A lawsuit accusing James Franco of intimidating students at an acting and film school he founded into unsubstantiated and exploitative sexual situations has been provisionally settled, according to the plaintiffs’ attorneys.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys at Valli Kane & Vagnini, LLP, upheld the deal in a statement to The Associated Press on Saturday evening. They claimed it would be “remembered in a joint settlement agreement to be filed with the Court at a later date,” but made no further comments or details on a possible currency exchange.
The Los Angeles Supreme Court has received a file from both sides indicating that a preliminary settlement has been reached in the class action lawsuit. This document was filed on February 11, but was revealed on Saturday by attorneys for the former students who brought the suit. Named defendants included Franco’s production company Rabbit Bandini and partners Vince Jolivette and Jay Davis.
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The now dissolved Studio 4 was the scene of the dispute. The actresses and ex-students Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal filed the lawsuit in 2019. They alleged that Franco pushed his students to perform in front of the camera in increasingly explicit sex scenes in an “orgy environment” and went beyond acceptable standards.
The lawsuit alleged that Franco “attempted to create a pipeline of young women who were exposed to sexual exploitation, both personally and professionally, in the name of education.” In addition, the students believed that roles in Franco’s films would be the reward for participating in these scenes
The alleged incidents happened in a sex scene master class that Franco taught at Studio 4, which closed in 2017.
Plaintiffs agreed to drop their individual claims under the agreement according to the court records. The allegations of sexual exploitation of other plaintiffs in the class action suit are dismissed without prejudice. That means they could be resubmitted, according to the joint status report. The fraud allegations made by these plaintiffs are “limited releases” according to the document but have not been elaborated on.
Franco’s lawyers have not yet commented. In their files in the lawsuit, they said their allegations were “false and flammable, legally unfounded, and as a class action lawsuit with the obvious aim of attracting as much publicity as possible to attention-hungry plaintiffs.”
Franco won a Golden Globe Award for The Disaster Artist in early 2018, the culmination of the #MeToo movement.
The original 33-page lawsuit can be read here.
The joint status report filed with the Los Angeles Supreme Court read: “The class claims for sexual exploitation are dismissed without prejudice. In the notification to the class, the class will be informed that the claims of sexual exploitation under this settlement will not be released or clarified, but will be dismissed without prejudice, and that the statute of limitations has been violated while this lawsuit is pending and will remain punished until the court gives final approval and the deadline for an appeal has expired. The contracting parties also agreed on several non-economic terms, which will be explained in more detail in the final settlement documents. “