A settlement has been reached in a lawsuit involving sexual misconduct allegations brought against actor-director James Franco, 42. In 2019, two former women students of Franco’s acting school, Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal, filed a lawsuit against the star, stating that he had forced them to engage in “sexually exploitative auditions and film shoots.” According to a February 11th report filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court, Tither-Kaplan and Gaal have agreed to drop the claims against Franco. A settlement was confirmed by lawyers for the women; however, exact terms were not revealed.
Franco founded Studio 4, his own acting school where he sometimes taught, in 2014 with locations in Los Angeles and New York. Prior to the 2019 lawsuit being filed, multiple women students began to speak out regarding Franco’s sexual misconduct during his time as a teacher after the actor was seen wearing a “Time’s Up” pin on his jacket at the January, 2018 Golden Globe Awards, where he won the Best Actor award for his film, The Disaster Artist. This immediately sparked a discussion on social media amidst the #MeToo movement, as the women began to share their stories. One woman, Violet Paley, tweeted, “Cute #TIMESUP pin James Franco. Remember the time you pushed my head down in a car towards your exposed penis & that other time you told my friend to come to your hotel when she was 17? After you had already been caught doing that to a different 17 year old?”
In an interview with The Los Angeles Times after the news broke, Sarah Tither-Kaplan revealed that she and multiple other women had filmed “a nude orgy scene” with Franco, during which “he removed protective plastic guards covering other actresses’ vaginas while simulating oral sex on them.” Tither-Kaplan was one of five women who spoke to the Times about their experiences and many revealed that they believed Franco would help them with their acting careers if they did what he wanted them to do. The allegations made by former students were also not the first time that Franco has been involved in something like this. In 2014, he made headlines after trying, by way of Instagram DMs, to meet up with a 17-year-old girl whom he had met in New York City. Following a series of messages, he asked her if he could come to her hotel even after he had learned that she was underage. After the messages leaked and he was called out, Franco responded in an interview saying, “I’m embarrassed, and I guess I’m just a model of how social media is tricky. I used bad judgment and I learned my lesson.” The incident also led to Franco permanently deleting his Instagram account.
After the allegations were made against him in 2018, Franco denied them, telling host Stephen Colbert in a Late Show appearance following his Golden Globes win, “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.” He went on to say, “The way I live my life, I can’t live if there’s restitution to be made. I will make it. So if I’ve done something wrong, I will fix it. I have to. I mean, I think that’s how that works. I don’t know what else to do.” In court filings prior to the settlement of the lawsuit, Franco’s lawyers stated that the allegations were “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.”