors and allegations have swirled about his inappropriate behavior for years. Maybe it’s time that we listened to them.
In 2018, Franco posed on the Golden Globes red carpet with a Time’s Up pin on his lapel and was honored for his role in the comedy The Disaster Artist. Ironically, it was briefly afterward that Tither-Kaplan and four other women first accused Franco of sexually exploitative behavior in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.
They recounted the “uncomfortable” in-class and on-set experiences they had with Franco, noting one particular instance when Franco was “visibly angry” when they refused to remove their tops for a shoot.
And during the same Golden Globes ceremony, actress Ally Sheedy, who had worked with Franco in the off-Broadway play The Long Shrift, also alleged that perhaps Franco’s behavior had been less than professional, writing on Twitter,
“James Franco just won. Please never ever ask me why I left the film/tv business.”
Franco’s documented creepy behavior dates back to at least 2014 when a then 35-year-old Franco messaged a 17-year-old fan over Instagram to ask whether she had a boyfriend and if she was over 18. Even after learning her age, Franco still attempted to lure her to a hotel room. When confronted with this story, Franco chalked it up to bad judgment, merely noting that “social media is tricky.”
Franco hasn’t yet spoken about this latest lawsuit. However, he did speak out about the original accusations in 2018, saying then that, “if there’s restitution to be made, I will make it. I’m here to listen and learn and change my perspective where it’s off.”
However, Tither-Kaplan makes it clear that she has not seen any restitution by Franco in the two years since she first spoke out.
“I can’t sleep at night knowing that my coming forward, originally, did not do the work that I wanted it to do yet. There still has been no action, publicly, that shows me that these people know what they did is wrong and harmful and can’t [be] repeated.”