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James Franco and Accusers Reach Settlement in Sexual Misconduct Lawsuit

Actor was accused in a 2019 suit of sexually exploiting acting class students

James Franco and two former students in his acting school have reached a tentative deal to settle a 2019 lawsuit in which they accused the actor of intimidating them into gratuitous and exploitative sexual situations.

According to a joint status report filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court on Feb. 11, actresses and ex-students Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal have agreed to drop their individual claims against Franco and his Playhouse West Studio 4. “The settlement will be further memorialized in a Joint Stipulation of Settlement to be filed with the Court at a later date,” the law firm Valli Kane & Vagnini said in a statement.

No further details were given of the agreement or if a financial settlement was part of the deal.

The two former students of Franco’s Playhouse West Studio 4 said in a 2019 lawsuit that the class was a front in which Franco and his business partners, Vince Jolivette and Jay Davis, could take advantage of young female performers. They said that Franco asserted his influence as an instructor by offering them parts in movies that never materialized or were never released, even with the expectation that Franco would star in some of the projects.

The lawsuit said the incidents occurred in a master class on sex scenes that Franco taught at Studio 4, which opened in 2014 and closed in 2017. According to the suit, Franco and the other defendants’ behavior with students “led to an environment of harassment and sexual exploitation both in and out of the class.”

The plaintiffs said they each paid a $300 enrollment fee, as well as additional fees for “master classes,” including one on sex scenes. Students were initially suggested to appear topless before the requests escalated into performing sex scenes, “orgies” and “gratuitous full nudity for no other reason than the Defendants could make them do it,” the suit read.

Tither-Kaplan was one of the five accusers listed in a 2018 report from the Los Angeles Times about Franco regarding what the women said was a pattern of the actor’s inappropriate and abusive sexual behavior. In that report, she told the Times she was cast as a prostitute in 2015 in an as-yet-unreleased feature called “The Long Home” and then asked to perform a “bonus scene” depicting an orgy in which Franco would simulate oral sex on several women.

In a January 2018 appearance on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” Franco said, “Look, in my life I pride myself on taking responsibility for things that I have done. The things that I heard that 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. So I don’t want to shut them down in any way.” He added, “If I have done something wrong, I will fix it — I have to.”

Sexual exploitation allegations of other plaintiffs in the class action will be dismissed without prejudice, meaning they may be re-filed at a later date, the joint status report said.

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.