LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Five women have publicly accused Hollywood star James Franco of sexually inappropriate behaviour, The Los Angeles Times reported Thursday (Jan 11), just days after the actor triumphed at the Golden Globes.
The paper published allegations by four former students at the film school Franco founded who accused him of exploitative behaviour including during nude scenes. A fifth woman accused Franco of pressuring her into performing fellatio while the pair were in a relationship two years ago.
The 39-year-old actor and his lawyers have denied the accusations. Sarah Tither-Kaplan, a former student at Franco's Studio 4 school in North Hollywood, was one of a number of women who took to Twitter in anger after he accepted a Best Actor award for The Disaster Artist Sunday night, wearing a "Time's Up" pin in solidarity with victims of sexual harassment. It "was like a slap in my face," she told the paper.
Tither-Kaplan, whom Franco cast as a prostitute in 2015 in an unreleased film, described to the Times taking part in a nude orgy "bonus" scene in which Franco simulated oral sex on several other actresses, and said he had removed a clear plastic guard that covered their vaginas.
She also claims she and her female co-stars were asked to appear topless and dance around Franco in an unscripted scene. Franco's attorney told The Times the account of Franco removing the protective guards was "not accurate," and pointed to Tither-Kaplan's positive social media comments about her experience on the set. Another Franco attorney said she had received no complaints during the movie filming.
Tither-Kaplan, who went on to appear in several Franco productions, acknowledged the positive remarks - and said Franco later apologised for making her feel uncomfortable. But she said the negative experiences were "red flags."
Katie Ryan, another former student, said Franco "would always make everybody think there were possible roles on the table if we were to perform sexual acts or take off our shirts."
Two other former students told the paper about a strip club scene that both considered unprofessional. Hilary Dusome, 33, said Franco approached the group of actresses and asked, "So, who wants to take your shirt off?" When no one volunteered, Franco stormed off, according to fellow student Natalie Chmiel, 33. Franco's attorney denied any such request was made.
Aspiring screenwriter Violet Paley, 23, told The Times she saw Franco as a mentor when they began a romantic relationship in 2016. On Sunday she called Franco out on social media after the Globes ceremony, publicly recounting an incident in which she says he pressured her to perform oral sex inside a car. "I just didn't want him to hate me, so I did it," she told the Times. "The power dynamic was really off." Franco's attorney described the allegations as "not accurate."
On Wednesday the actor denied engaging in sexual misconduct after several accusations surfaced on social media, while voicing his support for the many women coming forward with allegations of wrongdoing following the downfall of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.