Actor and filmmaker James Franco has been accused of sexual harassment by five women in a report published by the Los Angeles Times newspaper on Thursday. Four of the women who have accused Franco of sexual misconduct were his students, while another accuser claimed that he was her mentor.
In the wake of the allegations against him, Franco was absent from the Critics Choice Awards on Thursday, where he won the Best Actor award for his role in The Disaster Artist.
Sarah Tither-Kaplan, who was a student at Franco’s acting school Studio 4, said that she was asked along with other actresses if she would consent to appearing in a scene featuring an orgy for an unreleased film titled The Long Home. However, Franco removed the plastic guard that covered the women’s vaginas before simulating oral sex with them, she alleged. “I got it in my head pretty quickly that, OK, you don’t say ‘no’ to this guy,” Tither-Kaplan told Los Angeles Times.
Katie Ryan, another former student, said that Franco led everybody to “think there were possible roles on the table” if they consented to perform sexual acts or take off their shirts in front of him. She also alleged that Franco sent mass emails about auditions for hooker or prostitute roles, and that she continued to receive such communication from him “for years”.
In a statement to the newspaper provided by Franco’s lawyer, Vince Jolivette, co-owner of Rabbit Bandini, which ran Studio 4, said that the school had always been run “professionally”. He added that the complaints about the school were “very inconsistent with the mission”, and are now being investigated. “Our instructors were excellent, student feedback was positive,” he said.
Two other former students, Hilary Dusome and Natalie Chmiel, spoke of their experience at Playhouse West, where Franco taught before Studio 4. They alleged that he approached the actresses and asked if they wanted to take their shirts off. When they refused, Franco stormed off, they said.
A fifth accuser, Violet Paley, claimed that Franco offered to give her notes on a script and then proceeded to pressure her into performing oral sex on him. Franco’s lawyer has denied the allegations against the actor.
Franco’s credits include Milk (2008), Pineapple Express (2008), Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011), and This Is the End (2013). He earned widespread critical acclaim for his performance in 127 Hours (2010), where he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor.
The report comes days after Franco wore a Time’s Up pin to the Golden Globe awards in support of the movement against sexual harassment in Hollywood.
The move prompted several women to turn to Twitter to accuse Franco of sexual misconduct.
In the wake of the backlash against him after his Golden Globes appearance, Franco appeared on Stephen Colbert’s The Late Show to deny all the allegations made against him on social media. “In my life, I pride myself on taking responsibility for things that I’ve done,” he said. “I have to do that to maintain my well-being. I do it whenever I know that there’s something wrong that needs to be changed, I make it a point to do it… The things that I heard were on Twitter are not accurate, but I completely support people coming out and being able to have a voice because they didn’t have a voice for so long,” he added.