James Franco reaches settlement in sexual misconduct lawsuit
Los Angeles, California – A settlement deal has been reached in a lawsuit that accused James Franco of sexual misconduct while teaching at the acting school he founded.
Students listed as plaintiffs on the suit claimed that while they studied at his Studio 4 acting school, the 42-year-old actor and filmmaker abused his power and created "an environment of harassment and sexual exploitation both in and out of the class."
Allegations that Franco took advantage of multiple women while teaching first surfaced in 2017, when the acting school abruptly closed. The ex-students subsequently filed the lawsuit in 2019 and Page Six reported that an agreement had finally been reached by both sides after months of back and forth.
Attorneys for Franco called the claims "false and inflammatory, legally baseless and brought as a class action with the obvious goal of grabbing as much publicity as possible."
The amount of money the parties have agreed upon has not yet been disclosed.
"If I’ve done something wrong, I will fix it. I have to," Franco said, while denying any specific misconduct.
Women speak out against James Franco
Acting school called "a funnel for exploiting women"
Franco taught in highly respected academic filmmaking programs at New York University and UCLA before founding Studio 4, his own acting school, in 2014.
The school offered sex scene master classes and promised exclusive opportunities to be cast in projects with Franco's production company directly from their program. Representatives claimed that before its shut down, the school investigated any complaints that arose and went to great lengths to ensure that everyone felt comfortable and safe during sexual settings.
Yet, plaintiffs still uphold that Franco and his colleagues "engaged in widespread inappropriate and sexually charged behavior towards female students by sexualizing their power as a teacher and an employer by dangling the opportunity for roles in their projects." The women detailed numerous stories during which they were asked to perform nude while signing away their rights to recordings and "were routinely pressured to engage in simulated sex acts that went far beyond the standards in the industry."
The accusations against Franco surfaced during the height of the #MeToo Movement in Hollywood and overshadowed his second Golden Globe win in 2018 for The Disaster Artist (2017). During his acceptance speech, he wore a "Time's Up" pin expressing his support of women, which his accusers called hypocritical.
This is not the first time Franco has been under fire for his inappropriate behavior. In 2014, he apologized for soliciting an underage girl on social media.
Franco has had a 20-year career as an actor and director, which spans blockbuster movies, soap operas, and television series, and has received an Academy Award nomination.
He said he was "slowing down to focus on himself" after the 2017 allegations and the closure of his school, and has not released any major projects since.
Cover photo: Instagram/Screenshot/francolicious78