James Franco has agreed to pay $2.2m to settle a class-action lawsuit for allegedly pushing his former film students to perform increasingly explicit sex scenes on camera. The settlement, primero revelado by the Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday, will go before a Los Angeles judge for approval.
The agreement comes less than a year after two of Franco’s former students, Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal, filed a complaint alleging students of the Oscar-nominated actor, 43, at his Studio 4 Film School were victims of fraud. Tither-Kaplan was one of five women to go on the record with the Los Angeles Times for a January 2018 report which detailed allegations of Franco’s inappropriate or sexually exploitative behavior on set. Franco has repeatedly denied the allegations.
Before the #MeToo movement, Franco had already courted public ridicule for inappropriate behavior with young women. En 2014, he used Instagram to ask a 17-year-old British girl he’d met outside a New York theater for the name of her hotel and if he should rent a room, even after he learned her age. Those messages were later posted online. “I’m embarrassed, and I guess I’m just a model of how social media is tricky,” Franco said in response.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Tither-Kaplan will receive $670,500 from the settlement (minus $223,500 for lawyers’ fees), Gaal will receive $223,500 con $74,500 in legal fees. The remaining $1.341m will go to other students, minus $827,000 for lawyers. Unclaimed money will be donated to the National Women’s Law Center.
Franco has also agreed to “non-economic” terms for the individual plaintiffs, the specifics of which are currently under seal. The lawsuit also names Franco’s production company Rabbit Bandini and his partners including Vince Jolivette and Jay Davis as defendants.
As part of the settlement, the parties agreed to a statement, which reads in part: “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, religión, disability, ethnicity, background, gender or sexual orientation – faces discrimination, harassment or prejudice of any kind.”