James Franco is once again under fire with for sexual assault, with the actor now being sued by two of his former students. Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal attended the acting school Studio 4, which Franco and his business partner Vince Jolivette ran from 2014 to 2017. Studio 4 had branches in Los Angeles and New York and was abruptly closed in the fall of 2017.
The lawsuit was filed on Thursday at the Los Angeles County Superior Court by Tither-Kaplan and Gaal who allege that Franco and his friends used the acting school as a front for gaining access to young, aspiring female actors who they could take advantage of thanks to their high standing in Hollywood.
In the new article in the New York Times written by journalist Dave Itzkoff, the two women suing Franco say they were subjected to “…sexually exploitative auditions and film shoots, all while promising them roles in movies that never materialized or were never released.” Specifically, Tither-Kaplan and Gaal say that Franco and his partners “engaged in widespread inappropriate and sexually charged behaviour towards female students by sexualizing their power as a teacher and an employer by dangling the opportunity for roles in their projects,” actions that “led to an environment of harassment and sexual exploitation both in and out of the class.”
Five women, including Tither-Kaplan and Gaal, previously accused Franco of sexual assault that occurred while attending Studio 4. In a report published by the Los Angeles Times, five former female students of Franco detailed an aggressive and exploitative environment, saying they were forced to perform nude scenes and simulate sex scenes on video, but were not given industry standard waivers to sign that would protect the recordings from being shown. The women recounted instances when Franco would storm out of class because women refused to remove their tops, and in one instance a student detailed a sex scene with Franco where the actor removed the plastic cover on a women’s vagina while simulating oral sex.
Following the accusations, Franco was lambasted on social media for appearing at the 2018 Golden Globes wearing a Time’s Up pin. The actor appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert a few nights after the award show and addressed the allegations, saying “Look, 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. 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,” with Franco adding “If I have done something wrong, I will fix it — I have to.”
Franco’s lawyer Michael Plonsker has already responded to the lawsuit, saying “James will not only fully defend himself, but will also seek damages from the plaintiffs and their attorneys for filing this scurrilous publicity-seeking lawsuit.”