Actor James Franco sued by two former students for alleged sexual misconduct

Actor James Franco sued by two former students for alleged sexual misconduct

Actor James Franco has been accused of sexual misconduct by two former students at his acting and film school.

The Hollywood star allegedly abused his position to engage in "sexually charged behaviour towards female students" by "dangling the opportunity for roles" in his films.

The former students, Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal, say Franco tried to
"create a pipeline of young women who were subjected to his personal and professional sexual exploitation in the name of education".

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James Franco at the Hollywood Foreign Press Association press conference for "The Deuce" held in Los Angeles, CA on July 25, 2017. (Photo by: Yoram Kahana/Shooting Star) NO TABLOID PUBLICATIONS. NO USA SALES UNTIL AUGUST 25, 2017 *** Please Use Credit from Credit Field ***
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 05: Isabel Pakzad and James Franco attend a special screening of the final season of "The Deuce" at Metrograph on September 05, 2019 in New York City. Photo: imageSPACE/Sipa USA
James Franco arrives at the "Linda Vista" Opening Night held at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, CA on Wednesday, January 16, 2019. (Photo By Sthanlee B. Mirador/Sipa USA)
BEVERLY HILLS, LOS ANGELES, CA, USA - DECEMBER 09: Actress Isabel Pakzad and boyfriend/actor James Franco arrive at the Brooks Brothers Annual Holiday Celebration In Los Angeles To Benefit St. Jude 2018 held at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel on December 9, 2018 in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by Xavier Collin/Image Press Agency/Sipa USA)
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Jan 7, 2018; Beverly Hills, CA, USA; Tommy Wiseau (left) stands with James Franco of �The Disaster Artist as he accepts the award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture �Musical or Comedy. Dave Franco stands at right during the 75th Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton. Mandatory Credit: Paul Drinkwater/NBC Handout via USA TODAY NETWORK/Sipa USA
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The lawsuit, filed at a court in Los Angeles, says the alleged abuses took place at Franco's Studio 4, which opened in 2014 and closed in 2017.

It is alleged female students were pushed into taking part in explicit sex scenes "that went far beyond the standards in the industry".

Those who performed were led to believe parts in Franco's films would be made available, the lawsuit says.

The two women are alleging, among other offences, sexual harassment and discrimination and are seeking unspecified damages and for any video recordings of the sex scenes to be destroyed.

They have also asked for the lawsuit to be given class action status, so other alleged victims can join.

Franco's production company, Rabbit Bandini and his two business partners are also named as defendants.

James Franco
Allegations of sexual impropriety against Hollywood actor James Franco have resurfaced (John Stillwell/PA)

Tither-Kaplan had previously come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against Franco, shortly after he won a Golden Globe Award for his film The Disaster Artist last year.

Gaal is speaking publicly for the first time. When the allegations first surfaced, Franco said they were "not accurate".

During an appearance on US chat show The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Franco, 41, added: "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. It's, I think, a good thing and I support it."

Franco has starred in films including Pineapple Express, This Is The End and 127 Hours, for which he was nominated for the best actor Oscar.

As well as acting, Franco has also directed a string of films, with varying degrees of success.

2017 comedy The Disaster Artist was well-received by critics, but Zeroville, which is in cinemas now, has been a critical and commercial flop.

Franco's lawyer Michael Plonsker said: "This is not the first time that these claims have been made and they have already been debunked.

"We have not had an opportunity to review the ill-informed complaint in depth since it was leaked to the press before it was filed and our client has yet to even be served.

"James will not only fully defend himself, but will also seek damages from the plaintiffs and their attorneys for filing this scurrilous publicity-seeking lawsuit."

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