James Franco settles school sex misconduct suit for $2.2 million

Two actresses and ex-students who first filed the lawsuit in October 2019 that was joined by many others, alleged that at his now-defunct school, Studio 4, Franco pushed his students into performing in increasingly explicit sex scenes on camera in an “orgy type setting” that went far beyond those acceptable on Hollywood film sets.

SHARE James Franco settles school sex misconduct suit for $2.2 million
James Franco poses the press room at the 75th annual Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018, in Beverly Hills, California.

James Franco poses the press room at the 75th annual Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018, in Beverly Hills, California.

AP

LOS ANGELES — James Franco and his co-defendants agreed to pay $2.2 million to settle a lawsuit alleging he intimidated students at an acting and film school he founded into gratuitous and exploitative sexual situations, court filings made public Wednesday showed.

The two sides first reached a deal to settle the class-action suit in February, but it took several months to resolve details, and the dollar amount was not previously disclosed.

Actresses and ex-students Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal, who first filed the lawsuit in October 2019 that was joined by many others, alleged that at his now-defunct school, Studio 4, Franco pushed his students into performing in increasingly explicit sex scenes on camera in an “orgy type setting” that went far beyond those acceptable on Hollywood film sets.

The two sides also agreed to release a joint statement.

“While Defendants continue to deny the allegations in the Complaint, they acknowledge that Plaintiffs have raised important issues; and all parties strongly believe that now is a critical time to focus on addressing the mistreatment of women in Hollywood,” the statement said. “All agree on the need to make sure that no one in the entertainment industry — regardless of sex, race, religion, disability, ethnicity, background, gender or sexual orientation — faces discrimination, harassment or prejudice of any kind.”

It alleged that Franco “sought to create a pipeline of young women who were subjected to his personal and professional sexual exploitation in the name of education,” and that students were led to believe roles in Franco’s films would be available to those who went along.

Franco’s production company Rabbit Bandini and his partners including Vince Jolivette and Jay Davis were also named as defendants.

The settlement includes “non-economic” terms that have not been made public.

It has been submitted to a Los Angeles judge for approval.

Before filing the lawsuit, Tither-Kaplan aired her allegations of sexual misconduct against Franco along with other women in the Los Angeles Times after Franco won a Golden Globe Award for “The Disaster Artist” in early 2018, when the wave of the #MeToo movement was first sweeping across Hollywood.

The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they have been sexually abused, but often will if they come forward publicly.

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