- James Franco was accused of sexually exploiting women at his now-closed acting school, Studio 4.
- Both parties reached a tentative settlement in February in The Superior Court of California.
- The lawsuit was first filed in 2019 by Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal.
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James Franco tentatively settled a sexual misconduct lawsuit launched by two former students, who accused him of intimidating them into sexually exploitative situations.
A joint status report was filed in The Superior Court of California on February 11 but wasn’t reported until Saturday by the Associated Press. Insider has since obtained and viewed the court documents.
“The Plaintiffs can confirm that the Parties filed a Joint Status Report notifying the Court of a tentative settlement. The settlement will be further memorialised in a Joint Stipulation of Settlement to be filed with the Court at a later date,” representatives from Valli Kane & Vagnini, LLP told Insider.
As part of the settlement, plaintiffs Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal agreed to drop their individual allegations against Franco.
Tither-Kaplan and Gaal’s sexual exploitation claims were also “dismissed without prejudice,” while fraud allegations presented in the initial suit will be subject to limited release.
“The Parties also reached agreement on several non-economic terms that will be further detailed in the final settlement agreement,” the document read.
The settlement will be submitted for preliminary court approval on March 15, 2021.
In the initial 2019 lawsuit obtained by Insider, Tither-Kaplan and Gaal alleged that Franco sexually exploited female students at now-closed acting school, Studio 4.
Franco’s production company and his business partners, Vince Jolivette and Jay Davis, were also listed in the suit.
“At Studio 4, Plaintiffs and others experienced intimidation and sexual objectification, while also discovering that the most assured way of currying favour with the Defendants and male-dominated casting/production crew was by evidencing a willingness to disrobe and agree to the sexual advances of Franco and others,” the 2019 lawsuit read.
The lawsuit also alleged that the defendants “engaged in widespread inappropriate and sexually charged behaviour towards female students by sexualizing their power as a teacher and an employer by dangling the opportunity for roles in their projects.”
Part of the appeal of Studio 4, the lawsuit said, was that students would be allowed exclusive rights to audition for roles in Franco’s indie films, but it later turned out that those roles were open to other actors.
Although tuition was $US300 per month, additional master classes could cost up to $US2,000. The alleged incidents occurred during a $US750 master class on sex scenes taught by Franco.
The lawsuit alleged that Franco encouraged his students to perform explicit sex scenes on camera.
“Franco required students to audition for the Sex Scenes Master Class. Instead of personally attending the auditions, Franco required all auditions to be taped so that he could review them and select students for the class,” the lawsuit said.
“Despite the sensitive nature of the audition process, numerous people were permitted to attend the auditions,” it said. “The student-actors were encouraged to perform and improvise sexual acts during the audition process.”
Tither-Kaplan alleged that during an orgy scene for one of Franco’s movies, Franco removed the plastic guards used to protect other actresses’ vaginas while he simulated oral sex on them.
The lawsuit also alleged that Franco and his business partners were using the school’s tuition “fund and produce various film projects.”
Franco, who was previously accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women in 2018, denied the allegations.
“Look, in my life I pride myself on taking responsibility for things that I have done. I have to do that to maintain my well-being. I do it whenever there’s something wrong that needs to be changed,” Franco said during an interview with Stephen Colbert.
Franco said the allegations aired on Twitter were “not accurate,” but alluded to supporting the rising movement of speaking out against misconduct.
“The things that I heard that were on Twitter are not accurate,” he said. “But I completely support people coming out and being able to have a voice because they didn’t have a voice for so long. So I don’t want to shut them down in any way. I think it’s a good thing and I support it.”
Representatives for Tither-Kaplan, Gaal, and Franco did not immediately return Insider’s request for comment.