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James Franco Settles Suit Over 'Orgy-Type' Classes at Film School

Plaintiffs alleged actor created 'pipeline of young women' for 'sexual exploitation'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 22, 2021 8:07 AM CST

(Newser) – A tentative settlement has been reached in a lawsuit that alleged James Franco intimidated students at an acting and film school he founded into gratuitous and exploitative sexual situations, attorneys for the plaintiffs said Saturday. The two sides filed a joint status report in Los Angeles Superior Court, telling a judge a settlement had been reached in the class-action lawsuit brought by former students at the now-defunct school, Studio 4, though elements of the lawsuit may live on, per the AP. The document was filed on Feb. 11, but the settlement hadn't previously been reported. Actors and ex-students Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal, who first filed the lawsuit in 2019, have agreed to drop their individual claims under the agreement, per the court filing. Their lawsuit said Franco, 42, pushed his students into performing in increasingly explicit sex scenes on camera in an "orgy-type setting" that went far beyond those acceptable on Hollywood film sets.

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The complaint—which noted the incidents occurred in a master class on sex scenes that Franco taught at Studio 4, which opened in 2014 and closed in 2017—alleged that Franco "sought to create a pipeline of young women who were subjected to his personal and professional sexual exploitation in the name of education," and that students were led to believe roles in Franco's films would be available to those who went along. In a previous court filing, Franco's attorneys, while praising the Me Too movement that helped inspire the lawsuit, called its claims "false and inflammatory, legally baseless and brought as a class action with the obvious goal of grabbing as much publicity as possible for attention-hungry plaintiffs." The sexual exploitation allegations of other plaintiffs in the class action will be dismissed without prejudice, meaning they may be refiled, the joint status report said. The document doesn't reveal how much money may be involved in the deal.

(Read more James Franco stories.)

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