James Franco has broken his silence about sleeping with students of his now-defunct acting school, six months after settling a class-action sexual misconduct suit for $2.2 million.
The Milk star said in an interview with SiriusXM’s Jess Cagle that he did not start the school, Studio 4, to create a “a pipeline of young women” to have sex with, as the suit claims.
“I think some people listening to this will say, how could you not see that there would be a power imbalance among a teacher — who’s not just a teacher, but is James Franco, a very, very famous, powerful actor and producer — and a student?” Cagle asks Franco in the interview.
Franco admits he knew the power imbalance inherent in the encounters was “probably not a cool thing,” but that he justified it at the time because it was “consensual.”
He also clarifies that he did not sleep with any students from his “sex scenes class,” which is…supposed to make it better?
“Look, I’ll admit I did sleep with students. I didn’t sleep with anybody in [my ‘Sex Scenes’ class], but, over the course of my teaching, I did sleep with students and that was wrong,” Franco, 43, explained.
“But like I said, I, it’s not why I started the school and I, I didn’t, I wasn’t the person that selected the people to be in the class. So it wasn’t a master plan on my part. But yes, there were certain instances where, you know what I was in a consensual thing with, with a student and I shouldn’t have been.”
Ex-students Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal filed a lawsuit in the Los Angeles County Superior Court in October 2019 claiming Franco and other teachers pressured women to strip naked for auditions while dangling film opportunities that almost never came to fruition.
One woman claimed that during the “sex scenes” course, Franco made the women remove the plastic guards covering their vaginas.
Another said Franco told female students that “there were possible roles on the table if we were to perform sexual acts or take off our shirts.” She also says he would frequently email her about job opportunities, but the roles were always for “a prostitute or a hooker.”
Two other women say Franco was “hostile” towards them during a film shoot that took place in a strip club when they refused to take their tops off.
By engaging in “widespread inappropriate and sexually charged behavior towards female students,” Franco fostered “an environment of harassment and sexual exploitation” at Studio 4, the suit claims.
Elsewhere in the interview, Franco talks about battling sex addiction and says he “cheated on everyone” before his current girlfriend, Izabel Pakzad.
Franco’s career, a good portion of which has focused on telling queer-themed stories, hasn’t appeared to suffer from any of the allegations.