Two actresses sued James Franco and the acting and film school he founded Thursday, saying he intimidated his students into gratuitous and exploitative sexual situations far beyond those acceptable on Hollywood film sets. Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal, former students at the actor’s now-closed Studio 4, said in the lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court that Franco pushed his students into performing in increasingly explicit sex scenes on camera in an "orgy type setting." Franco “sought to create a pipeline of young women who were subjected to his personal and professional sexual exploitation in the name of education,” the suit alleges. The women say students were led to believe roles in Franco’s films would be available to those who went along, the AP reports.
The situations described in the suit arose during a master class in sex scenes that Franco taught at the school, which he opened in 2014 and closed in 2017. The lawsuit, which also names Franco’s production company Rabbit Bandini and his partners as defendants, includes allegations Tither-Kaplan made publicly last year after Franco won a Golden Globe Award for “The Disaster Artist.” Gaal is speaking out for the first time. Franco denied the accusations in 2018, per NPR. A publicist and an attorney for the 41-year-old actor did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment Thursday. Attorneys for the women are looking for more plaintiffs to join, and for it to become a class action. (Busy Phillips made an accusation against Franco.)