James Franco has been accused of sexually inappropriate behavior by five women — four of whom were his students.
In a new article published in the Los Angeles Times, five women have accused the actor of abusing his power as an acting teacher and mentor in a sexually exploitative manner.
Sarah Tither-Kaplan, a former acting student at the film school Franco founded, said the actor once removed safety guards while filming an oral sex scene on the set of the 2015 film The Long Home.
“I got it in my head pretty quickly that, OK, you don’t say ‘no’ to this guy,” she said.
“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,” said Tither-Kaplan.
Two other students said the actor would often become angry on set when they would refuse to film topless.
Franco’s attorney, Michael Plonsker, specifically denied each of the women’s allegations, and also cited Franco’s comments on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert as his formal denial.
“Look, in my life I pride myself on taking responsibility for things that I have done,” Franco told Colbert. “I have to do that to maintain my well being. The things that I heard that were on Twitter are not accurate. But I completely support people coming out and being able to have a voice because they didn’t have a voice for so long. So I don’t want to shut them down in any way.”
He added, “If I have done something wrong. I will fix it — I have to.”
Hilary Dusome, 33, who took a class from Franco in 2012, claimed the actor would act inappropriately on film sets, creating a hostile environment. Dusome alleged that she was asked to take her shirt off while filming a commercial.
“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,” Dusome said. “I don’t think he started teaching with bad intentions, but he went down a bad path and damaged a lot of people in the process.”
Another student, Katie Ryan claimed Franco “would always make everybody think there were possible roles on the table if we were to perform sexual acts or take off our shirts.”
The actor’s name began circulating on social media after he took home the award for best actor in a drama at the Golden Globes on Jan. 7. Following his acceptance speech, in which he thanked people in his life for making a “more responsible person,” several women alluded to allegations of sexual misconduct.
RELATED VIDEO: James Franco Denies Sexual Harassment Allegations, Says Has No Idea Why Ally Sheedy ‘Was Upset’
In a series of now-deleted tweets, actress Ally Sheedy said, “James Franco just won. Please never ask me why I left the film/tv business.”
Actress Violet Paley claimed Franco exposed himself and tried to pressure her into oral sex. Though she said they had a consensual relationship, Paley said: “that time wasn’t consensual.” She also alleged that he once told a 17-year-old girl to meet him in a hotel.
“Remember the time you pushed my head down in a car towards your exposed penis & that other time you told my friend to come to your hotel when she was 17? After you had already been caught doing that to a different 17 year old?” she tweeted. (In 2014, Franco allegedly flirted with a 17-year-old girl on Instagram and asked if he should “rent a room.” At the time, the actor said he used “bad judgement,” adding, “I’m embarrassed and I guess I’m just a model of how social media is tricky.”)
Paley recounted the alleged incident to the The Times, saying, “I was talking to him, all of a sudden his penis was out,” said Paley. “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.”
Five of Paley’s friends confirmed her story with The Times.
Franco’s attorney, Plonsker, denied Paley’s allegations, calling them “not accurate.”
Paley said she contacted Franco after the Harvey Weinstein allegations broke in October, at which time the actor tried to make amends. Paley recalled. However, she said he told her he hadn’t done “anything illegal” and insisted, “I’m a changed man.”
In a statement issued on Thursday to Deadline, HBO asserted that there have been no allegations made against Franco in relation to his current series, The Deuce. “We have verified that no complaints about Mr. Franco have come in on The Deuce production,” HBO said.
On Wednesday, the actor fielded questions about the backlash he received for wearing a Time’s Up pin in support of sexual harassment and assault awareness at the Globes. He appeared on Late Night with Seth Meyers, where the host commended him for coming despite the allegations.
Though Franco called the tweets that he read on the matter “not accurate,” he said that he is choosing not to contradict anyone’s claims because the movement encourages women to be able to share their experiences.
“There are people that need to be heard. I have my own side of this story, but I believe in these people that have been underrepresented getting their stories out enough that I will hold back things that I could say, just because I believe in it that much,” he said. “So if I have to take a knock because I’m not going to try and actively refute things, then I will, because I believe in it that much.”