James Franco Sued by Former Acting Students Over Sexual Harassment Claims

The lawsuit follows allegations that made headlines after the actor wore a Time's Up pin on a 2018 awards season red carpet.
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James Franco

James Franco is being sued for sexual harassment, discrimination and a host of other claims by two former students.

The class action complaint filed Thursday by Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal quotes Franco's public statement from 2018 when such allegations first surfaced. "If I have done something wrong, I will fix it," he said. "I have to."

The women claim Franco, through his acting school, convinced students to engage in explicit nudity, sex and the "pushing of boundaries" by dangling employment opportunities in front of them. They're also suing RabbitBandini Productions, the school's co-owner, Vince Jolivette, and its general manager, Jay Davis.

Tither-Kaplan and Gaal say the school was a ruse to "create a steady stream of young women to objectify and exploit" and a "fraudulent institution designed to circumvent California's 'Pay for Play' regulations and lure students in by providing them false hopes of acquiring job opportunities with Franco's productions."

The women say Franco's Studio 4 charged extra tuition for advanced classes, including one called Master Class: Sex Scenes that the actor personally taught. Tither-Kaplan enrolled in Studio 4 in February 2014 and Gaal enrolled that April. Tither-Kaplan alleges, among other things, Franco removed protective guards from actresses' vaginas while simulating oral sex during an orgy scene, got angry when women refused to go topless and pressured students to sign vague nudity riders.

The two women are bringing the complaint on behalf of themselves and a class of "all female student actors who enrolled in Studio 4 and expressed interest in Defendants' Master Classes and who subsequently either participated or did not participate in these Master Classes."

Tither-Kaplan had claimed in a January 2018 story in the Los Angeles Times that Franco had fostered a "culture of exploiting non-celebrity women" in his productions. 

Franco's attorney Michael Plonsker responded to the complaint in a statement sent to The Hollywood Reporter: "This is not the first time that these claims have been made and they have already been debunked. We have not had an opportunity to review the ill-informed Complaint in depth since it was leaked to the press before it was filed and our client has yet to even be served. 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." 

Oct. 3, 6:47 p.m. Updated with statement from Franco's attorney.