Five women have stepped forward to accuse actor-director James Franco of sexually exploitative or inappropriate behavior, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.
One former student at Franco’s Studio 4 acting school, Sarah Tither-Kaplan, 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.
Tither-Kaplan claimed that Franco removed a clear plastic guard that covered the actresses’ vaginas and continued to simulate oral sex with no protection — an account another actress on set confirmed to the Times.
Two other former female students said that Franco became “visibly angry” during another film shoot when his request that they remove their tops for a scene was rebuffed.
“He just took advantage of our eagerness to work and be a part of something bigger,” former student Natalie Chmiel told the Times. “We were all these up-and-coming actors who were so hopeful.”
Reps for the actor did not address the specifics of the accusations but pointed to his comments on Tuesday’s “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” after some of the claims first surfaced.
“Look, in my life I pride myself on taking responsibility for things that I have done,” Franco told Colbert. “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.”
“If I have done something wrong,” he added, “I will fix it — I have to.”
In addition, Cynthia Huffman, casting director on “The Long Home,” said she “personally checked on all the actresses constantly to make sure they were OK and comfortable” but received no complaints during the shoot.
Four of the accusers were students at the Studio 4 acting school that Franco launched in 2014 and abruptly shuttered last fall. The school, which had outposts in West Hollywood as well as New York City, promised participants the opportunity for roles in Franco’s many low-budget indie and art film projects.
A fifth accuser, Violet Paley, told the Times she was an aspiring screenwriter who considered Franco a mentor when she said she began a romantic relationship with the star in 2016. But she said Franco pressured her into performing oral sex on him while sitting in her car.
“I was talking to him, all of a sudden his penis was out,” said Paley. “I got really nervous, and I said, ‘Can we do this later?’ He was kind of nudging my head down, and I just didn’t want him to hate me, so I did it.” (Franco’s attorney told the Times that Paley’s account was “not accurate.”)
On Tuesday, the New York Times canceled a Wednesday panel event with James and Dave Franco to discuss their new film “The Disaster Artist.” The paper later said in a statement that it canceled the event due to “the controversy surrounding recent allegations.”
After Franco won Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy for the film at the 75th Golden Globes Sunday, several women accused him of sexual misconduct on Twitter, including a cryptic tweet by Ally Sheedy, who appeared in a 2014 Off Broadway production that Franco directed.
In the wake of the Golden Globes, where Franco appeared with a “Times Up” pin in support of Hollywood’s sexual misconduct accusers, many were also quick to recall his well-publicized attempt to pick up a 17-year-old girl via Instagram in 2014 and invite her to a hotel room.
After that episode became public, Franco apologized on ABC’s “Live! With Kelly and Michael.” “I’m embarrassed, and I guess I’m just a model of how social media is tricky,” he said. “I used bad judgment and I learned my lesson.”
Vince Jolivette, partner and owner of Studio 4 owner Rabbit Bandini Productions, issued a statement saying that “the school was always run professionally” but was investigating former students’ accusations about behavior “very inconsistent with the mission of the school.”