James Franco to pay $2.2M to resolve a sexual misconduct lawsuit

James Franco agrees to pay $2.23M to resolve a lawsuit alleging he pushed acting students into explicit sex scenes on camera at his acting school

  • James Franco and his partners, Vince Jolivette and Jay Davis, were sued in 2020 lawsuit for allegedly coercing students to performing sexually explicit scenes 
  • The two sides agreed to pay a $2,235,000 settlement 
  • Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal say the actor engaged in ‘inappropriate and sexually charged behavior toward female students’ 
  • He is alleged to have promised people roles for participating in nude and/or sexually suggestive scenes  
  • Franco and his partners ‘continue to deny the allegations in the complaint’ but ‘acknowledge that Plaintiffs have raised important issues’

James Franco will pay $2.235 million to settle a class-action sexual misconduct lawsuit brought by two female students at his now-defunct Studio 4 acting school, according to a settlement released on Wednesday. 

Actresses and ex-students Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal alleged in a 2020 lawsuit that Franco, now 43, coerced them into sexual situations against their will, under the guise of it being part of an acting course. 

The class-action lawsuit also named Franco’s partners in the school, Vince Jolivette and Jay Davis. 

As part of the settlement, Tither-Kaplan would receive $670,500, and Gaal would receive $223,500 – both minus attorney fees. The remaining $1,341,000 goes to other students in the school, which had locations in New York and Los Angeles – unless they opt out of the settlement.

Franco, Jolivette and Davis ‘continue to deny the allegations in the complaint’ but ‘they acknowledge that Plaintiffs have raised important issues,’ according to a ‘public statement’ section in the settlement.

‘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.’

Tither-Kaplan tweeted after news of the settlement broke on Wednesday that she’s not commenting on the settlement except to say, ‘I’m very lucky to finally have a strong support system. I hope soon my focus can just be on making movies. That’s all I’ve ever wanted.’

James Franco, pictured here in  Los Angeles in November 2017, agreed to pay $2.23 million to resolve a sexual misconduct lawsuit

Sarah Tither-Kaplan (pictured above) was one of actresses who have come forward to publicly call Franco out for alleged sexually inappropriate and exploitative behavior

The other student named in the lawsuit was Toni Gaal

Tither-Kaplan and Gaal said in the the class-action lawsuit that Franco and his partners ‘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.’

They argued they were victims of fraud, paying $300 a month for an acting school opened by Franco and his business partner Jolivette in 2014.  The women, whose ages aren’t clear and weren’t disclosed in the settlement, further alleged that those who were willing to disrobe in front of Franco and his friends were given special treatment.

Franco’s attorneys have previously denied the claims in the suit as ‘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.’

As part of the settlement, Tither-Kaplan and Gaal drop their claims without prejudice, with other members of the class given roughly two months to opt out should they choose to further pursue their case. Any unclaimed monies would be contributed to the National Women’s Center. 

There were no criminal charges brought in regard to the allegations. 

The Disaster Artist actor allegedly took advantage of his role as instructor by persuading female students to disrobe and/or engage in sexually-charged stage scenes with the suggestion they would get cast in one of his projects.

James and his partners in the school, Vince Jolivette and Jay Davis, through the academy and their various production companies opted to ‘sexualize their power and fame’ by dangling opportunities to students.

Both Jolivette and Davis, who are cousins, are alleged to have recruited women along with ‘various other ‘scouts’ tasked with the job of seeking out young, naïve women between the ages of 17 [and] 24 because these women would not know how the film industry functioned,’ the suit claims. 

The school’s two-year program promised to teach students the Meisner method, ‘as practiced by Franco while giving them the ability to audition and be hired as talent for RabbitBandini Productions,’ the suit claims, making a reference to one of the actor’s production firms, all the while ‘sexually exploiting and humiliating female students and actors.’

James Franco is pictured here on the set of ‘The Deuce’ on April 15, 2019 in New York City

Actresses and ex-students Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal alleged in a 2020 lawsuit that , now 43, coerced them into sexual situations against their will, under the guise of it being part of an acting course

The complaint alleges that monthly tuition fees were used to fund Franco’s productions, which it said violates California’s ‘pay for play’ regulations, and lured students in by ‘providing them false hopes of acquiring job opportunities.’

The alleged incidents are purported to have taken place in 2014, the same year the school opened in Los Angeles, as well as with a location in New York. Tither-Kaplan enrolled in the school in February of that year and Gaal in April.

The school ultimately closed in 2017.  

According to documents related to the case, Franco offered roles in films he was either producing or directing in exchange for the actresses performing explicit scenes or engaging in sexually-charged auditions for him.

Tither-Kaplan and Gaal’s suit alleged that the Franco eschewed current film industry guidelines for nude scenes.

Documents from the case say that Franco ‘routinely pressured to engage in simulated sex acts that went far beyond the standards in the industry.’

Gaal claims that she was denied entry to a special ‘sex scenes master class’ for expressing her concern over the class. ‘She was told by a male employee to ‘grow thicker skin’ and stop being so sensitive,’ the suit claims.

Tither-Kaplan’s tweet pictured above was among several made after Franco’s appearance at the Golden Globes, alleging sexual improprieties and exploitation

Meanwhile, Tither-Kaplan says she was permitted to join the class and was also given roles in Franco productions, but only after required to shoot nude scenes or sex scenes.

Tither-Kaplan and two other women first aired their sexual misconduct allegations in 2018 in light of the #MeToo movement that swept Hollywood, just after Franco won a Golden Globe for his film The Disaster Artist.

She tweeted, ‘Hey James Franco, nice #timesup pin at the #GoldenGlobes, remember a few weeks ago when you told me the full nudity you had me do in two of your movies for $100/day wasn’t exploitative because I signed a contract to do it? Times up on that!’   

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