Five women have come forward with allegations of sexually inappropriate behavior against James Franco, claims the actor has previously denied as “not accurate.”
During Sunday’s Golden Globes ceremony, where Franco received best actor in a musical or comedy for The Disaster Artist, the actor was accused of inappropriateness by multiple women over social media. In a new exposé published by the Los Angeles Times on Thursday, two of those women, actresses Violet Paley and Sarah Tither-Kaplan, elaborated on their allegations.
Paley, who initially tweeted claims about Franco during the Globes ceremony, told the publication the actor pressured her into performing oral sex on him just after they had entered into a romantic relationship.
“I was talking to him, all of a sudden his penis was out,” Paley said. “I got really nervous, and I said, ‘Can we do this later?’ He was kind of nudging my head down, and I just didn’t want him to hate me, so I did it.” She explained how she was able to stop the situation by claiming to see someone near their car.
Paley and Franco would later continue a consensual sexual relationship, but, looking back, she said, “I would say, ‘No, stop, get out of my car.’ The power dynamic was really off.” Paley said she also emailed Franco after the Harvey Weinstein scandal to express her frustration over Franco’s purported treatment of her. (Paley provided The Times a copy of the email to review.) Allegedly, he didn’t respond right away but later called her to try and make amends.
Franco’s attorney denied Paley’s accusation as “not accurate” and pointed to Franco’s recent remarks on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert in disputing the others.
“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,” he had told host Stephen Colbert, in part. “So, I don’t want to shut them down in any way. It’s a good thing and I support it.”
Tither-Kaplan, a former acting student at Franco’s Studio 4 film school that launched in 2014, claimed Franco removed protective plastic guards that covered actresses’ vaginas while he simulated oral sex on them during a scene for his 2015 feature The Long Home. (Franco’s attorney, according to the Los Angeles Times, denied the claim about the removal of the plastic guards.) Tither-Kaplan said she was then asked to appear topless in a separate scene that required her to dance with an animal skull atop her head. The actress said she had signed forms agreeing to nudity because she considered it a big break. When another actress was unwilling to perform the dance scene, she was allegedly sent home the next day.
“I got it in my head pretty quickly that, okay, you don’t say ‘no’ to this guy,” Tither-Kaplan said.
In response to Tither-Kaplan’s claim, Franco’s representatives provided an on-record statement from Cynthia Huffman, who was casting director on The Long Home:
“I feel so bad that Sarah feels the way she does. She is part of our camp! All actresses were aware of the nudity scenes ahead of time. I personally checked on all the actresses constantly to make sure they were ok and comfortable. I talked to them several times and told them if they were uncomfortable or did not like what was going on to come to me immediately and I would take care of it. I did not receive any complaints. James is all about giving up and comers, actors and actresses and young filmmakers a break in this business. I feel horrible that anyone was made to feel uncomfortable but we went to great lengths to make sure all the actresses in the nude scenes felt comfortable and safe. We are all about making movies and having fun on set!”
Said Vince Jolivette, partner/owner of Rabbit Bandini Productions, regarding Studio 4:
“As an owner of Rabbit Bandini Productions, the company that ran Studio 4 – the school was always run professionally. Our instructors were excellent, student feedback was positive and this recent tweet from a former student is very inconsistent with the mission of the school and we are investigating this matter.”
Hilary Dusome and Natalie Chmiel, two other acting students at the time, said Franco became angry during a strip club shoot when none of the women would agree to go topless.
“I felt like I was selected for something based on my hard work and my merit, and when I realized it was because I have nice [breasts], it was pretty clear that was not the case,” Dusome said. “I don’t think he started teaching with bad intentions, but he went down a bad path and damaged a lot of people in the process.”
Katie Ryan attended classes, as well, and she claimed the actor “would always make everybody think there were possible roles on the table if we were to perform sexual acts or take off our shirts.” Again, Franco’s representation denied these allegations and told The Times that they would investigate complaints regarding the school.
The night before the publication of The Times report, Franco spoke to Seth Meyers on NBC’s Late Night and addressed the previous misconduct claims made via social media.
“Yes, I was sent a couple of the tweets, so yeah, I did read them,” he said. “I haven’t responded. I think — well the ones I read were not accurate, but one of the things that I’ve learned is that this is a conversation that obviously needs to be had. There are people, women and others, who have not been a part of this conversation and I truly believe and why I was wearing the pin is that they need to be a part of this conversation and so I support that.”
Actress Ally Sheedy, who worked with Franco on his Off-Broadway directorial debut The Long Shrift, had also written in a series of deleted tweets, “Why is James Franco allowed in [to the Golden Globes]? Said too much.” She added later, “James Franco just won. Please never ever ask me why I left the film/tv business.”
When asked about Sheedy, Franco said, “Yes, I had a great relationship with her. She took the tweet down. I don’t know. I really don’t.”
“Not curious enough, though, to reach out to her as someone that you’ve had a good relationship before to try to understand why she would have done that?” Meyers countered.
“It was so shocking,” Franco replied. “I don’t know, I just… I guess I’m just letting it be.”
The actor then echoed a statement he made to Colbert. “I think what I really learned and being here and this week and that show that we were you know, [the Globes]. I mean, it was so powerful in there.
“Like I said, you know, there are stories that need to get out,” he continued. “There are people that need to be heard. I have my own side of this story, but I believe in, you know, these people that have been underrepresented getting their stories out enough that I will, you know, hold back things that I could say just because I believe in it that much. And if I have to take a knock because I’m not gonna, you know, try and, you know, actively refute things, then I will, because I believe in it that much.”
—This post has been updated with statements from Cynthia Huffman and Vince Joliette