James Franco has agreed to pay more than $2.2 million to settle a class-action lawsuit that alleged the actor compelled students in his now-defunct acting school to participate in exploitative sexual situations.
The lawsuit was led by actors Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal, two former students of Franco’s Studio 4 film school. Tither-Kaplan and Gaal first sued Franco in 2019, alleging in their complaint that the actor and his male collaborators “engaged in widespread inappropriate and sexually charged behavior towards female students,” including pushing them to participate in sexually exploitative auditions and film shoots.
Under the terms of the settlement, Tither-Kaplan will get $670,500 ($223,500 of which will go to lawyers) and Gaal will receive $223,500 (minus $74,500 in lawyer fees). The remaining amount will go toward additional attorney fees and the other students in the class-action suit. Any unclaimed money will reportedly be donated to the National Women’s Law Center.
Franco has also agreed to “non-economic” terms for the individual plaintiffs, the Reporter said, but these terms have not been made public.
A statement acknowledging the “mistreatment of women in Hollywood” was also part of the settlement.
“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,” the statement said. “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 has faced repeated accusations of sexual misconduct. In 2014, the “Pineapple Express” actor, then 35, admitted hitting on a 17-year-old girl over Instagram and asking to meet her in a hotel room. In a 2018 Los Angeles Times report, five women, including Tither-Kaplan, accused Franco of inappropriate behavior.
News of Franco’s multimillion-dollar settlement coincided Wednesday with actor Bill Cosby’s release from prison. Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court tossed out the sexual assault conviction against the actor and comedian, allowing him to walk free after serving less than three years of a three- to 10-year sentence. Sixty women have accused Cosby of sexual misconduct.