Actor James Franco and two other men have agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit led by Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal, former students of an acting school owned by Franco and one of the other men. Tither-Kaplan and Gaal, who filed their suit in Oct. 2020, claimed that they were sexually exploited and victims of fraud at the now-closed school, which was called Studio 4.
According to the settlement agreement announced Wednesday, Franco, Jay Davis and Vince Jolivette, along with production company Rabbit Bandini Films (owned by Franco and Jolivette, with Davis as its general manager) and the shuttered school (co-owned by Franco and Jolivette), will pay out $2,235,000. The terms of the deal, which still has to be approved by a judge in Los Angeles Superior Court, were first published Wednesday by The Hollywood Reporter. Franco has repeatedly denied the women’s allegations.
Tither-Kaplan and Gaal spoke to NPR when they initially filed their suit. They said they were promised that as paying students, they would be offered opportunities to audition for Franco and Rabbit Bandini.
Tither-Kaplan said that she auditioned and paid extra money for a class called Sex Scenes, taught by Franco. She said that she assumed that the class would teach her how to negotiate sex scenes professionally. Instead, she told NPR, “I did what seemed to be the thing that they wanted in this class, and that was get naked and do sex scenes and not complain and push the envelope.” Gaal said that most of the auditions eventually offered had nudity requirements.
Back in February, Tither-Kaplan and Gaal agreed to drop their individual complaints. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the settlement includes a statement that reads in part: “While defendants continue to deny the allegations in the complaint, they acknowledge that plaintiffs have raised important issues; and all parties strongly believe that now is a critical time to focus on addressing the mistreatment of women in Hollywood. All agree on the need to make sure that no one in the entertainment industry — regardless of race, religion, disability, ethnicity, background, gender or sexual orientation — faces discrimination, harassment or prejudice of any kind.”