James Franco has settled a 2019 class action lawsuit that accused him and two of his associates of sexual misconduct while teaching at Studio 4, the acting school he founded in 2014.
Former students of Franco, Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal, had filed the lawsuit against the actor accusing him and his production-company partners, Vince Jolivette and Jay Davis, of “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.” Studio 4 had branches in Los Angeles and New York and operated from 2014 to 2017. According to a joint status report filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on February 11, both parties have now reached a settlement deal and Tither-Kaplan and Gaal have agreed to drop their individual claims. However, the allegations of sexual exploitation from other plaintiffs involved in the class action filing will be dismissed without prejudice, meaning they could be refiled at a future date.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the initial suit alleged that Franco “pushed his students into performing in increasingly explicit sex scenes on camera in an ‘orgy type setting.’” It also claimed that he “sought to create a pipeline of young women who were subjected to his personal and professional sexual exploitation in the name of education,” and students were led to believe that those who went along with his demands would be given roles in Franco’s films.
Ahead of the lawsuit being filed against him, Franco publicly addressed rumors of sexual misconduct, on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert in January 2018, telling the talk show host, “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, you know, shut them down in any way. It’s, I think, a good thing and I support it.” He added, “If there’s restitution to be made, I will make it.… I’m here to listen and learn and change my perspective where it’s off.”
In the days following that interview and Franco’s Golden Globe win for The Disaster Artist, five women came forward to formally accuse the actor of misconduct, including Tither-Kaplan, who told the Los Angeles Times, “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.” Franco’s attorney disputed all of the women’s claims at the time. In a previous court filing, his attorneys also called the allegations “false and inflammatory, legally baseless and brought as a class action with the obvious goal of grabbing as much publicity as possible for attention-hungry Plaintiffs.”
The amount of the settlement is currently unknown, but the joint status report notes that the parties are expected to file for preliminary court approval of the settlement by March 15.
— Carl Lentz and the Trouble at Hillsong— How Kate Middleton’s Fashion Could Change When She Becomes Queen— Britney Spears and the Mainstream Media’s Matt Lauer Problem— Meena Harris, Reluctant Influencer, Wants to Democratize Who Holds Sway— The Joy and Agony of Being @deuxmoi, Instagram’s Accidental Gossip Queen— Meghan and Harry’s Pregnancy Announcement Is a “Testament to Their Joy”— 13 Essential Items Inspired by Fran Lebowitz— From the Archive: How #freebritney Started as a Meme and Grew Into a Movement
— Not a subscriber? Join Vanity Fair to receive full access to VF.com and the complete online archive now.