Exploitation Allegations Made Against of James Franco


Actor James Franco is being accused of using his film school, Studio 4, to exploit women hoping to land acting jobs. (Courtesy of Flickr)

Taylor Mascetta, Contributing Writer

Time’s up for James Franco.

Two former students of his now-defunct Studio 4 have filed a lawsuit against him and the school. They allege that the studio’s programs served as a front for sexual exploitation and that Franco, 41, manipulated his students into performing lewd acts to his liking.

Studio 4, located in both Los Angeles and New York City, was intended to help students improve their skills in acting and filmmaking. It provided students a chance to work closely with James Franco, which could lead to their big break. With a $300 dollar monthly tuition, the school was affordable for many students. Additional classes came at a higher price, but many students jumped at these opportunities.

One of these classes was on sexual performances in film. The program intended to help students professionally maneuver through these scenes. However, details emerging from this class have greatly disturbed the public. According to former students, they had to pay $750 dollars and record an “audition” of sexual performances for Franco to watch to enroll in the class. The rights to the audition video were also signed away. During the class, students were encouraged to go beyond their comfort zone in orgy or sexual scenes, even if it was against their own will.

Sarah Tither-Kaplan, one of the women filing the lawsuit, had a scarring experience with the class. She told the New York Times that she, along with other female students, were often told to partake in scenes containing nudity or sex. In one instance, Tither-Kaplan filmed an orgy scene with Franco and a few other actresses.

During the scene, plastic guards designed to protect the actresses’ vaginal areas were removed. Despite feeling uncomfortable with this, Tither-Kaplan went along with it. The instructors insisted that if they did these scenes, they would be rewarded for it with roles in indie films directed by Franco himself. These dangled roles never came to fruition.

Another concerning aspect of the class was the questionable absence of nudity riders. These include a description of what would occur in each scene, so actors are prepared for what is coming. If they are uncomfortable with what is described in the nudity rider, the actor can decline the opportunity. However, this wasn’t the case with Studio 4’s classes. Most enrolled students didn’t know nudity riders even existed, yet student permission was expected.

“In fact, I didn’t know anything about nudity riders, the detail required in them, the right to counsel with the director about nude scenes, the custom to choreograph nude scenes ahead of time to negotiate them with the cast and the director,” Tither-Kaplan told The New York Times. “I knew none of that throughout that class.”

The second defendant, Toni Gaal, also told the press that she recorded an audition and took part in a callback. However, she was ultimately denied a place in the class, since she expressed uneasiness with the way it was run by educators. “Most of the work that was offered for us had nudity requirements for women specifically,” she told NPR.

Studio 4 was closed for unknown reasons in October 2017. However, defunct program, continues to haunt Franco’s reputation.
This is not the first time Franco landed himself in hot water over Studio 4’s actions. The first allegations of sexual exploitation came in January 2018, right after he secured a Golden Globe for his role as Tommy Wiseau in “The Disaster Artist.” During the show, viewers noticed he was wearing a “Time’s Up” pin to show his solidarity with the #MeToo movement.

However, it garnered the opposite reaction. The LA Times said Tither-Kaplan stated his “support” was like “a slap in the face,” and the audience also noticed the hypocrisy in his actions.

Following the show, five women, including Tither-Kaplan, accused him of sexual misconduct. Along with these allegations, Franco has also admitted to pursuing a romantic relationship with a minor and was accused of shoving his co-star Busy Philipps on “Freaks and Geeks” to the ground following a disagreement.

Franco has somehow maintained his innocence. “This is not the first time that these claims have been made and they have already been debunked,” his representatives said in a statement to the Hollywood Reporter.

“James will not only fully defend himself, but will also seek damages from the plaintiffs and their attorneys for filing this scurrilous publicity-seeking lawsuit.”

His tactics seem to be working. In a world dominated by cancel culture, Franco’s career has been left relatively unscathed. He remains under the radar, taking time to focus on his personal life. Following his scandal with pursuing a minor in 2014, Franco still received job offers and starred in award-nominated films.

His most recent venture is “Zeroville,” which also stars Seth Rogen, Megan Fox and Will Ferrell. His performance in “The Disaster Artist” is still universally regarded as a picture-perfect recreation of Wiseau’s mannerisms.

Franco is considered one of the “lucky” ones. Other stars accused of misconduct, such as Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and Bryan Singer, have rightfully lost their cultural power in Hollywood. Franco, however, has charm on his side. Before the accusations were exposed, women across the globe admired Franco for his suave demeanor and good looks. People didn’t want to believe the allegations were true.

Nevertheless, Franco is not out of the woods yet. Tither-Kaplan and Haal plan to achieve justice for themselves and other affected students. They are seeking monetary damages, the return of their audition tapes and an apology from Franco.