Celebrity US


LOS ANGELES — A settlement agreement has been reached in a lawsuit that alleged James Franco intimidated students at an acting and film school he founded into gratuitous and exploitative sexual situations.

James Franco. Legal Battle.
James Franco. Legal Battle.

A status report jointly filed by the two sides in Los Angeles Superior Court said a settlement had been reached in the class-action suit brought by former students at the now-defunct school, Studio 4, though elements of the lawsuit may live on. The document was filed on Feb. 11, but the settlement has not previously been reported.

Actresses and ex-students Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal, who first filed the lawsuit in 2019, have agreed to drop their individual claims under the agreement, according to the court filing. Their lawsuit said James Franco pushed his students into performing in increasingly explicit sex scenes on camera in an “orgy type setting” that went far beyond those acceptable on Hollywood film sets.

It alleged that James Franco sought to create a pipeline of young women who were subjected to his personal and professional sexual exploitation in the name of education, and that students were led to believe roles in James Franco’s films would be available to those who went along.

The lawsuits said the incidents occurred in a master class on sex scenes that James Franco taught at Studio 4, which opened in 2014 and closed in 2017. The two sides had been in discussions on a settlement for several months, and the lawsuits progress had been paused while they talked. 

Emails to several attorneys for both sides seeking comment on the agreement and more details on the terms were not immediately returned. 

In a previous court filing, James Franco’s attorneys, while praising the #MeToo movement that helped inspire the lawsuit, called its claims “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.” 

In a subsequent interview on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” The 42-years-old actor called the sexual misconduct stories about him inaccurate, but said, “If I’ve done something wrong, I will fix it. I have to.”

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