Two former students of James Franco's now-defunct acting school filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Thursday alleging the program existed mainly to provide a way for Franco and his collaborators to take advantage of young women.
Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal alleged in the documents -- which Variety obtained -- that Franco, 41, and his partners “engaged in widespread inappropriate and sexually charged behavior towards female students by sexualizing their power as a teacher and an employer by dangling the opportunity for roles in their projects.”
Per the court papers, “this led to an environment of harassment and sexual exploitation both in and out of the class.”
In 2014, Franco and his business partner Vince Jolivette opened Studio 4, which had branches in New York and Los Angeles, as Variety reported. Both men, along with their production company -- Rabbit Bandini -- and its general manager, Jay Davis, are all named as defendants in the suit, per The New York Times.
In a statement to Fox News on Thursday, Franco's attorney, Michael Plonsker, said: "This is not the first time that these claims have been made and they have already been debunked. We have not had an opportunity to review the ill-informed Complaint in depth since it was leaked to the press before it was filed and our client has yet to even be served. James will not only fully defend himself, but will also seek damages from the plaintiffs and their attorneys for filing this scurrilous publicity seeking lawsuit."
A rep for Jolivette did not immediately respond to Fox News' request for comment. Davis did not immediately respond. The phone number listed for Rabbit Bandini was disconnected when Fox News reached out.
The suit claimed Tither-Kaplan, Gaal and other students paid about $300 a month in tuition and in return, they were told they would have opportunities to audition for Franco and be cast in Rabbit Bandini film productions not available to anyone else. However, they allegedly found out later that was not the case as “non-students had equal access.”
As the Times reported, Studio 4 also included master classes that would cost an additional fee of up to about $2,000 each, including a $750 master class for sex scenes. Per the outlet, the lawsuit claimed that for the sex-scenes class, students had to audition on video so Franco could review the material later. They also allegedly had to sign away rights to the recordings.
The women further alleged they were encouraged to push beyond their comfort zones and were denied industry guidelines such as nudity riders, the report said. The suit claimd the class sought “often young and inexperienced females” who “were routinely pressured to engage in simulated sex acts that went far beyond the standards in the industry.”
Tither-Kaplan -- who said she took the class -- alleged she often was asked to appear in nude scenes or sex scenes for roles in Franco's independent films, some of which still reportedly haven't been released. She further claimed that once during the filming for an orgy scene, Franco removed plastic guards that covered other actresses' vaginas while he simulated oral sex on them, the Times reported, citing the lawsuit.
Per the outlet, the suit sought monetary damages and the return of any recordings of former students, as well as to attain a class-action status that would allow others to join.
Tither-Kaplan was one of several women who came forward in 2018 with allegations of “inappropriate or sexually exploitative” behavior against Franco in a Los Angeles Times report.
At the time, Franco's attorney, Michael Plonsker, disputed the women's allegations to the outlet. Gaal chose to come forward for the first time, The Associated Press reported.