According to THR, James Franco and “associated entities” will end up paying over $2 million to resolve a recent putative class-action lawsuit against the actor by former students of his at the Studio 4 Film School in New York and Los Angeles. Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal brought forth the suit in October 2019, alleging that they (and fellow students of Franco) were the victims of fraud and sexual exploitation, and that female participants in the actor’s “Sex Scenes” class were “encouraged to take risks with their bodies,” including what were described as “naked sex scenes” with “nudity requirements — for women specifically,” as well as “self-tapes at home, so they were consistently getting footage of this sensitive nature of work.” The women claimed Franco “had intimidated them into performing gratuitous sex scenes while denying them the protections of nudity riders.”
Today, Franco and associated entities have agreed to pay $2,235,000 to resolve the lawsuit, according to THR, the terms of which necessitate that Tither-Kaplan and Gaal release their claims, and that the other students involved in the class suit release any fraud claims. (News of the settlement was first reported in February 2021, though no details were made publicly available at that time.) A Los Angeles judge will now have to decide whether or not to sign off on the proposed settlement. All participants have issued a joint statement as part of the settlement, which reads:
“While Defendants continue to deny the allegations in the Complaint, they acknowledge that Plaintiffs have raised important issues; and all parties strongly believe that now is a critical time to focus on addressing the mistreatment of women in Hollywood. All agree on the need to make sure that no one in the entertainment industry — regardless of race, religion, disability, ethnicity, background, gender or sexual orientation — faces discrimination, harassment or prejudice of any kind.”
Franco originally denied the accusations during a 2018 appearance on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, saying:
In my life, I pride myself on taking responsibility for things that I’ve done. I have to do that to maintain my well-being. I do it whenever I know that there’s something wrong or needs to be changed. I make it a point to do it. 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. I think it’s a good thing and I support it.
Other members of the class-action suit have several months to opt out of releasing their claims against Franco. Any unclaimed funds from the pot ($1.341 million in total for the non-Tither-Kaplan and -Gaal participants) are set to be delivered to the National Women’s Law Center.