James Franco will pay $2,235,000 in order to resolve a sexual misconduct lawsuit filed by two former students of his Studio 4 acting and film school, Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal. Per The Hollywood Reporter, the deal is pending approval from a Los Angeles judge. The details of the class action settlement were revealed after court filings were made public.
Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal sued Franco in 2019, alleging that the actor and his partner in Studio 4, Vince Jolivette, “engaged in widespread inappropriate and sexually charged behavior towards female students by sexualizing their power as a teacher and an employer by dangling the opportunity for roles in their projects,” as reported by The New York Times.
THR also reports that all parties in the suit agreed to a statement, part of which reads:
While Defendants continue to deny the allegations in the Complaint, they acknowledge that Plaintiffs have raised important issues; and all parties strongly believe that now is a critical time to focus on addressing the mistreatment of women in Hollywood. All agree on the need to make sure that no one in the entertainment industry—regardless of race, religion, disability, ethnicity, background, gender or sexual orientation—faces discrimination, harassment or prejudice of any kind.
Studio 4, in which Tither-Kaplan and Gaal enrolled in 2014, offered several master classes on top of its regular curriculum, including one on sex scenes that cost $750. Prospective students had to allegedly audition for the class by simulating sexual acts on videotape, so Franco could “later review the material.” The prospective students also signed away the rights to these recordings. But the women said they were pushed beyond their boundaries, and were not given the protections of nudity riders. Tither-Kaplan took that class, and was later cast in independently produced films directed by Franco in which she was asked to appear nude or in sex scenes. During one of these productions, the lawsuit alleges, Franco “removed plastic guards that covered other actresses’ vaginas while he simulated oral sex on them.”