NOTE: This article contains disturbing and sexually explicit language. Please read at your own discretion.
More women have come forward to accuse James Franco of sexual misconduct.
In a bombshell Los Angeles Times report published Thursday, four more women, including former students of Franco’s acting class, say the actor engaged in sexually inappropriate behaviour with them. One of the ex-students said Franco, 39, was her mentor.
These new accusations have added to Franco’s roller-coaster week. On Sunday night, moments after winning a Golden Globe for best actor for his performance in The Disaster Artist, he came under fire from three women who accused him of sexual impropriety.
Actor Violet Paley, Franco’s ex-student Sarah Tither-Kaplan, and Breakfast Club actor Ally Sheedy all posted to social media saying Franco engaged in inappropriate behaviour. Paley claimed that Franco “pushed” her head down towards his “exposed penis” while they were in a car, and says he sent her an “annoyed” apology a couple weeks ago.
A couple weeks ago, James offered me & a few other girls an overdue, annoyed, convenient phone “apology”. I don’t accept, but maybe some other people’s lives would be made easier if he donated all of his earnings from “The Disaster Artist” to @RAINN01.
— Violet Paley (@VioletPaley) January 9, 2018
Tither-Kaplan says Franco mistreated her (and others) in his acting classes, while Sheedy cryptically accused the actor without getting into specifics.
Appearing on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert Tuesday, Franco denied the accusations, saying they were “not accurate.”
“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. It’s a good thing and I support it,” he said. (You can watch the clip, below.)
The Times report includes further detail from Tither-Kaplan, along with two of Franco’s other students, Hilary Dusome and Natalie Chmiel. (Two other women came forward as well but chose to remain anonymous.) Franco’s now-defunct Studio 4 closed its doors permanently in October without explanation.
Franco’s lawyer, Michael Plonsker, denied all of the new allegations and directed The Times to Franco’s comments on Colbert.
Tither-Kaplan alleged the actor essentially forced his students to strip naked on set for $100 per day, after signing a “vague and general at best” contract. In the Times report, she elaborates on what allegedly went down in his acting classes.
“I feel there was an abuse of power, and there was a culture of exploiting non-celebrity women, and a culture of women being replaceable,” she said.
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She told The Times that she shot a nude orgy scene with Franco and several women in 2014 and that he allegedly removed protective plastic guards covering the actors’ vaginas while simulating oral sex on them.
Then, she claimed, she and her female co-stars were asked to shoot another topless scene, this time wearing animal skulls on their heads and dancing around Franco. Tither-Kaplan said a woman who refused to take part was swiftly sent home the next day.
“I got it in my head pretty quickly that, OK, you don’t say ‘no’ to this guy,” she said.
Dusome, who was instructed at Playhouse West in North Hollywood (where Franco taught before opening up Studio 4), says that female students were often put in uncomfortable situations. She specifically recalled being chosen for one of Franco’s “art films,” in which he asked the women, “So, who wants to take your shirt off?” He would become irate and storm off, she claimed, if no woman volunteered to take her shirt off.
“I felt like I was selected for something based on my hard work and my merit, and when I realized it was because I have nice [breasts], it was pretty clear that was not the case,” Dusome said. “I don’t think he started teaching with bad intentions, but he went down a bad path and damaged a lot of people in the process.”
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“He just took advantage of our eagerness to work and be a part of something bigger,” said Chmiel. “We were all these up-and-coming actors who were so hopeful.”
The Times interviewed more than a dozen former students who claimed to have a great experience at Studio 4, and many said they were surprised at the school’s sudden closure. Some said Franco would show up disgruntled on a regular basis.
“It was kind of a bummer,” said Kelsey Ann Wacker, another ex-student. “He was shooting The Deuce, but would come to class, and you were like, ‘Did you just fall asleep under your ball cap?’ He’d sit at the front and be a grouch. I wish he would have taken more of a responsibility to teach.”
One woman, Katie Ryan, said that she took multiple classes at Studio 4, and for years, she would receive mass email requests from Franco for “prostitute or hooker” roles.
In 2014, Franco came under fire when he was caught attempting to engage with a 17-year-old girl, Lucy Clode, on Instagram.
Franco addressed the instant messages shortly afterwards on Live With Kelly and Michael, admitting that he was hitting on the teen, but “social media is tricky.”
“I guess I’m, you know, embarrassed, and I guess I’m just a model of how social media is tricky,” he said, confessing to using “bad judgment.”
“In my position, not only do I have to go through the embarrassing rituals of meeting someone but sometimes it gets published for the world,” he added.
In an indicator of how much has changed over the last few years, the Kelly and Michael audience laughs along at his confession and the hosts continue on to the next topic.
The New York Times cancelled an upcoming TimesTalk event with Franco and his brother, Dave, in light of the allegations. The publication said in a statement Tuesday that “given the controversy surrounding recent allegations” it was cancelling the discussion.
This year’s Golden Globes ceremony was held under the pall of the ongoing Hollywood sexual assault and harassment scandal, and the treatment of women was very much front and centre throughout the proceedings. Franco himself wore a “Time’s Up” pin, meant to support Hollywood women and help end harassment in the industry.
It’s unclear at this juncture whether the accusations will harm Franco’s chances of picking up an Oscar for The Disaster Artist in March.
None of these accusations has been proven in court, and Franco hasn’t been charged with any crime.
If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse or is involved in an abusive situation, please visit the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime for help. They are also reachable toll-free at 1-877-232-2610.