A tentative settlement has been reached in a lawsuit that alleged James Franco intimidated students at an acting and film school he founded into gratuitous and exploitative sexual situations, attorneys for the plaintiffs said Saturday (Feb. 20, 2021).
Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal, two former students of the star’s now-defunct acting school Studio 4, claimed in a suit filed in October 2019 that Franco used the institution to engage in inappropriate conduct, which he has denied.
Now, as per Feb. 11, 2021 court documents seen by The Hollywood Reporter, a settlement has been agreed upon.
In Tither-Kaplan and Gaal’s 2019 lawsuit they alleged that Franco pressured students into performing explicit sex scenes on camera in an “orgy type setting” that went far beyond what is practiced on Hollywood film sets.
It was also claimed 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,” and students were led to believe that roles in Franco’s films would be made available to those who complied.
The purported incidents are said to have happened in a master class on sex scenes that Franco taught at Studio 4, which opened in 2014 and closed in 2017.
Gaal had claimed in the lawsuit that she was not allowed to join the class on sex scenes after expressing her discomfort following an audition for it, while Tither-Kaplan said her taking the class led to a role in a film by Franco that has yet to be released. She alleges that she was cast for an orgy scene where the actor removed plastic guards used to cover the vaginas of the women involved while he simulated oral sex.
In addition to Franco, the lawsuit also names Franco’s production company Rabbit Bandini and his partners including Vince Jolivette and Jay Davis as defendants. The document, which will be submitted for preliminary court approval by March 15, 2021 does not reveal how much money may be involved.
In a subsequent interview on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” Franco called the sexual misconduct stories about him inaccurate, but said, “If I’ve done something wrong, I will fix it. I have to.”
Franco, 42, best known for starring in comedies with Seth Rogen, has generally kept a low-profile since the allegations arose in what had been a highly productive period that culminated in the acclaimed Disaster Artist.