That Time’s Up pin is really, really coming back to bite James Franco in the ass. The New York Times is reporting that Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal, two former students of James Franco’s acting school, Studio 4, filed a lawsuit against James Franco yesterday in Los Angeles. Sarah was one of the five women who spoke out against James Franco back in January 2018, after Ally Sheedy got the ball rolling on Twitter.
According to their lawsuit, Sarah and Toni joined Studio 4 in 2014, where they both paid a monthly tuition of about $300 and expected to learn how to act from the James Dean (in his mind) of our time. They allege that the school promised its students opportunities to audition for independent films directed and produced by James Franco, as well as access to exclusive master classes at $2,000 a pop, and a $750 master class for sex scenes. They allege actors had to submit a videotaped audition to get into those sex scene classes, and if that sounds kind of shady, well – that’s just the sketchy tip of the scamberg.
According to the lawsuit, prospective students for the sex scenes class had to audition on videotape – so that Franco could later review the material, they were told – and sign away their rights to these recordings.
In auditions and classes, the women said they were encouraged to push beyond their comfort zones while they were denied the protections of nudity riders and other film-industry guidelines that govern how actors can be portrayed and treated in nude scenes. Their lawsuit says the class preyed upon “often young and inexperienced females” who “were routinely pressured to engage in simulated sex acts that went far beyond the standards in the industry.”
And when Toni spoke up about how weird things were getting, she didn’t get into the class.
Ms. Gaal said she recorded an audition for the sex scenes master class and participated in a callback, but was ultimately not accepted into the class after she voiced her unease about how it was being run.
Sarah, as mentioned last year on Twitter, did end up getting into the class. And she says it did lead to landing a couple nude or sex scene-based roles in some of James Franco’s films, albeit all films went unreleased. Sarah claims that James played fast and loose with the rules on set, much like he did in those classes. Like in an orgy scene, where James got a little too close to several actresses’ crotches.
During the making of an orgy scene for one of his films, Mr. Franco removed plastic guards that covered other actresses’ vaginas while he simulated oral sex on them, according to the lawsuit.
Sarah and Toni don’t just call out James in their lawsuit. The lawsuit also names James’ business partner, Vince Jolivette, James’ production company Rabbit Bandini, and general manager of RB, Jay Davis. Because according to Sarah and Toni, they were also benefiting from the boundary-bending curriculum of Studio 4.
The now-defunct program was little more than a scheme to provide him and his male collaborators with a pool of young female performers that they could take advantage of.
Studio 4 closed down in the fall of 2017, which sounds like it was for the best.
Sarah and Toni are seeking damages, as well as the return or destruction of any video recordings that were made at the school. They’re also seeking class-action status, so that any other former students can come forward and add their own stories to the lawsuit. Sarah also says she got involved with a lawsuit, because nothing happened when she came forward with her story last year. After the allegations came out, James went on Late Night with Stephen Colbert, and claimed that he prides himself on “taking responsibility” and that he supported the women who came forward to tell their stories. Sarah calls bullshit on James’ attempt at taking responsibility.
“I can’t sleep at night knowing that my coming forward, originally, did not do the work that I wanted it to do yet. There still has been no action, publicly, that shows me that these people know what they did is wrong and harmful and can’t been repeated.”
James Franco has responded to this lawsuit, much like he responded to the allegations against him back in 2018. Usually James loves the sound of his own voice, but this time he let his lawyer do the talking. His lawyer calls the lawsuit “ill-informed,” and essentially calls Sarah and Toni attention-hungry famewhores.
“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.”
It’s interesting to note that at the time when Sarah and Toni were signing up for classes at Studio 4 in 2014, James was accused of trying to pick up a 17-year-old on Instagram. That happened while he was promoting Palo Alto, a movie about a coach that gets with an underage girl. I wonder if any of that effected his job as an acting teacher. To be fair, it sounds like it would have been a good day in class if the students arrived and found a note taped to the door that said: “Sorry, I won’t be creeping on any women in class today, as I’ve gotten held up creeping on social media.”