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James Franco accused of sexual misconduct by five women including former students

Actor James Franco talks with host Seth Meyers during an interview on 10 January 2018.
James Franco on Late Night With Seth Meyers. Photograph: NBC/Getty Images

James Franco has been accused of sexual misconduct by five women, including former students at the actor-director’s New York acting school.

The allegations, which have been reported by the Los Angeles Times, include claims that Franco engaged in inappropriate or sexually exploitative behaviour by the women, four of whom were coached by him at his film and acting school, Studio 4.

Two of the women featured, actors Violet Paley and Sarah Tither-Kaplan, expanded on claims they had made on Twitter in the wake of Franco’s Golden Globes victory for his performance in his latest film, The Disaster Artist. Both women were critical of the actor’s decision to wear a badge supporting the Time’s Up movement at the ceremony. Franco was later forced to deny the rumours during an interview with The Late Show host Stephen Colbert, describing the claims as “not accurate”.

Tither-Kaplan, who has starred in several films directed by Franco, told the LA Times that the actor-director had engaged in an “abuse of power” on the set of his films, alleging that during one sex scene Franco removed protective plastic guards covering the genitalia of female actors while simulating oral sex with them.

Tither-Kaplan also claimed that one actor was sent home from a film set after balking at appearing topless in a scene. “I got it in my head pretty quickly that, OK, you don’t say no to this guy,” she said.

Another student, Hilary Dusome claimed that Franco had created an “unprofessional and hostile atmosphere” during a scene filmed in a strip club by asking a group of female actors: “So, who wants to take your shirt off?” Dusome says that Franco “stormed off” after none of the actors volunteered. Two other female student actors made similar claims, saying that Franco became angry when no women at the shoot would agree to be topless.

“I felt like I was selected for something based on my hard work and my merit, and when I realised it was because I have nice [breasts], it was pretty clear that was not the case,” Dusome 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.”

Paley, who had a romantic relationship with Franco in 2016, claims that the actor pressured her into performing oral sex on him while sitting in a car. “I was talking to him, all of a sudden his penis was out,” she told the Times. “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.” She added that Franco later called to make amends with her, though he insisted that he had done “nothing illegal”.

In a statement to the LA Times, Franco’s attorney Michael Plonsker disputed the claims, directing readers to the comments made by the actor during the Late Show interview. “The things that I heard that were on Twitter are not accurate,” Franco told Colbert. “But I completely support people coming out and being able to have a voice because they didn’t have a voice for so long. So I don’t want to shut them down in any way.”

Plonsker also specifically addressed Tither-Kaplan’s allegation regarding the protective guards and those made by Paley, describing both as “not accurate”.

Following the claims made against Franco, the New York Times cancelled an event featuring the actor that had been scheduled for yesterday. However, he has otherwise continued to make public appearances. Last night he appeared on Late Night With Seth Meyers, where he was again asked about the allegations.

“I have my own side of this story, but I believe in these people that have been underrepresented getting their stories out, enough that I will hold back things that I could say, just because I believe in it that much,” Franco told Meyers. “If I have to take a knock, because I am not going to try and actively refute things, then I will, because I believe in it that much.”

This article titled "James Franco accused of sexual misconduct by five women including former students" was written by Gwilym Mumford, for theguardian.com on Thursday 11 January 2018 03.26pm

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