James Franco has been accused of sexually inappropriate and/or exploitative behavior by five women in a new report from the Los Angeles Times. Four of the accusers are Franco’s former acting students, while the fifth woman viewed Franco as a mentor to her. The majority of the women describe uncomfortable encounters with Franco on film sets in which the actor would pressure women into appearing nude and would grow frustrated when they refused.
Sarah Tither-Kaplan was asked by Franco in 2015 to play a prostitute in his feature film “The Long Home.” She agreed to perform nudity in scenes, as she considered the role a big break for her career, but she says one day on set a producer approached her and asked if she would film a “bonus scene” that included an orgy.
Tither-Kaplan appeared fully nude in the background of the scene while other women were chosen to partake in the simulated orgy opposite Franco, whose character was performing oral sex on the women. Tither-Kaplan said that in each case Franco “removed a clear plastic guard that covered their vaginas — and continued to simulate the sex act with no protection.”
“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,” Tither-Kaplan told the Times.
During another scene not written in the script, Tither-Kaplan and her female co-stars were asked to appear topless and dance around with Franco. When one actress refused, she was allegedly sent home the next day by Franco.
“I got it in my head pretty quickly that, OK, you don’t say ‘no’ to this guy,” she said.
While Franco was teaching acting at Playhouse West in North Hollywood, two women say he would put his “female students in uncomfortable situations beyond the normal parameters of acting class.”
Hilary Dusome and Natalie Chmiel were asked by Franco to star in one of his “art films.” The latter said she was told the footage would be used for a 7 For All Mankind jeans commercial. The shoot took place at a strip club that both women considered to be “unprofessional” and “hostile.” During the production, Franco allegedly approached the actresses and asked, “So, who wants to take your shirt off?”
“I felt like I was selected for something based on my hard work and my merit, and when I realized it was because I have nice [breasts], it was pretty clear that was not the case,” Dusome said. “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.”
Another former student, Katie Ryan, shared a similar experience with the Times. She said Franco “would always make everybody think there were possible roles on the table if we were to perform sexual acts or take off our shirts.” Ryan said she received mass email requests from Franco for years asking her to audition for roles playing “a prostitute or a hooker.”
Violet Paley was the fifth woman to speak with the Times about Franco’s behavior. She met Franco in early 2016 and he agreed to give her notes on a script she wrote. The two started a consensual romantic relationship, but Paley alleges Franco pressured her into performing oral sex on him while sitting in her car. Paley and Franco had never had oral sex with each other prior to the encounter.
“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.”
Paley grew uncomfortable with the sex act and told Franco she saw someone near the car so that she could stop it.
Franco’s attorney, Michael Plonsker, has disputed all of the women’s allegations and directed The Times to Franco’s comments on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.”
“Look, in my life I pride myself on taking responsibility for things that I have done,” Franco told Colbert. “I have to do that to maintain my well being. 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 said, “I will fix it — I have to.”
The Los Angeles Times article is the first report to break about allegations involving Franco since women such as Tither-Kaplan took to Twitter following the Golden Globes to criticize Franco for wearing a anti-harassment Time’s Up pin.