It “was like a slap in my face,” said Sarah Tither-Kaplan, a former acting student at the film school Franco founded who went on to appear in several of his productions. Tither-Kaplan, one of five women who, in interviews with The Times, accused Franco, 39, of behavior they found to be inappropriate or sexually exploitative, was talking about the Time’s Up pin Franco was wearing on the night of the Golden Globes. Out of the five women, four were his students, and another said he was her mentor.
Like in most cases we have been hearing, the accusers stated that they believed Franco could offer them some type of career advancement, and went along with the abuse and his wishes even when they were uncomfortable.
The Times got quite colorful as they released details of some of the accusations. Tither-Kaplan “ told The Times that in a nude orgy scene she filmed with Franco and several women three years ago, he removed protective plastic guards covering other actresses’ vaginas while simulating oral sex on them.”
Two other student actresses also recounted negative on-set experiences. Both said Franco became angry when no women, while at the shoot, would agree to be topless.
And what did Franco say about these allegations? “If I have done something wrong,” he added, “I will fix it — I have to.”
Related Post: The James Franco Sexual Misconduct Allegations Are Here
Franco has also attracted attention for controversial behavior on social media. In 2014, he used Instagram to ask a 17-year-old British girl he’d met outside a New York theater if she had a boyfriend and whether she was 18. Even after learning her age, he asked for the name of her hotel and if he should rent a room.
Just the other day, I did a recap of the Golden Globes titled Streep – Mariah's A Bitch, Franco StiffArms Wiseau, Gayle?: The Globes were a hot mess as usual. In it I had mentioned that we've heard stories about Franco. Recently reports of his film schools, his tactics, and the ongoings during the classes were quite different.
For the more colorful and detailed accusations against Franco, head over to the Los Angeles Times. We've summarized some of the women's accounts of inappropriate behavior.
Do you believe these accusations are true? Luckily, it is not up to us to make that decision, but now it seems like a court of law may have to do so.
Two of his former students there said he put female students in uncomfortable situations beyond the normal parameters of acting class. … [Two] women described what they considered to be an unprofessional and hostile shoot at a strip club.
Midway through filming, Dusome said Franco approached the actresses — who wore masks and lingerie — and asked, "So, who wants to take your shirt off?" … When no actresses volunteered, Franco stormed off.
Stories from Studio 4
More than a dozen former students told The Times in interviews that they had a positive experience at Studio 4 [… and] were shocked by the school’s sudden closure last fall, and did not know why it had shuttered.
Katie Ryan, who met Franco at Playhouse West and took several classes at Studio 4, said the actor “would always make everybody think there were possible roles on the table if we were to perform sexual acts or take off our shirts."
She said that for years, she received mass email requests from Franco to audition for roles playing "a prostitute or a hooker."
Some students did appear in Rabbit Bandini productions. In 2015, the company made a deal with digital distributor Maker Studios to premiere two original series spawned from Studio 4. One of the projects was a docu-series that went behind the scenes of Franco’s Sex Scenes master class, which taught students about the art of being intimate on camera.
As part of Tither-Kaplan’s experience in the Sex Scenes class, she and her partner created a short film, “Hungry Girl,” which shows her topless and was uploaded to the video-sharing website Vimeo. Last year, she discovered images from the film on at least one pornography website.
“Now, if you Google me, you can see me naked,” said Tither-Kaplan, 26. “Before I’ve ever been on TV or before I’ve ever had any real credits or before any of this — of course I regret that. I don’t want that.”
In 2015, Franco asked Tither-Kaplan to play a prostitute in another of his projects, the feature film “The Long Home,” with a cast that included him, Josh Hutcherson, Courtney Love and Timothy Hutton. The part required her to perform nude, and she agreed because she considered it a big break. In fact, she signed nudity agreements for each of the films she made with Franco.
But one day on set in May 2015, a producer approached her and other women to ask if they wanted to film a “bonus scene” of an orgy. In it, Tither-Kaplan appeared fully nude in the background, she said. A handful of other women were selected to appear with Franco, who simulated performing oral sex on each of them, Tither-Kaplan said. But in each case, she said he removed a clear plastic guard that covered their vaginas — and continued to simulate the sex act with no protection.
Then, Tither-Kaplan said, she and her female co-stars were asked to appear topless in an unscripted scene and dance around Franco while wearing animal skulls atop their heads. One actress who balked was sent home the next day, Tither-Kaplan said.
“I got it in my head pretty quickly that, OK, you don’t say ‘no’ to this guy,” she said.
‘The power dynamic was really off’
Violet Paley, 23, told The Times that when she met Franco in early 2016 she was eager to become a filmmaker and that he had been willing to give her notes on her script.
They had begun a romantic relationship when she said he pressured her into performing oral sex on him — an act she’d never done with him at that point — while sitting in her car.
“I was talking to him, all of a sudden his penis was out,” said Paley. “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.”
She began to perform the sex act, but was uncomfortable. To extricate herself from the situation, she told Franco she spotted someone near the car.
Later, Paley said, she and Franco advanced their consensual sexual relationship. Today, she said she would have handled the encounter in the car differently, especially in the wake of the Weinstein scandal. “I would say, ‘No, stop, get out of my car,’” she said. “The power dynamic was really off.”