This story contains description of sexual abuse — please read with care.
In October 2019, Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of themselves and other “similarly situated women" who had been students at Franco’s Studio 4 acting school in Los Angeles while it was operating from 2014 to 2017. The suit claimed that the Golden Globe winner had frequently sexually exploited his female students, forcing them to engage in “sexually charged” behaviour with them under the guise of teaching. Several women in the class action suit described disturbing instances with Franco in which he crossed boundaries — including allegedly pressuring students to be completely nude in scenes in exchange for potential roles in Hollywood projects, performing sex acts on students instead of stimulating it as planned, and requiring students to sign away their rights to filmed intimate scenes which could then be used at will by Studio 4.
“[James Franco] create a pipeline of young women who were subjected to his personal and professional sexual exploitation in the name of education,” read the students’ initial filing.
Franco denied the allegations at the time, calling them part of a "scurrilous publicity-seeking lawsuit.” However, the actor has since reached a settlement with the former Studio 4 students in which he has agreed to pay them $2.2 million (£1.5 million). Tither-Kaplan and Gaal will reportedly receive $894,000 (£646,862) of that settlement, and the remaining $1.34 million (£968,371) will be distributed amongst the undisclosed number of other students who participated in the class action suit. The settlement was agreed upon without Franco ever admitting guilt to the allegations.
The ink on this settlement will be dried once the presiding judge signs over the legally binding contract. Should that happen, both Franco and his accusers will release the following joint statement:
"The parties and their counsel are pleased to have resolved portions of this dispute and pending lawsuit. 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 sex, race, religion, disability, ethnicity, background, gender or sexual orientation - faces discrimination, harassment or prejudice of any kind."