Four of the women were former acting students of Franco’s, including Sarah Tither-Kaplan, who attended Franco’s Studio 4 that abruptly closed last fall. Tither-Kaplan said she was cast in an unreleased film, “The Long Home,” as a prostitute, and was asked, along with other women, if she would appear in a “bonus scene” depicting an orgy, where Franco would simulate oral sex on the women.
However, in each instance, Tither-Kaplan said, Franco removed the plastic guard that covered the women’s vaginas before simulating oral sex. Another actress who participated in the shoots confirmed Tither-Kaplan’s account to the Times.
“I got it in my head pretty quickly that, OK, you don’t say ‘no’ to this guy,” Tither-Kaplan said.
In a statement, Cynthia Huffman, casting director of “The Long Home,” said, “I feel so bad that Sarah feels the way she does. She is part of our camp! All actresses were aware of the nudity scenes ahead of time. I personally checked on all the actresses constantly to make sure they were ok and comfortable. I talked to them several times and told them if they were uncomfortable or did not like what was going on to come to me immediately and I would take care of it. I did not receive any complaints”
“James is all about giving up and comers, actors and actresses and young film makers a break in this business,” the statement goes on. “I feel horrible that anyone was made to feel uncomfortable but we went to great lengths to make sure all the actresses in the nude scenes felt comfortable and safe.”
Two other women, Hilary Dusome and Natalie Chmiel, spoke about Franco’s behavior at Playhouse West, where he served as an acting teacher before starting Studio 4. Both recalled a “hostile” shoot at a strip club, where Franco allegedly approached the actresses and asked if they wanted to take their shirts off. When no actresses volunteered, Dusome said, Franco stormed off. Chmiel remembered Franco being “visibly angry” when the women declined to their their shirts off.
Katie Ryan, who took several classes at Studio 4, 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.” She also said that Franco would often send mass emails about auditions for hooker or prostitute roles.
Vince Jolivette, partner/owner of Rabbit Bandini Productions, the company that ran Studio 4, said in a statement that “the school was always run professionally.” “Our instructors were excellent, student feedback was positive and this recent tweet from a former student is very inconsistent with the mission of the school and we are investigating this matter,” he said.
A fifth accuser, Violet Paley, was not a student of Franco’s, but said he offered to give her notes on a script. Paley claimed that Franco later pressured her into performing oral sex on him while the two were sitting in her car.
“I was talking to him, all of a sudden his penis was out,” she said. “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 said she told Franco that someone had spotted them in her car in order to stop the act.
The Times report comes days after Franco won a best actor Golden Globe for his work in “The Disaster Artist.” Franco wore a Time’s Up pin to the ceremony in solidarity with the movement against sexual harassment and abuse, a move that prompted several women — including Tither-Kaplan and Paley — to come forward against Franco on Twitter.
On Tuesday, a New York Times event featuring Franco was canceled as backlash grew on social media. That same night, Franco appeared on “The Late Show,” where he denied the social media allegations to Stephen Colbert.
“In my life, I pride myself on taking responsibility for things that I’ve done,” he said. “I have to do that to maintain my well-being. I do it whenever I know that there’s something wrong that needs to be changed, I make it a point to do it.”
“The things that I heard 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,” he added.
Franco’s lawyer denied the claims to the Times, and pointed to Franco’s comments on “The Late Show.”