James Franco Accused By Multiple Women of Inappropriate Sexual Behavior
By Antoinette Bueno
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James Franco has been accused of sexually exploitative behavior by five women, including four former students, in a new report published by The Los Angeles Times.
The 39-year-old actor has been under scrutiny since his Golden Globe win on Sunday for his performance in the critically acclaimed The Disaster Artist, when he accepted the award wearing a Time's Up pin. Shortly after, he received criticism on Twitter -- when multiple women accused him of being hypocritical -- including actress Ally Sheedy, who has since deleted the tweets.
Franco has said the allegations against him are "not accurate." In the Times report, Franco's attorney, Michael Plonsker, disputes all of the women’s allegations. ET has reached out to Plonsker for comment.
One of the women who spoke out on Twitter on Sunday is Franco's former acting student Sarah Tither-Kaplan, who took classes at his now closed film school, Studio 4. In the L.A. Times report, Tither-Kaplan accuses Franco of sexually inappropriate behavior on film sets, one alleged incident involving a nude orgy scene she filmed with the actor and several women three years ago. Tither-Kaplan alleges Franco removed protective plastic guards covering other actresses’ vaginas while simulating oral sex on them.
“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,” Tither-Kaplan tells the newspaper.
In another alleged incident, two women whom Franco taught at Playhouse West in Los Angeles accuse the actor of "storming off" during what they call an unprofessional shoot for one of his "art films" at a strip club, when no actress agreed to take their top off.
"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," one of the women, Hilary Dusome, says. "I don't think he started teaching with bad intentions, but he went down a bad path and damaged a lot of people in the process."
Another one of Franco's former students, Katie Ryan, claims 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."
One of the most serious allegations is from aspiring filmmaker Violet Paley, who says she began a romantic relationship with Franco after meeting him in 2016. Paley accuses him of pressuring her into performing oral sex on him in a car.
“I was talking to him, all of a sudden his penis was out,” Paley alleges. “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.”
Paley later says she spoke with Franco after disgraced studio mogul Harvey Weinstein's sexual assault allegations became public, when Franco allegedly told her that while it was wrong for him to have a sexual relationship with her since he knew she was in recovery for substance abuse, he hadn’t done “anything illegal,” and called himself “a changed man." Tither-Kaplan also claims Franco apologized to her over the phone for making her feel "uncomfortable."
“I want to give him credit for at least being open to communicating with me,” Tither-Kaplan tells the newspaper. “I felt that he was still not really taking accountability for the environment on the sets.”
"In my life, I pride myself on taking responsibility for things that I've done. I have to do that to maintain my well-being," Franco told Colbert. "I do it whenever I know that there's something wrong or needs to be changed. I make it a point to do it."
"The things that I heard 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," he added. "So I don't want to shut them down in any way. I think it's a good thing and I support it."
“There are people that need to be heard," he explained. "I have my own side of this story, but I believe in these people that have been underrepresented getting their stories out enough that I will hold back things that I could say, just because I believe in it that much. So, if I have to take a knock because I’m not going to try and actively refute things, then I will, because I believe in it that much."
On Thursday, David Simon, the co-creator and executive producer of Franco's series, The Deuce, said in a statement that HBO had received no complaint about the actor.
“I’m still reading it the same as everyone else, trying to discern what is or isn’t there,” Simon told Variety. “Personally I can only speak knowledgeably to The Deuce. I’ve checked with all my fellow producers and other personnel. We have no complainant or complaint or any awareness of any incident of concern involving Mr. Franco. Nor has HBO been approached with any complaint. In our experience, he was entirely professional as an actor, director, and producer."