Five Women Come Forward to Accuse James Franco of Sexually Inappropriate Behavior
On Sunday night, James Franco became a Golden Globe winner, and he also became the latest name added to the ever-growing list of men accused of abusing their power over women in Hollywood. Multiple women took to Twitter when Franco picked up his award on Sunday, pointing out the irony of the #TimesUp pin on his jacket lapel, worn by those protesting sexual assault and harassment in the industry and the workplace, and shared past stories of sexual misconduct involving Franco. Now the Los Angeles Times has published an lengthy piece in which five women come forward and accuse The Disaster Artist actor of sexually inappropriate or exploitative behavior.
Various women who were former acting students of Franco’s at his since-closed acting school, Studio 4, and at Playhouse West, told the paper of uncomfortable on-set experiences and spoke of a culture of “exploiting non-celebrity women.” Two former female acting students, Hilary Dusome and Natalie Chmiel, spoke of a time they were directed by Franco for a project where nudity was not previously discussed. When Franco asked the women if they wanted to take their tops off during the shoot, Chmiel said the actor got “visibly angry” when they both declined. Dusome told the publication:
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.
While Studio 4 gave Franco’s students the opportunity to get a foot in the door by getting cast in his projects, multiple women told the paper that for those were often prostitute roles or “parts that required nudity.”
Actress Sarah Tither-Kaplan, who was one of the first women to tweet about Franco on Sunday, also had an uncomfortable experience with Franco on set. While she was an acting student at Studio 4, Franco cast her as a prostitute in his yet-to-be-released drama The Long Home. Tither-Kaplan agreed to be nude for the part in the film and signed a contract, however she said on set one day a “bonus” orgy scene was added. During the scene, Tither-Kaplan claims that Franco removed the plastic guards covering other women’s vaginas, and continued to simulate oral sex on them.
Another day of the shoot, when one woman allegedly “balked” at Franco’s suggestion for the actresses to dance around nude, Tither-Kaplan alleges Franco sent the woman home. “I got it in my head pretty quickly that, OK, you don’t say ‘no’ to this guy,” she said. Tither-Kaplan did note to The Times that she contacted Franco last fall amid the Harvey Weinstein scandal and that Franco apologized for making her feel uncomfortable.
Violet Paley was another woman whose tweets about Franco “pushing” her head towards his exposed penis went viral. While attending his acting school Paley had entered a romantic relationship with Franco. She told the paper of a time she felt pressured into performing oral sex on him, which she hadn’t previously done with the actor. “He was kind of nudging my head down, and I just didn’t want him to hate me, so I did it,” she described. Paley was hesitant to come forward about her experience considering the fact that she later had a consensual sexual relationship with Franco. She said she would have handled the encounter differently today. “The power dynamic was really off,” Paley told The Times.
Franco’s lawyer Michael Plonsker denied all five women’s accusations made to The Times and in lieu of a statement directed the outlet to Franco’s comments on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on Tuesday night. Franco told Colbert, “The things that I’ve heard that were on Twitter are not accurate, but I completely support people coming out and being able to have a voice, because they didn’t have a voice for so long. I don’t want to shut them down in any way. I think it’s a good thing and I support it.” He added, “If I’ve done something wrong, I will fix it.”
It’s worth noting that Paley told The Times that Franco tried to make amends to her when she contacted him via email last fall. But Franco’s comments so far are complicated; he supports these women coming forward with their stories, and yet denies the allegations. Ally Sheedy, who was also one of the women to speak out about Franco on Sunday in since-deleted tweets, has yet to speak on the topic further, so more stories of Franco’s alleged behavior may be on the way.