James Franco is being sued over sexual misconduct that allegedly occurred at his Studio 4 acting school.
According to the New York Times, Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal have filed a lawsuit against Franco and his business partner Vince Jolivette, accusing the men of sexually exploiting students at the now defunct school. Franco and Jolivette's Rabbit Bandini Productions company is also listed as a defendant along with the company's general manager Jay Davis.
Tither-Kaplan and Gaal—former students of the school, which shut down in 2017—say Franco and his 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."
The women say they joined the Los Angeles branch of Studio 4 in 2014, and paid approximately $300 in monthly tuition. The plaintiffs claim the school also offered additional classes, including a $750 master class specifically for sex scenes. According to the lawsuit, students who were interested in the sex scene class were required to submit an audition for Franco to review; students were also required to forfeit their rights to the footage.
Gaal claims she auditioned for the class, but was denied entry after she expressed uneasiness. Tither-Kaplan said she ultimately took the master class, which led to several roles in Franco's independent films.
Per the Times:
In these roles, Ms. Tither-Kaplan said, she was often asked to appear in nude scenes or sex scenes. During the making of an orgy scene for one of his films, Mr. Franco removed plastic guards that covered other actresses’ vaginas while he simulated oral sex on them, according to the lawsuit.
Tither-Kaplan previously spoke about her experiences at Studio 4 in a 2018 article in the Los Angeles Times. She also blasted Franco for sporting a Times Up pin at the 2018 Golden Globes ceremony, suggesting that his support for the Times Up movement—which aims to combat sexual misconduct—was disingenuous.
The actor's attorney, Michael Plonsker, denied the allegations made in the 2018 Los Angeles Times story. Franco also addressed the accusations shortly after the 2018 Golden Globes.
"In my life, I pride myself on taking responsibility for things that I have done. I have to do that to maintain my well being, " he said on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. "... The things that I heard that were on Twitter are not accurate. But 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 ... If I have done something wrong. I will fix it. I have to."
After filing the lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Tither-Kaplan told the Times she hasn't spoken to Franco in two years and that he has yet to make amends.
"I can’t sleep at night knowing that my coming forward, originally, did not do the work that I wanted it to do yet," she said. "There still has been no action, publicly, that shows me that these people know what they did is wrong and harmful and can’t been repeated."
Tither-Kaplan and Gaal are seeking monetary damages as well as the return or destruction of any video recordings submitted by former Studio 4 students. According to the Times, the plaintiffs are also seeking "class-action status so other women who may have similar histories with the defendants can join in the suit."