Allegations of misconduct by actor James Franco were made public in a lawsuit filed in the Los Angeles County Superior Court Thursday, according to The New York Times.
Two former students at Franco’s bicoastal acting school Studio 4, Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal, filed a lawsuit against the actor, his business partner Vince Jolivette, the Rabbit Bandini production company, and it general manager Jay Davis alleging inappropriate behavior.
Tither-Kaplan and Gaal claim that Franco used his power as a celebrity and instructor to take advantage of women who attended the now-defunct program, by encouraging them to participate in auditions and shoots that were sexually explicit in nature. The women allege they were denied protections such as nudity riders during scenes in which they were vulnerable, and felt pressured by Franco to participate in situations in which they were not comfortable.
In order to participate in a training course on sex scenes, Franco allegedly had students audition for the class via videotape, and sign away their rights to the recordings. The lawsuit, which is seeking monetary compensation as well as class action status so other previous students can participate, seeks to ensure those sensitive tapes will be delivered back to the students or destroyed.
Tither-Kaplan, who attended the sex scene course, claimed that Franco removed plastic guards around other students’ vaginas, and simulated performing oral sex on them.
Tither-Kaplan previously spoke about this particular situation in a 2018 article with The Los Angeles Times, along with four other women who also shared negative experiences with Franco. Two students who spoke to The Los Angeles Times claimed Franco was “angry” when actresses on one of his shoots refused to be topless for a scene.
In a statement to Refinery29, Franco's attorney Michael Plonsker denied the allegations.
"This is not the first time that these claims have been made and they have already been debunked," wrote Plonsker. "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."
When Franco wore a Time’s Up pin on the red carpet at the Golden Globes in January of 2018, Tither-Kaplan told The Los Angeles Times it was a “slap in the face.” At the Women’s March later that month, actress Scarlett Johansson called out Franco by saying she wanted her “pin back” in the wake of the allegations. Some Oscar voters told The Los Angeles Times that they regretted voting for Franco for Best Actor for his film The Disaster Artist after reading of his 2018 allegations.
On The Late Show With Stephen Colbert shortly after the Los Angeles Times article broke, Franco insisted he was here to “here to listen and learn.”
Tither-Kaplan told The New York Times she has not spoken to Franco in two years, and that there “has been no action, publicly, that shows...these people know what they did is wrong and harmful and can’t been repeated.”
In October of 2018, Franco’s HBO series The Deuce announced it hired an intimacy coordinator after Deuce star Emily Meade approached executives about doing so in the wake of #MeToo allegations.
Refinery29 reached out to Jolivette for comment.
This post has been updated.