Three former acting students of James Franco have alleged he created environments which were sexually exploitative, and withheld roles in his film projects for up-and-coming performers who were willing to appear nude.
Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, actor Hilary Dusome alleged that in the middle of what she believed to be a shoot for a jeans commercial, Franco asked “so, who wants to take your shirt off?”
Dusome said when nobody on set volunteered, Franco angrily left.
“I felt like I was selected for something based on my hard work and my merit,” Dusome said. “And when I realised it was because I have nice [breasts], it was pretty clear that was not the case.”
That 2012 experience was backed up by Natalie Chmiel, another of Franco’s students at Studio 4, who said Franco was “visibly angry” when nobody agreed to go topless.
Chmiel said Franco “took advantage of our eagerness to work and be a part of something bigger,” by appearing to offer a ‘big break’ to lesser-known performers.
Devyn LaBella said the acting school offered an online portal for students to upload their work, and that Franco said roles would be reserved for students in his projects. The parts on offer reportedly required nudity; LaBella said “I didn’t have agency representation at the time, so I thought, ‘Well, I’m not going to be able to get into good auditions, so this might be my opportunity.’”
Sarah Tither-Kaplan, who took to Twitter to accuse Franco of exploitative conduct after his Golden Globes win for The Disaster Artist, says she once appeared fully nude in one of his projects. She had signed a form consenting to the role as she believed it to be a potential break in the industry, but was subsequently asked if she wanted to appear in an extra scene showing an orgy.
She said that during the filming of that scene, Franco removed clear plastic guards over actors’ genitals as he simulated oral sex. Later, she and other actors were asked to appear in another unscripted nude; Tither-Kaplan said one actor refused, and was removed from the production the next day.
The Los Angeles Times also spoke to Violet Paley, who took to Twitter with her own allegation of sexual misconduct against Franco. She accused the actor, with whom she shared a consensual romantic and sexual relationship, of exposing his penis and pressuring her for oral sex while they were in a car.
“I got really nervous, and I said, ‘Can we do this later?’” Paley said. “He was kind of nudging my head down, and I just didn’t want him to hate me, so I did it.”
Paley said she later emailed Franco about the ordeal, a claim which was verified by the Los Angeles Times. He didn’t respond by email, but Paley said they later spoke on the phone. He allegedly attempted to make amends for the situation.
Franco’s attorney Michael Plonsker disputed all of the women’s allegations, including the specific claim about the genital guards. He said anyone seeking Franco’s comments on the matter should refer to his recent appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
The New York Times also cancelled a speaking event with Franco in the wake of Tither-Kaplan and Paley’s allegations against the actor.
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