A settlement pact has been reached in a lawsuit that declared James Franco scared students at an acting and film school he founded into gratuitous and exploitative sexual circumstances.
A status reports together filed by the two sides in Los Angeles Superior Court indicated a settlement had been attained in the class-action suit brought by former students at the now-defunct school, Studio 4, though aspects 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 stakes under the agreement, according to the court filing. Their lawsuit declared Franco pushed his students into performing in increasingly detailed sex scenes on camera in an “orgy typesetting” that went far beyond those favourable on Hollywood film sets.
It alleged that 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 Franco’s films would be available to those who followed.
The lawsuits said the events happened in a master class on sex scenes that Franco taught at Studio 4, which opened in 2014 and closed in 2017.
The two sides had been in conversations on a settlement for several months, and the lawsuit’s progress had been paused while they talked. Emails to several lawyers for both sides pursuing comment on the agreement and more details on the terms were not immediately returned.
In a previous court filing, Franco’s attorneys, while honouring 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.” They brought up that Tither-Kaplan had previously expressed gratitude for the opportunity to work with Franco.
The lawsuit also phrases Franco’s production company Rabbit Bandini and his partners comprising Vince Jolivette and Jay Davis as defendants. The sexual exploitation testimonies of another suer in the class action will be ignored without bias, meaning they may be re-filed, the joint status report said. Fraud testimonies brought by those plaintiffs will be “subjected to limited release,” the document says, without further details or explanation.
The document does not disclose how much money may be involved in the deal, which the parties say they will submit for preliminary court approval by March 15.
Before cataloguing the lawsuit, Tither-Kaplan voiced her testimonies of sexual misdeed against Franco along with other women in the Los Angeles Times after Franco won a Golden Globe Award for The Disaster Artistin early 2018 when the wave of the #MeToo movement was sweeping across Hollywood.
In a following interview on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Franco called the sexual misconduct stories about him inaccurate, but said, “If I’ve done something wrong, I will fix it. I have to.”
Franco, who was best known for featuring in comedies with Seth Rogen, has commonly kept a low-profile since the allegations arose in what had been a highly productive period that culminated in the acclaimed Disaster Artist.