James Franco Will Pay $2.2 Million To Settle A Sexual Misconduct Lawsuit Brought By His Former Students

Wednesday was maybe not the best day for #MeToo. Just before 10 a.m., news broke that Bill Cosby was being released from prison after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned his sexual assault conviction on what was essentially a technicality. Ninety minutes later, it was reported that James Franco—who was the defendant in a literal class action suit, as it was brought about by students in a now-defunct acting school he created—had settled his case for $2.2 million.

While Cosby, who has been accused of drugging and assaulting approximately 60 women, has not been acquitted of the crime that sent him to prison in the first place, he might as well be. Meanwhile, the details of Franco’s settlement—which go beyond monetary—require that the women who accused the actor of fraud and sexual exploitation must withdraw those claims. They also agreed to issue a joint statement with Franco, in which he continues to deny any wrongdoing and essentially paints the incident as a teaching moment for all involved. Which is all to say: If you have enough money and power in Hollywood, you can skirt the consequences of bad behavior.

As a Los Angeles judge still needs to sign off on Franco’s settlement agreement, not all of the details are being made public. His case was rare because of its class-action status; essentially, several women who paid to be taught by the Oscar-nominated actor at the Studio 4 Film Schools he set up in both New York and Los Angeles claimed the “school” was all a fraud. The suit, which was filed in 2019 by former students Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal, claimed that Studio 4—which offered a master class in sex scenes—was just a front for Franco to pursue women. Describing the school as an “orgy-type setting,” the suit contended that Franco “sought to create a pipeline of young women who were subjected to his personal and professional sexual exploitation in the name of education.”

Franco’s settlement allows him to walk away with less money in his pocket, but his reputation—at least as far as the official record is concerned—somewhat intact. According to The Hollywood Reporter:

The settlement will require Tither-Kaplan and Gaal to release claims, with the other students releasing fraud claims against the star actor. Those who are members of the class would have a couple of months to opt out. Unclaimed money would go as a contribution to the National Women’s Law Center.

As part of the settlement, the parties have also agreed to 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.”

Meanwhile, Franco’s longtime friend and collaborator Seth Rogen has distanced himself from his Freaks and Geeks co-star. Rogen recently claimed he has no plans to work with Franco again at this time.

(Via The Hollywood Reporter)