Actor James Franco agrees to settle sexual misconduct lawsuit, but still denies some of the allegations made by former film students.
Content warning: the following article contains discussions of sexual misconduct.
James Franco will end a sexual misconduct case with a settlement of $2.2 million. The 127 Hours actor was accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women in 2018, following his Golden Globes win for his work in The Disaster Artist. Franco has been accused of various forms of sexual misconduct over the years, further ignited in 2018 when, during his aforementioned Globes acceptance speech, he was seen wearing a Time’s Up pin, which his accusers found to be hypocritical.
The lawsuit against Franco was brought by Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal in 2020, who are two former students of Franco’s acting classes at Studio 4 Film School. Unusually, their allegations turned into a class-action lawsuit that alleges Franco’s students were fraud victims. More specifically, Franco is accused of pressuring students into carrying out incredibly explicit sex scenes and/or being nude on camera in his personal side projects for, seemingly, their career enhancement. Their allegations include anecdotes of Franco removing protective modesty garments and simulating sexual acts on the students.
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Now, reported by THR, James Franco is paying $2,235,000 million to settle the class-action suit. The payout is divided as follows: Tither-Kaplan will receive $670,500 and Gaal will receive $223,500 before the large portion of lawyer fees are taken out. The other students in the lawsuit will receive nearly two-thirds of the remaining $1.341 million, the lawyers taking a significant $827,000 portion. However, it is important to note that, though Franco settling, he doesn’t entirely admit to all of the allegations presented in the suit. As a requirement of the settlement, an agreed-upon statement was released that speaks more about the settlement as an attempt to raise awareness than to admit much wrongdoing. Read a section of the statement below:
“While Defendants continue to deny the allegations in the Complaint, they acknowledge that Plaintiffs have raised important issues; and all parties strongly believe that now is a critical time to focus on addressing the mistreatment of women in Hollywood. All agree on the need to make sure that no one in the entertainment industry — regardless of race, religion, disability, ethnicity, background, gender or sexual orientation — faces discrimination, harassment or prejudice of any kind.”
Additionally, Franco has agreed to “non-economic” terms for the individual plaintiffs, which are currently under an attempted motion to seal. This settlement will require the students to release fraud claims against Franco, giving members of the suit some time to opt-out. The unclaimed funds would be donated to the National Women’s Law Center. This is also in line with the messaging of bringing awareness to the sexual misconduct and mistreatment of women prevalent in Hollywood. However, some may sustain the belief that there is not enough responsibility being taken from the actor who has been embroiled in sexual misconduct allegations for the better part of a decade now.
As more documents are filed in the suit, the world may learn more details about the allegations. What is unpredictable, is how this will continue to impact all parties involved. While it is best to be wary of focusing mainly on the impact on Franco, it is notable that long-time collaborators, such as Seth Rogen, have voiced their lack of intentions to collaborate with Franco again.
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