Ex-students of James Franco's acting school sue actor alleging sexual impropriety

LOS ANGELES -- Two actresses sued James Franco and the acting and film school he founded Thursday, saying he intimidated his students into gratuitous and exploitative sexual situations far beyond those acceptable on Hollywood film sets.

Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal, former students at the actor's now-closed Studio 4, said in the lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court that Franco pushed his students into performing in increasingly explicit sex scenes on camera in an "orgy type setting."

Franco "sought to create a pipeline of young women who were subjected to his personal and professional sexual exploitation in the name of education," the suit alleges.

The lawsuit alleges Franco, through his friends and associates, trolled local bars for women as young as 17 to enroll in their acting school, with promises of roles in major productions.

They say those roles never materialized and many women feel they were subjected to the sexual whims of a man in power, particularly in a class taught by Franco himself called Sex Scenes.

"They were often asked not to wear the guards that protected their private areas from being touched," said Dan Stormer, an attorney for the plaintiffs. "In some oral sex scenes they were requested to take the guards off. "

One of the plaintiffs, Tither-Kaplan, said she took the class. She spoke with Amy Robach of ABC News in January 2018 about what she allegedly experienced at Franco's acting school.

"There were a lot of scenes that were added after we were given the original scripts that I felt I wished I had more time to consider them, or understand the artistic value of them," Tither-Kaplan told Robach.

The lawsuit alleges fraud and sexual exploitations, saying Franco and his associates sexualized their "power and fame by dangling the opportunity to aspiring actors of employment in film and television in exchange for explicit nudity, sex and as Franco put it, the 'pushing of boundaries.'"

Attorneys for the women are looking for more plaintiffs to join, and for it to become a class action.

Since the allegations first emerged, Franco has made few publicity appearances, but work has not seemed to slow down for him on the big or small screen.

The HBO series "The Deuce," which he executive produces and stars in, began its third and final season on Sept. 9.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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