James Franco Accused of Sexual Misconduct by Five Women—Including Four Students

In a new expose published The Los Angeles Times, four former students and a mentee detailed their allegations

By Elyse Dupre Jan 11, 2018 3:30 PMTags

James Franco has been accused of sexual misconduct by five women, including four former students and one mentee. The Los Angeles Times published the allegations in a new exposé Thursday morning. 

Franco's attorney Michael Plonsker has denied the women's allegations.

In addition to being an actor, Franco has worked as a teacher. He taught at Playhouse West in North Hollywood and then opened his own film school Studio 4, which is no longer in operation.  

One of the women to come forward is Hilary Dusome, who studied under Franco at Playhouse West in 2012. Dusome told the Los Angeles Times she initially viewed Franco as a "really generous spirit" and agreed to be in one of his "art films" with other women. However, she claimed the actor walked off set when the actresses refused to take off their shirts for a scene. 

"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," she 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."

James Franco Denies Sexual Misconduct Allegations

Natalie Chmiel, another Playhouse West alumna, also claimed Franco became "visibly angry" when the actresses denied his topless request.

"He just took advantage of our eagerness to work and be a part of something bigger," Chmiel said. "We were all these up-and-coming actors who were so hopeful." 

Plonsker said the actor never made the alleged request.  

One of the allures of enrolling in Studio 4 was the opportunity to be cast in one of Franco's projects. However, Katie Ryan, who claims she met Franco at Playhouse West and later enrolled in several classes at Studio 4, suggested these roles came with a price.

"[He] would always make everybody think there were possible roles on the table if we were to perform sexual acts or take off our shirts," she told the Los Angeles Times.

Franco's attorney said the actor is "not aware that any of the actions alleged by Ms. Ryan ever occurred."

Vince Jolivette, who co-owned the production company that ran Studio 4 Rabbit Bandini Productions claimed the school was "always run professionally" via a statement provided by Plonsker. He also said the "instructors were excellent" and that the "student feedback was positive." Although, he said that the organization was still investigating complaints about the school.

Photo by Justina Mintz, courtesy of A24

According to the newspaper, "more than a dozen former students" said they had a "positive experience" while they were enrolled in Studio 4. 

"If he felt the class wasn't enough, he would take us writers to a separate venue outside of class," former student Prashant Thakker said. "He would keep teaching us over and over again."

Sarah Tither-Kaplan, however, claims to have had a different experience as Franco's pupil. 

A former student in Franco's Sex Scenes class at Studio 4, Tither-Kaplan said the actor asked her to play a prostitute in 2015 for the film The Long Home, which also stars Josh Hutcherson, Courtney Love and Timothy Hutton. The former pupil said she was required to perform nude and was asked to do a "bonus" orgy scene with Franco and few other women.  She then accused the actor of taking off the plastic guards placed over their vaginas while simulating oral sex on them—leaving the actresses with no protection. In addition, Tither-Kaplan said she and the other actresses were asked to perform topless and dance around Franco for a separate scene. After one actress balked, she alleged, the actress was released the next day. 

"I got it in my head pretty quickly that, OK, you don't say ‘no' to this guy," Tither-Kaplan said.

Another actress from the shoot confirmed both accusations to the Los Angeles Times.

However, Plonsker said "the allegations about the protective guards are not accurate" and pointed to several social media posts by Tither-Kaplan that indicated a positive on-set experience.

Casting director Cynthia Huffman, who worked on The Long Home, also said she hadn't received any complaints and that she "personally checked on all the actresses constantly to make sure they were ok and comfortable" in a statement via Plonsker.

In addition, Tither-Kaplan claimed Franco apologized for making her uncomfortable after allegations about producer Harvey Weinstein became public.

Focus Features

Still, these weren't the only women to come forward. Violet Paley told the Los Angeles Times she had a romantic relationship with Franco but that he had pressured her to perform oral sex on him in a car. 

"I was talking to him, all of a sudden his penis was out," Paley told the newspaper. "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."

Plonsker denied the allegations and called them "not accurate." According to the article, Paley told friends and family members about the alleged incident. Five people confirmed Paley told them about it at the time.

Both Tither-Kaplan and Paley tweeted about their allegations after Franco won a Golden Globe for his work in The Disaster Artist. Tither-Kaplan also expressed frustration that Franco wore a Time's Up pin—a symbol of solidarity for a movement that promotes equality and safety in the workplace—and called it a "slap in my face."

These weren't the only women to speak out during Sunday's award show. Ally Sheedy also tweeted vague accusations. One read, "James Franco just won. Please never ever ask me why I left the film/tv business." Her tweets have since been deleted.

Lloyd Bishop/NBC

Franco addressed Sheedy's tweets on a recent episode of The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.

"OK, first of all: I have no idea what I did to Ally Sheedy," he said. "I directed her in a play off-Broadway. I had nothing but a great time with her, total respect for her. I have no idea why she was upset. She took the tweet down, I don't know. I can't speak for her, I don't know."

He also said other accusations on social media were "not accurate."

He continued to address the accusations on Late Night With Seth Meyers.

"The ones I read were not accurate," Franco said, "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. I truly believe, and why I was wearing the pin, is that they need to be a part of this conversation. I support them."

In addition to appearing in The Disaster Artist, Franco is set to appear in the HBO show The Deuce

E! News has reached out to Franco's attorney and rep.