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James Franco accused of sexual exploitation or abuse by five women

James Franco accused of sexual exploitation or abuse by five women


Detailed reports allege that Franco’s acting school was a sexually exploitative environment for young women trying to make it in the film industry

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James Franco has been accused of sexually inappropriate or exploitative behavior by five women in the Los Angeles Times this morning.

Each of the reports, which come from five women who attended Studio 4, Franco’s acting school, or otherwise considered him a personal mentor in the film industry, are corroborated by multiple sources and denied by Franco’s attorney, Michael Plonsker.

The first accusations came out on Twitter after Franco wore a “Time’s Up” pin — a signifier of solidarity with the recently invigorated movement to end sexism and abuse in Hollywood — to the Golden Globes on Sunday night, where he won Best Actor for his portrayal of Tommy Wiseau in the The Disaster Artist. Immediately following his win, Sarah Tither-Kaplan, a former acting student of Franco’s, tweeted her disgust:

Today, she tells the LA Times that she filmed a nude orgy scene with Franco three years ago, and that during the course of filming he removed the plastic guards covering several other actresses’ vaginas. “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,” she said.

Tither-Kaplan thanked It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia writer Megan Ganz for confronting her former boss Dan Harmon on Twitter last week, setting a precedent for this kind of public reveal and discussion. She also tweeted in support of Franco’s other public accuser, Violet Paley.

Paley, a 23-year-old actress who met Franco in early 2016 and hoped that he would help her learn about filmmaking, also tweeted in response to his Golden Globes appearance on Sunday.

She told the Times that Franco pressured her into performing oral sex in a car, and described the incident: “I was talking to him, all of a sudden his penis was out. 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.” To get out of the situation, she says she told Franco she could see someone near the car.

She says he later apologized for having a sexual relationship with her while knowing that she was struggling with substance abuse, and on Twitter she characterized this apology as “overdue, annoyed, convenient.”

Franco’s former students Hilary Dusome and Natalie Chmie described a hostile interaction with him on a film shoot that took place in a strip club. Both said that Franco became angry when none of the women on set wanted to take their tops off. “He just took advantage of our eagerness to work and be a part of something bigger,” Chmiel told the Times, and Dusome added, “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.”

The final accuser, another former student named Katie Ryan, said that Franco made it clear to many students that “there were possible roles on the table if we were to perform sexual acts or take off our shirts.” She says he emailed her frequently, offering her only roles as “a prostitute or a hooker.”

Franco appeared on Late Night with Seth Meyers last night, before the report was published but after Tither-Kaplan and Paley’s initial tweets, and was asked to address the allegations. He told Meyers, “The [tweets] I read were not accurate. But one of the things I’ve learned is that this is a conversation that obviously needs to be had. There are people, women and others, who have not been a part of this conversation. And I truly believe they need to be part of this conversation. So that’s why I was wearing the pin and I support that.” 

In 2014, Franco admitted to trying to meet up with a 17-year-old girl, offering to rent a room in a hotel even after learning her age. At the time, he responded by posting “I HOPE PARENTS KEEP THEIR TEENS AWAY FROM ME,” on Instagram.

Yesterday, The New York Times canceled a scheduled event with Franco in light of recent allegations. Given the Academy Awards’ track record with sexual abuse allegations, it is still very much a question whether Franco will receive a nomination for The Disaster Artist. The nominees will be announced on January 23rd.