James Franco in The Deuce (2017)

A New Lawsuit Alleges That James Franco’s Acting School Sexually Exploited Women

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A new allegation has emerged against actor James Franco, who previously came under fire for trying to pick up an underage girl and for allegations of other inappropriate and abuse sexual behavior. Per the New York Times, two women have now filed a lawsuit that claims that Franco “engaged in widespread inappropriate and sexually charged behavior towards female students by sexualizing their power as a teacher and an employer by dangling the opportunity for roles in their projects” while the two were enrolled in Franco’s acting school.

The women who filed the lawsuit, Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal, detail how, within the school, students could pay $750 for a masterclass on sex scenes, for which they had to audition on video. Gaal was rejected from the class after raising questions about the way it was being run. Tither-Kaplan participated, and said that the class led to her being cast in roles in unreleased films from Franco, during which she was asked to participate in nude scenes or sex scenes. She alleges that “During the making of an orgy scene for one of his films, Mr. Franco removed plastic guards that covered other actresses’ vaginas while he simulated oral sex on them,” according to the lawsuit.

Since the school closed in 2017, Tither-Kaplan and Gaal are seeking monetary damages, the return or destruction of any audition tapes or footage, and for the lawsuit to become class-action so other women who may have had similar experiences can join them in the suit. Despite the Times reaching out for comment, Franco hasn’t yet commented on the allegations.

These allegations are incredibly serious. A teacher taking advantage of his students is not a joke. Couple this with Franco’s history, and we’ve got a pattern of allegations popping up about a man who claims to support Time’s Up and Me Too. Franco has said his own accusers are incorrect, but maintains support for the movement, even saying in an interview with Stephen Colbert that “If there’s restitution to be made, I will make it. I’m here to listen and learn and change my perspective where it’s off.”

These alleged actions, though, show a lack of respect for women. Sex scenes are incredibly intimate and require trust between the actors and crew. To exploit women during the audition process or to break the trust during a scene is incredibly harmful. Franco should know better, and the fact that he allegedly harmed or broke the trust of his fellow actors during these scenes shows a lack of compassion.

Complaints like this are why we have intimacy coordinators in place for films that depict sex. Women and men alike deserve to be protected during intimate scenes. If Franco used his power to abuse women, then this lawsuit and the earlier complaints deserve to be heard. Men shouldn’t get multiple chances to continue to hurt women. We need to listen to the women coming forward so that we can make the industry safer and stop abusers from continuing their patterns of harm.

(image: HBO)

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Kate Gardner
Kate (they/them) says sorry a lot for someone who is not sorry about the amount of strongly held opinions they have. Raised on a steady diet of The West Wing and classic film, they are now a cosplayer who will fight you over issues of inclusion in media while also writing coffee shop AU fanfic for their favorite rare pairs.