In interviews with the LA Times, five women accused actor James Franco of sexual misconduct. The allegations started on Twitter during the Golden Globe Awards, when Franco accepted the award for best actor for his role in “Disaster Artist.” Franco wore a Time’s Up pin–meant to raise awareness of sexual discrimination, harassment, and assault, and to raise money for the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, which provides legal support to women and men who have experienced sexual harassment, assault, or abuse in the workplace–on his lapel.
Sarah Tither-Kaplan, a former student of Franco’s and an actress in several of his films, and Violet Paley, an actress and filmmaker who briefly dated Franco, took to Twitter to call him out for being a hypocrite.
They claimed that he harassed actresses he worked with and persuaded them into uncomfortable roles under the guise of helping their careers. Franco’s attorney says the allegations are false. Since the LA Times article was published, the New York Times cancelled a planned event with Franco, and those in the film industry are awaiting how he will be received throughout the rest of awards season.
Tither-Kaplan was the main voice in the LA Times piece, and has been the most vocal since on social media. Here’s what you need to know.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Sarah Tither-Kaplan First Outed James Franco on Twitter
During the Golden Globe awards on Jan. 7, just after Franco accepted the award for best actor for his role in “Disaster Artist,” Tither-Kaplan tweeted:
“Hey James Franco, now that you have a Golden Globe why don’t you give speaking roles that don’t require nudity in your upcoming films to the dozens of women who have done full nudity + sex scenes in your indie films and art projects?”
The tweet received hundreds of likes and retweets, as well as some negative feedback. “Pretty sure Zoe Levin and Courtney Love are both fully clothed and have lines in the Long Home and if you signed a contract to do said scenes you have nothing to complain about next time don’t take the gig,” reads the first comment. Tither-Kaplan responded with “Hi sweetie! I’m not either of those people. There’s a BIG difference between being a famous actor who doesn’t need money and can turn down jobs and a non-famous actor who needs jobs to survive. Stay blessed! You’re part of the problem!”
On “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” Franco said the Twitter allegations were false.
“The things that I heard that went on Twitter are not accurate,” he told Colbert.
2. Following Her Tweet, Tither-Kaplan Was the Main Voice In an LA Times Story Featuring 5 Women Accusing Franco of Misconduct
On Jan. 11, the LA Times published a story featuring interviews with Tither-Kaplan and four other women who accused Franco of sexually exploitative behavior. “I feel there was an abuse of power, and there was a culture of exploiting non-celebrity women, and a culture of women being replaceable,” Tither-Kaplan told the LA Times.
She recalled a nude scene she filmed with Franco and several women three years ago. During the scene, she said Franco removed the plastic guards covering the actresses’ vaginas during an oral sex scene.
While taking a Sex Scenes class at Studio 4, Franco’s former acting studio, Tither-Kaplan created a short film with a partner titled “Hungry Girl.” In the film, which was uploaded to Vimeo but has since been removed, there are scenes where she is topless. In 2017, she found images from the film on pornography websites.
“Now, if you Google me, you can see me naked,” Tither-Kaplan told the LA Times.
The school argues that Franco had no control over online posting of the videos, but has said they will look into any complaints.
3. She’s Been Acting Since Age Six, and Has Also Written and Produced Plays and Films
Sarah Tither-Kaplan was born in Harrison, Arkansas, but adopted and raised in Los Angeles. She began acting at age six in school productions, something she kept up through high school. She graduated from the University of Southern California with a Bachelor’s degree in Music Industry in 2013. During college, she wrote plays and managed a performance space called the Pink House. She also interned at Velvet Hammer Music Management, Envision Media Arts, Rogers & Cowan, AEG Live, The Collective, and NBCUniversal.
Her IMBD page shows numerous acting, writing, directing, and producer roles, beginning in 2013 and including several films to be released in 2018.
In 2014, Tither-Kaplan was one of 20 actors selected to participate in Franco’s first Master Acting Class at Studio 4. She is featured in his films “Actor’s Anonymous,” “The Long Home,” and Seasons two and three of “Making a Scene With James Franco.”
When it comes to writing credentials, Tither-Kaplan has won several awards. Her original play “Flyover State” was part of the 2014 Hollywood Fringe Festival and was nominated for Best New Play by the Gangbuster’s Theater Company. Her screenplay for the play was a 2017 Script Pipeline Quarterfinalist, Scriptapalooza Quarterfinalist, and Austin Film Festival Second Rounder. Her original short film “Me Problems” premiered at the 2017 LA Shorts Fest and is being submitted to festivals.
Aside from acting and writing, Tither-Kaplan performs improv comedy at Upright Citizens Brigade and around Los Angeles.
4. She Played a Prostitute In the Film ‘The Long Home’ & Says She Regrets It
In 2015, Tither-Kaplan filmed “The Long Home,” a feature film starting Franco, Josh Hutcherson, Courtney Love, and Timothy Hutton. She agreed to the part, even though it required her to perform nude, because the film was considered a career maker. In May 2015, she was asked to perform a “bonus” orgy scene, where she would appear completely nude. In the scene, Franco simulated performing oral sex on a number of women, but Tither-Kaplan said Franco removed the plastic guards covering their vaginas, and continued to simulate oral sex. Others have corroborated her claim, and the New York Post said the instance led Tither-Kaplan to regret performing in the film at all.
Tither-Kaplan recounted another scene to the LA Times, where she and other women were asked to appear topless and dance around Franco. One actress was uncomfortable with the scene and was sent home the next day.
“I got it in my head pretty quickly that, OK, you don’t say ‘no’ to this guy,” Tither-Kaplan told the LA Times.
5. She’s Not Alone In Her Allegations
Four other women were interviewed by the LA Times, including three of Franco’s students and one who said he was her mentor.
Hilary Dusome, a student of Franco’s at Playhouse West in North Hollywood, said Franco asked her and another girl to take their shirts off while filming a jeans commercial. Neither girl volunteered, and Franco left angrily, according to Dusome.
“I felt like I was selected for something based on my hard work and my merit, and when I realized it was because I have nice [breasts], it was pretty clear that was not the case,” she told the LA Times.
Natalie Chmiel, the other woman in the commercial, recalled the same instance.
“He just took advantage of our eagerness to work and be a part of something bigger,” she said to the LA Times.
Katie Ryan, an actress who took classes at Studio 4, told the LA Times that Franco made students think roles were available for those who performed sexual acts or took their shirts off. She also said she received email requests asking her to audition for roles playing a prostitute.
Violet Paley, a filmmaker who briefly dated Franco, said he pressured her to perform oral sex on him.
“I was talking to him, all of a sudden his penis was out,” she told the LA Times. “I got really nervous, and I said, ‘Can we do this later?’ He was kind of nudging my head down, and I just didn’t want him to hate me, so I did it.”
She said if the situation happened today, she would tell him to get out of her car. Five family members and friends confirmed that Paley had told them the story when it happened.
During the Golden Globes, Paley joined Tither-Kaplan in tweeting about Franco.
Franco’s attorney denies Paley’s allegations.
In late 2017, Franco apologized to both Tither-Kaplan and Paley for making them uncomfortable.
“I want to give him credit for at least being open to communicating with me,” Tither-Kaplan said to the LA Times. “I felt that he was still not really taking accountability for the environment on the sets.”
Paley said Franco told her it was wrong for him to have a sexual relationship with someone he knew was in substance abuse recovery, but also said he hadn’t done anything illegal, and told her he was a “changed man.”