Back in October, two of James Franco’s former film students filed a lawsuit against the actor/director, accusing him of sexual misconduct. Now legal representatives for Franco have responded to the allegations, calling them “false and inflammatory” and labeling his accusers as “attention-hungry” women.
As reported by Vanity Fair, a notice of demurrer was filed to the Los Angeles superior court last month. It begins, “The #MeToo and Times Up movements have made tremendous and important contributions to improving not only the culture of the entertainment business but also the world as a whole. Unfortunately, while these movements have rightly brought down a number of reprehensible individuals, they have also ensnared an innocent man. James Franco.”
“The salacious allegations in the Complaint have made great tabloid fodder, 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.”
The plaintiffs are Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal, two former students who attended Franco’s now defunct acting school Studio 4 back in 2014. Their lawsuit claims the school’s leadership had “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.” It also contends that students “were denied the protections of nudity riders and other film-industry guidelines that govern how actors can be portrayed and treated in nude scenes.”
Speaking with the Los Angeles Times in 2018, Tither-Kaplan alleged that during the filming of an orgy scene for the independent film The Long Home, Franco, without consent, removed the clear plastic guards covering women’s vaginas and proceeded to simulate oral sex.
In the demurrer, Franco’s attorney Michael Plonsker claimed “the allegations about the protective guards are not accurate,” He continued,
“As to Tither-Kaplan’s most sensationalistic accusation—that the vaginal guards of four other actresses were removed by Franco during filming: (1) Tither-Kaplan admitted that she was not one of the actresses using a vaginal guard; (2) all of the actresses involved confirmed that their vaginal guards were not removed, that the shooting of the film was professional, and that they did not feel mistreated, uncomfortable or taken advantage of; and (3) the cameramen involved in shooting the scene have confirmed that the guards were never removed.”
Tither-Kaplan responded to the demurrer via Twitter, writing “Should note though that #timesup and #metoo are different movements and his lawyers seem to be conflating and/or confusing the two and these headlines don’t help to make the distinction.” She also wrote that she “won’t be commenting on this further at this time.”
This is not the first time Franco has been hit with allegations of sexual misconduct. After his Golden Globe award forThe Disaster Artist in 2018, several actresses came forward with alleged stories of Franco’s past inappropriate behavior. Before that in 2014, it came to light that Franco had tried to proposition a 17-year-old woman through Instagram (he admitted to the encounter).
The actor addressed allegations made in 2018 during an interview on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, stating, “If there’s restitution to be made, I will make it. I’m here to listen and learn and change my perspective where it’s off.”
After the lawsuit was initially filed last fall, Plonsker responded that Franco “will not only fully defend himself, but will also seek damages from the plaintiffs and their attorneys for filing this scurrilous publicity seeking lawsuit.” Though the actor himself did not directly comment in the demurrer, it included the note,
“How should Franco respond? Some accused of misconduct confidentially settled claims to avoid more adverse publicity. Some fought back in highly publicized lawsuits. Not Franco. He is an ardent believer in the righteousness of the #MeToo and Times Up movements. Franco is doing what is best for him: forcefully denying the scurrilous and false accusations but supporting his accusers right to their day in court. In the end, Franco is confident that he will be vindicated.”
You can read the full notice of demurrer here.
— Sarah Tither-Kaplan (@sarahtk) March 3, 2020