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James Franco accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women

Former students spoke of an unprofessional culture at Franco’s now-closed acting school. Actor’s lawyer denies accusations.

James Franco arrives at the Film Independent Spirit

James Franco arrives at the Film Independent Spirit Awards Nominee Brunch in West Hollywood on Jan. 6, 2018. Photo Credit: Invision/AP / Vianney Le Caer

Three more of James Franco’s acting students are alleging that the actor-filmmaker had sexually exploited them.

The Los Angeles Times on Thursday said Natalie Chmiel, Hilary Dusome and Katie Ryan each recounted stories in which Franco asked them to appear topless. Fellow acting student Sarah Tither-Kaplan had tweeted on Sunday that she had felt pressured to do a nude scene after signing a contract that had included that possibility.

Two of the students at Franco’s Studio 4, which launched in 2014 and had locations in North Hollywood and Manhattan, described an incident during a shoot at a strip club, which Dusome believed was for an art film and Chmiel believed was for a TV commercial. They told the newspaper that Franco had asked the handful of actresses, attired in masks and lingerie, “So, who wants to take your shirt off?” When none volunteered, Franco stormed off, said Dusome.

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.” Tither-Kaplan, elaborating on her Sunday tweets, told the newspaper that in a nude orgy scene with several women three years ago, Franco had removed protective plastic guards over other actresses’ private parts.

Franco’s attorney denied all the allegations. The Los Angeles Times spoke with other students, some of whom corroborated the claims, others who said they had no untoward experiences and spoke highly of Franco and the classes.

Vince Jolivette, a partner in Franco’s production company, which ran the recently closed Studio 4, told Newsday in a statement through Franco’s spokeswoman, “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.”

In a similarly provided statement, Cynthia Huffman, casting director for Franco’s as-yet-unreleased film “The Long Home,” in which Tither-Kaplan has a small role as a prostitute, said, “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. . . . 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.”

A fifth woman, Violet Paley, who was not a student but in a consensual relationship with Franco, tweeted Sunday that she had felt pressured to perform oral sex with him. She told the newspaper, “The power dynamic was really off.”

Wednesday on “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” Franco said: “I have my own side of this story, but I believe in these people that have been underrepresented getting their stories out enough that I will hold back things that I could say. . . . And if I have to take a knock because I’m not gonna try and actively refute things, then I will, because I believe in it that much.”

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