Accusations of Franco’s impropriety began to surface on Twitter Sunday when the actor showed up to the Golden Globes wearing a Time’s Up pin in support of sexual harassment awareness. Now, five women, including four of his former film students, have accused the actor of inappropriate or sexually exploitative behavior in interviews with The Los Angeles Times. The former students, who attended Franco’s Studio 4 acting workshop, recounted negative on-set experiences in which Franco allegedly demanded female actresses strip naked. If they refused, they were sent home.
One incident, as detailed by two women, took place during shooting of Franco’s 2015 independent film The Long Home. Sarah Tither-Kaplan told The Times that she and a handful of women were selected to participate in a scene in which Franco simulated performing oral sex on each of them. She said Franco, without their consent, removed the clear plastic guard that covered their vaginas and continued to simulate the sex act without protection.
Tither-Kaplan and her female co-stars were also asked to appear nude in an unscripted scene in which they were to dance around Franco while wearing animal skulls. When one actress refused, Franco allegedly sent her home.
As part of his Studio 4 workshops, Franco also offered a Sex Scenes class, which taught students about the art of being intimate on camera. Tither-Kaplan said a video from the class, which shows her topless, was uploaded to a video-sharing website without her permission. The video was later posted on a pornography website.
Another former student, Katie Ryan, 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.”
The Times also spoke with actress Violet Paley, who has accused Franco of pressuring her for oral sex while sitting in her car. “I was talking to him, all of a sudden his penis was out,” Paley recounted. “I got really nervous, and I said, ‘Can we do this later?’ He was kind of nudging my head down, and I just didn’t want him to hate me, so I did it.”
Paley acknowledged she had been in a consensual romantic relationship with Franco, but said the incident crossed a line. “The power dynamic was really off,” Paley added.
Franco’s attorney, Michael Plonsker, disputed all of the women’s allegations and directed The Times to Franco’s recent appearance on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert during which he addressed the initial allegations.
“Look, in my life I pride myself on taking responsibility for things that I have done,” Franco told Colbert. “I have to do that to maintain my well being. The things that I 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. So I don’t want to shut them down in any way.”
“If I have done something wrong,” he added, “I will fix it — I have to.”
This is not the first time Franco has been confronted with allegations of sexual misconduct. In 2014, news emerged that Franco had attempted to proposition a 17-year-old woman on Instagram. Franco admitted to the encounter at the time, saying, “In my position, not only do I have to go through the embarrassing rituals of meeting someone, but sometimes it gets published for the world.” The incident occurred in New York, where the age of consent is 17.
In light of these latest allegations, The New York Times has canceled a scheduled TimesTalk event with Franco in promotion of The Disaster Artist. “Given the controversy surrounding recent allegations, we’re no longer comfortable proceeding in that vein,” The New York Times said in a statement.