The alleged misconduct took place primarily when Franco was an acting teaching at Playhouse West in North Hollywood and at a now-closed film school he founded, Studio 4. At Studio 4, he taught a class titled “Sex Scenes,” and students allege that he pressured them to perform scenes partially nude or acted inappropriately while filming sexual encounters.
In addition to these allegations, actress Violet Paley claimed that Franco forced her to perform oral sex on him while they were in a car together in 2016. Paley tweeted about the alleged incident during the Golden Globes on Sunday night when where Franco picked up an award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. The actress Ally Sheedy also tweeted, “James Franco just won. Please never ever ask me why I left the film/tv business.” She later deleted the tweet.
Michael Plonsker, Franco’s attorney, said the allegations were “not accurate” and referred The Los Angeles Times to comments Franco made during a recent visit to the The Late Show. ” I pride myself on taking responsibility for things that I’ve done,” the actor told Stephen Colbert on Tuesday. “The things that I heard that were on Twitter are not accurate, but I completely support people coming out … So if I’ve done something wrong, I will fix it. I have to.”
Vince Jolivette, who co-owns Franco’s production company Rabbit Bandini Productions, also disputed the allegations through a statement. “[Studio 4] was always run professionally,” he said, adding that the alleged behavior was “very inconsistent with the mission” of the school.
Student accounts differ. “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,” Sarah Tither-Kaplan told The Los Angeles Times. She alleged that Franco “removed protective plastic guards covering other actresses’ vaginas while simulating oral sex” during filming for an orgy scene.
Hilary Dusome and Natalie Chmiel, also students, claimed Franco pressured actresses to film a scene topless, while Devyn LaBella said that the actor’s film company, Rabbit Bandini Productions, would promise to hold parts in Franco’s films projects for Studio 4 students – “parts that required nudity.” Katie Ryan, another Studio 4 student, added that 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.”
“I don’t think [Franco] started teaching with bad intentions,” Dusome said, “but he went down a bad path and damaged a lot of people in the process.”
Paley was not a student of Franco’s, but she says she met him when he agreed to give her notes on a script. They allegedly started a romantic relationship, but Paley said “the power dynamic [in the relationship] was really off.” Franco later allegedly pressured her into performing oral sex on him. “I was talking to him, all of a sudden his penis was out,” Paley told The Los Angeles 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.”
The accusations come as Franco is promoting The Disaster Artist, a film he directed and starred in about Tommy Wiseau’s cult bad film The Room. It’s unclear what effect these accusations will have, if any, on the promotion and distribution of the film as it enters award season. A rep for A24, the film’s distributor, did not immediately return a request for comment.