Actor James Franco has agreed to pay more than $ 2.2 million to settle two lawsuits, including that of two former students of his theater school who said they subjected them to auditions and exploitation film shoots. sexual.
The proposed settlement, which is awaiting a judge’s approval, would also settle a class action lawsuit brought by theater school students who said they were defrauded.
The proposed settlement was detailed in documents filed last week in Los Angeles County Superior Court. The terms were agreed to by the various parties in February, although details were not disclosed at the time.
The total amount of the proposed settlement is $ 2,235,000, according to court documents, of which $ 894,000 would go towards settling claims for sexual exploitation; the remaining $ 1,341,000 would settle the fraud claims of approximately 1,500 students who paid for drama school lessons.
Under the proposed settlement, Mr. Franco did not admit any wrongdoing.
The proposed settlement also includes a joint statement by the plaintiffs and defendants which stated, in part, “Although the defendants continue to deny the allegations of the complaint, they acknowledge that the plaintiffs have raised important issues; and all parties firmly believe that now is the time to focus on addressing the abuse of women in Hollywood. “
Telephone and email messages sent to Mr. Franco’s lawyer on Wednesday evening were not immediately returned. Lawyers for the plaintiffs referred questions to a spokesperson, who declined to comment beyond the joint statement.
Mr. Franco’s production company, Rabbit Bandini, and his business partners, Vince Jolivette and Jay Davis, were also cited in the lawsuits. The emails sent to their lawyers were not immediately returned Wednesday evening.
Under the proposed settlement, a plaintiff, Sarah Tither-Kaplan, would receive $ 670,500, less $ 223,000 which would go to her lawyers, according to court records. Another plaintiff, Toni Gaal, would receive $ 223,500, less $ 74,500 which would go to her lawyers.
Ms Tither-Kaplan and Ms Gaal claimed in a 2019 lawsuit that Mr Franco bullied them into performing free sex scenes while denying them the protection of naked horsemen when they were students in a master class on the sex scenes at her school, Studio 4, which operated from 2014 to 2017 and had branches in Los Angeles and New York City.
Mr. Franco, according to the lawsuit, “sought to create a pipeline of young women who have been subjected to his personal and professional sexual exploitation in the name of education.” Both women said those who cooperated were tricked into believing it would give them roles in Mr. Franco’s films.
Mr Franco’s lawyer, Michael Plonsker, previously called Ms Tither-Kaplan and Ms Gaal’s trial “misinformed” and said his client would defend himself and “also seek damages from the plaintiffs and their lawyers. for filing this slanderous publicity-seeking lawsuit.
After attorneys’ fees and other costs, the other plaintiffs who paid for the courses at the school would share the remaining $ 827,045, under the proposed settlement.
Other non-economic aspects of the settlement were “presented to the court under seal for review and approval,” the documents say.
It was not the first time that Mr. Franco had been accused of inappropriate behavior. In 2014, messages he exchanged on Instagram with a 17-year-old girl were shared online, and Mr. Franco admitted that he had attempted to pick up the girl. In 2018, five women – including Ms. Tither-Kaplan – described what they called inappropriate behavior or sexual exploitation of Mr. Franco.
In public appearances, Mr Franco has sought to portray himself as an ally of women speaking out against sexual abuse and has said he is willing to make amends where appropriate.
In a January 2018 interview on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert”, Mr. Franco said: “If there is a restitution to be done, I will. I am here to listen, to learn and to change my point of view. where it is.
In May, comedic actor Seth Rogen cited the allegations against Mr. Franco, a longtime friend and collaborator, and said he had no plans to work with him again.