James Franco accused of sexual abuse by two of his former students, calls charges 'false and inflammatory'
Actor James Franco has hit back at the "false inflammatory" allegations that he sexually harassed and mistreated young actresses at his Franco's Studio 4 Film Academy. Two women had sued Franco claiming that he and his partners had dangled film and TV roles in exchange for their appearances in explicit sex scenes or sexually-charged auditions.
The women filed a class-action lawsuit in October last year claiming that they were also tricked out of pay by the actor's comedy and improv school. The original complaint by Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal read, "Employment opportunities for women supposedly increased when they agreed to overt sexual acts, nudity and performing in sex scenes - often in an orgy type setting."
In a written response to a complaint pleading for its dismissal on Friday, Franco slammed the "salacious allegations," and accused the women to be "attention-hungry" and "trying to smear his name" by jumping on the bandwagon of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.
The legal demurrer written by attorneys representing Franco and his attorney was obtained by Daily Mail, and reads, "While the salacious allegations in the Complaint have made great tabloid fodder, they are also false and inflammatory, legally baseless and brought improperly in the form of a class action largely to gain as much publicity as possible."
The statement continues, "This lawsuit is a travesty of justice and the culmination of a meritless campaign that has unfairly tarnished a decent man's hard-earned reputation."
The demurrer takes particular aim at Tither-Kaplan, saying, "Ms Tither-Kaplan had always expressed gratitude for having been given the opportunity to work in Emmy-nominated productions with Franco, one of her teachers."
"Time after time she had posted unsolicited tweets and texts extolling Franco's virtues, how much she admired him, and how much she got out of her time at Studio 4."
The documents also list several positive social media posts and texts about Franco and Studio 4. In one, Tither-Kaplan reportedly wrote, "James is a gem. I'm lucky to be part of this big ol weird fam," while another says, "It's a dream to work with these beautiful weirdos."
The documents state, "Now, over half a decade later and having failed to achieve any significant professional success, she claimed to have been mistreated. Her unsubstantiated, false, and woefully belated allegations were, unfortunately, if predictably, bought hook, line, and sinker by the Los Angeles Times and other media outlets – and so began Franco's odyssey as a falsely accused man."
The statement alleges that Tither-Kaplan "knowingly engaged" in nude scenes, saying, "The casting director and others involved with those films have confirmed that all actresses, including Tither-Kaplan, were aware of the nudity scenes ahead of time, that they were constantly checking to make sure the actresses felt comfortable, that they signed nudity waivers, and that no one – including Tither-Kaplan – ever complained."
It also said, "Tither-Kaplan admitted that she was not one of the actresses using a vaginal guard... all of the actresses involved confirmed that their vaginal guards were not removed, that the shooting of the film was professional, and that they did not feel mistreated, uncomfortable or taken advantage of; and... the cameramen involved in shooting the scene have confirmed that the guards were never removed."
The suit alleges that Gaal had "personal grievances". Gaal had claimed that she was denied entry to a special "sex scenes master class" for expressing her concern over the class.
Franco's legal response states that Gaal was "upset" that an audition was "filmed" and says, "Gaal is suing because she was not selected for a 'Master' acting class back in 2014, while Tither-Kaplan is upset that she was."
The statement also reads, "Boiled down, this Complaint falsely alleges that Studio 4 was an enterprise created to allow Franco and others to exploit women sexually by having them audition nude (false), promising them acting opportunities only if they appeared nude (false), and used student films in which they appeared nude for his own personal enjoyment (false)."