James Franco Reaches Settlement in Sexual Exploitation Suit

Nearly a year and a half after the suit was filed, two women who accused James Franco of sexual misconduct at his defunct film school have dropped their charges in light of a new settlement agreement.

In 2019, following a year of sexual misconduct and exploitation claims against Franco, Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal filed a class action lawsuit against the actor and his Studio 4 school. The acting and film school was open from 2014 to 2017, during which time the accusers said Franco and his fellow teachers “engaged in widespread inappropriate and sexually charged behavior towards female students by sexualizing their power as a teacher and an employer by dangling the opportunity for roles in their projects.”

Allegations included Franco filming a class on sex scenes so that he “could later review the material.” Students apparently were not given the standard industry nudity riders or protections. In a particular incident, the accusers say Franco participated in a scene where he simulated oral sex on a group of women, removing the clear plastic guards around their private areas without their consent.

Now, a document dated February 11th but only recently reported on (via The Hollywood Reporter) shows the two sides have reached a settlement agreement. The financial terms of the agreement are not yet public, though they must be submitted for court approval by March 15th. Either way, the agreement finds Tither-Kaplan and Gaal agreeing to drop their suit against Franco; his partners, Vince Jolivette and Jay Davis; and his Rabbit Bandini production company.

Sexual exploitation charges by others involved in the class action suit are to be dismissed without prejudice, meaning those accusers are welcome to re-file their claims. In addition, those other individuals’ fraud allegations will be “subjected to limited release,” though specifics of what that entails were not provided in the initial document.

Allegations of Franco’s misconduct began to surface at the height of the #MeToo movement in 2018 after he won the Golden Globe for his role as Tommy Wiseau in The Disaster Artist. His legal defense later called the accusations “salacious” and “great tabloid fodder,” adding, “but like most tabloid stories, they are false and inflammatory, legally baseless and brought as a class action with the obvious goal of grabbing as much publicity as possible for attention-hungry Plaintiffs.”

Since the case began, Franco has kept a low profile, sticking to self-directed projects like Zeroville or minor voice roles in Arctic Dogs. His HBO series The Deuce ended in 2019. He does have one long-finished project in the can, however: 2015’s The Long Home, which features Tither-Kaplan.