James Franco’s decision to sport a Time’s Up pin at this year’s Golden Globes just got more contentious, as The Los Angeles Times has published accounts from multiple women about The Disaster Artist star’s “sexually inappropriate or exploitative behavior.”
The allegations come from women who either studied under him or were mentored by the actor, who founded (and later closed) the film school Studio 4. Violet Paley and Sarah Tither-Kaplan publicly accused Franco earlier in the week, when they tweeted in response to his choice of tuxedo accoutrement, but their stories are detailed here
A former Studio 4 student, Tither-Kaplan said Franco frequently asked his female students to film or audition for topless scenes. She related an instance in which, as part of Franco’s Sex Scenes class, she shot a short film while partially nude, which she uploaded to what she understood was a private Vimeo channel for class-related materials. But she found out later that the channel wasn’t overseen by the school, and worse, that the video had somehow leaked onto the internet. Tither-Kaplan also claimed that while shooting a nude orgy scene with Franco and two other actresses, the actor removed the “protective plastic guards covering other actresses’ vaginas while simulating oral sex on them.” An unnamed actress confirmed Tither-Kaplan’s account of what happened during the filming of the orgy scene.
Overall, Tither-Kaplan said, “I feel there was an abuse of power, and there was a culture of exploiting non-celebrity women, and a culture of women being replaceable.” Many female students did do what Franco told them to do despite being uncomfortable because they believed it was necessary for career advancement—the now-shuttered Studio 4 website indicated that Franco “cast roles directly from his classes, and will involve his students in a variety of his film and art projects.” Katie Ryan, who the Times reports took several of Franco’s classes, said he’d “always make everybody think there were possible roles on the table if we were to perform sexual acts or take off our shirts.”
Hilary Dusome and Natalie Chmiel recalled working with Franco on what they thought was one of his “art films.” They said he stormed off set when they both declined to take their tops off during the shoot, and ultimately described it as “an unprofessional and hostile shoot at a strip club.” “I don’t think he started teaching with bad intentions, but he went down a bad path and damaged a lot of people in the process,” Dusome said, while Chmiel told the Times that Franco “just took advantage of our eagerness to work and be a part of something bigger.”
Paley, an aspiring filmmaker, dated Franco but said she’d never performed oral sex on him before he pressured her into doing so while they were in a car. “I was talking to him, all of a sudden his penis was out,” Paley told the Times. “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 already denied all of the allegations via his lawyer, but Tither-Kaplan said he apologized to her not long after the news broke about Harvey Weinstein’s decades-long history of predatory behavior. “I want to give him credit for at least being open to communicating with me,” Tither-Kaplan said. However, “I felt that he was still not really taking accountability for the environment on the sets.” On Tuesday night, Franco denied Paley and Tither-Kaplan’s claims while on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.