During Sunday night’s Golden Globes, James Franco sported a pin supporting the Time’s Up movement to fight sexual harassment and assault. His decision to wear the pin raised a few eyebrows online, and led to social-media accusations of inappropriate behaviour that he discussed on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. Now, the Los Angeles Times reports that five women have accused Franco of sexual misconduct, both on and off movie sets. Franco, through a lawyer, has denied the allegations against him.
Franco started a film school, Studio 4, in 2014, and Franco worked with students on film projects, according to the report. (Both the New York and Los Angeles locations closed last year, surprising students, according to the Los Angeles Times.) A former acting student, Sarah Tither-Kaplan, whose tweet about Franco after the Globes went viral, told the newspaper that while filming an orgy scene, he removed the protective plastic guards covering actresses’ genitals while he simulated oral sex on them. Franco's lawyer said “the allegations about the protective guards are not accurate," and noted that Tither-Kaplan posted positively on social media about the shoot. Tither-Kaplan told the Times she was excited to meet new people and promote her work, hence the positive posts, but she said she still saw "red flags" in Franco's behavior.
Tither-Kaplan also told the Times that she created a short film for his Sex Scenes master class that was allegedly posted on Vimeo without her advance knowledge, and now she says images of her naked are freely available online. Franco's attorney said that neither Franco nor the school posted the video, but school leadership will be investigating the complaints. “Any online posting of videos, including if applicable Vimeo, were operated and created by the students to showcase their collective work,” his lawyer, Michael Plonsker, told the newspaper.
Tither-Kaplan said in the report that after the allegations against Harvey Weinstein became public, Franco apologized to her for making her feel uncomfortable. “I want to give him credit for at least being open to communicating with me,” she told the newspaper. “I felt that he was still not really taking accountability for the environment on the sets.” Still, she told the Times that seeing Franco with the Time's Up pin felt like a "slap in my face."
Two other women identified as students at a previous school where Franco taught, Natalie Chmiel and Hilary Dusome, told the Times that Franco stormed off a set when they and other women refused to take their shirts off. “[Franco] would always make everybody think there were possible roles on the table if we were to perform sexual acts or take off our shirts,” another student, Katie Ryan, told the newspaper. Franco's lawyer told the TimesFranco did not request Chmiel and Dusome take off their shirts, and that Franco was “not aware that any of the actions alleged by Ms. Ryan ever occurred."
Another woman, Violet Paley, told the Times the two were in a romantic relationship when he pressured her into having oral sex with him while they were in her car. She said that she was uncomfortable, and got out of the situation by telling Franco she saw someone near the car. Franco's lawyer denied Paley's allegations, saying they were "not accurate."
Plonsker also referred the Times to what Franco said on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert in response to questions about online reactions to his appearance at the Golden Globes. “Look, in my life I pride myself on taking responsibility for things that I have done,” he said then. “I have to do that to maintain my well being. The things that I heard that 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. So I don’t want to shut them down in any way. If I have done something wrong, I will fix it — I have to.” Elle.com has reached out to Plonsker's law office and will update this article with any new statements.
The past few months have seen a flood of sexual misconduct, harassment and assault allegations in Hollywood, since October when the New York Times and The New Yorkerpublished exposés on decades of allegations against Harvey Weinstein. Allegations have emerged against a number of other powerful men in the industry, including Kevin Spacey, Louis CK, Brett Ratner, and Matt Lauer.
This year, 300 women in Hollywood have teamed up to form Time’s Up, a new initiative which aims to halt systemic sexual harassment in workplaces across America. In an open letter signed by hundreds of women including Reese Witherspoon, Kerry Washington, Eva Longoria, Emma Stone, America Ferrera, Ashley Judd, and Shonda Rhimes, the details of the initiative were announced, including a $13 million legal defense fund to help less privileged women in blue-collar jobs.