James Francomay be downplaying the sexual misconduct allegations brought against him, but his alleged victims are standing firm.
As you’ve likely heard, amid The Disaster Artist star’s big win at the Golden Globes on Sunday, several women called Franco a hypocrite for wearing a Time’s Up pin as they claimed he had previously been sexually inappropriate with them.
Sarah Tither-Kaplan, who attended the acting school founded by Franco and starred in several of his projects, said James’ public Time’s Up support at the Globes “was like a slap in [her] face.” Of the five women who spoke with The Times, four claimed to be ex students and one noted that James was once her “mentor.”
On her working experience with the Freak & Geeks alum, Tither-Kaplan noted:
“I feel there was an abuse of power, and there was a culture of exploiting non-celebrity women, and a culture of women being replaceable.”
Having taken Franco’s Sex Scenes class, Sarah jumped at the opportunity to work professionally with her teacher. Sadly, the experience was not what the actress expected.
Apparently, while filming an orgy scene with the Ivy League educated star three years ago, James removed the protective plastic guards that covered the actresses’ vaginas amid simulating oral sex on them.
Also, per Tither-Kaplan, one actress was sent home after she balked at James’ direction about acting topless:
“I got it in my head pretty quickly that, OK, you don’t say ‘no’ to this guy.”
Although, to James’ credit, he did apologize to Sarah amid the Harvey Weinstein scandal. The complainant confessed:
“I want to give him credit for at least being open to communicating with me. I felt that he was still not really taking accountability for the environment on the sets.”
Man, oh man. Actress Violet Paley also vocalized an upsetting encounter with James, as she opened up about the romantic relationship she had with him in 2016. According to Violet, James pressured her to perform oral sex while they were sitting in a car. She relayed:
“I was talking to him, all of a sudden his penis was out. 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.”
Eventually, Violet stopped performing the sexual act as she told Franco she spotted someone near the vehicle. On how she’d handle the situation today, Paley said:
“I would say, ‘No, stop, get out of my car.’ The power dynamic was really off.”
Paley reached out to Franco about the incident, but he defended that he hadn’t done “anything illegal.” He also insisted that he was a “changed man” and acknowledged it was wrong of him to pursue a sexual relationship with someone who was recovering from substance abuse.
Two additional students, from a course taught at Playhouse West, confirmed that they’ve had negative on set experiences with the industry vet. Both women, named Hilary Dusome and Natalie Chmiel, have claimed that Franco became angry when actresses on set refused to be topless while filming.
“I felt like I was selected for something based on my hard work and my merit, and when I realized it was because I have nice [breasts], it was pretty clear that was not the case. 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.”
Smh. Chmiel confirmed that James got “visibly angry,” and added:
“He just took advantage of our eagerness to work and be a part of something bigger. We were all these up-and-coming actors who were so hopeful.”
Although more than a dozen students have vouched for Franco’s acting school, named Studio 4, enough performers have expressed dissatisfaction with James’ teaching method.
In addition to claims that the 39-year-old would fall asleep during class, a few former students have suggested that Studio 4 falsely promised to funnel actors into the superstar’s personal projects. Los Angeles based actress Devyn LaBella shared:
“They would tell us that smaller parts in their projects were being held exclusively for students — often they were opportunities for extra work or parts that required nudity. I didn’t have agency representation at the time, so I thought, ‘Well, I’m not going to be able to get into good auditions, so this might be my opportunity.'”
After uploading auditions to a website, she admitted that no one she knew ever heard back. A woman, named Katie Ryan, suggested that Franco seemingly implied there were roles for those who performed sexual favors on him. She stated:
“[James] would always make everybody think there were possible roles on the table if we were to perform sexual acts or take off our shirts.”
Allegedly, for years, Ryan received audition requests from James to play “a prostitute or a hooker.” How awful.
Unsurprisingly, Franco’s lawyer Michael Plonsker denied each of the troubling allegations and advised The Times to refer to James’ denial on The Late Show. Not to mention, Rabbit Bandini co-owner Vince Jolivette defended that Studio 4 “was always run professionally.”
We’re sure this isn’t the last we’ve heard about this scandal, be sure to check back for any updates.
[Image via Regina Wagner/Future Image/WENN.]