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James Franco and associated entities have agreed to pay $2,235,000 to resolve a lawsuit alleging he pushed acting students into performing in increasingly explicit sex scenes on camera. The details of the settlement were revealed in court filings made public Wednesday. The proposed deal is being put to a Los Angeles judge for approval.
Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal, two former students in Franco’s acting class, led the lawsuit in October 2020. While the #MeToo movement has shed light on all sorts of misbehavior in Hollywood and beyond, this was a rare instance where alleged sexual exploitation became a putative class action. The complaint alleged that those who were taught by Franco at Studio 4 Film School in New York and Los Angeles were the victims of fraud.
Most often, when settlements come, the terms remain confidential, but that’s not typically the case when the vehicle is a class action. In such instances, a judge needs to review the fairness of the settlement for those who are benefiting but not appearing in court.
Here, Tither-Kaplan is getting $670,500, minus $223,500 less in fees going to the lawyers. Gaal will get $223,500, minus $74,500 to the lawyers. And the other students would get almost two-thirds of the remaining pot of $1.341 million, with the lawyers’ total take being around $827,000.
Franco has also agreed to “non-economic” terms for the individual plaintiffs, although that’s presently the subject of a motion to seal.
The settlement will require Tither-Kaplan and Gaal to release claims, with the other students releasing fraud claims against the star actor. Those who are members of the class would have a couple of months to opt out. Unclaimed money would go as a contribution to the National Women’s Law Center.
As part of the settlement, the parties have also agreed to a statement that reads in part: “While Defendants continue to deny the allegations in the Complaint, they acknowledge that Plaintiffs have raised important issues; and all parties strongly believe that now is a critical time to focus on addressing the mistreatment of women in Hollywood. All agree on the need to make sure that no one in the entertainment industry — regardless of race, religion, disability, ethnicity, background, gender or sexual orientation — faces discrimination, harassment or prejudice of any kind.”
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