A settlement agreement 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.
James Edward Franco is an American actor, filmmaker, painter, and writer. For his role in 127 Hours, he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor.
The Lawsuit And Agreement
A report on the case joint filed by both parties in the Los Angeles Supreme Court said a decision had been made in the class-action suit brought by former students at the now-defunct school, Studio 4, though elements of the lawsuit may live on. The document was filed on February 11, but the agreement/settlement have never been reported before.
Actors and former students Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal, who came to the limelight after filing the suit in 2019, have agreed to drop their claims under the agreement, according to the court. Their lawsuit alleges that Franco pushed his students to act in sexually explicit scenes on camera in a “orgy type setting” that went far beyond those acceptable on Hollywood film sets.
It is alleged 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 that students were led to believe roles in Franco’s films would be available to those who went along.
Master Class On Sex Scenes
The lawsuit alleges that the incidents took place in a master class on sex scenes that Franco taught at Studio 4, which opened in 2014 and closed in 2017.
The two sides had been in talks about the agreement for a few months, and the progress of the cases was halted while they were talking. Emails to several attorneys by various news organisation for both sides seeking comment on the agreement and more details on the terms were not immediately returned.
In a previous court filing, Franco’s attorneys, while praising the #MeToo movement that helped inspire the lawsuit, called its claims “false and inflammatory, legally baseless and brought as a class action with the obvious goal of grabbing as much publicity as possible for attention-hungry Plaintiffs.” They pointed out that Tither-Kaplan had previously expressed gratitude for the opportunity to work with Franco.
The case also named Franco’s production company Rabbit Bandini and colleagues including Vince Jolivette and Jay Davis as defendants.
The sexual exploitation allegations of other plaintiffs in the class action will be dismissed without prejudice, meaning they may be re-filed, the joint status report said. Fraud allegations brought by those plaintiffs will be “subjected to limited release,” the document says, without further details or explanation.
The Money Involved
The document does not say how much money could be involved in the deal, which the parties said they would apply for a court approval on March 15.
Prior to the lawsuit, Tither-Kaplan spread her allegations of sexual misconduct against Franco and other women in the Los Angeles Times after Franco won the Golden Globe Award for The Disaster Artist in early 2018, when the wave of the #MeToo movement was sweeping across Hollywood.
In a follow-up interview with The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Franco called the sexual misconduct case wrong, but said, “If I did something wrong, I will correct it. I should.”
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.