Four actresses who were students in Franco’s acting classes and a filmmaker who considered him a mentor say in the article published on Thursday that Franco asked them to perform sexually inappropriate and coercive scenes, and described him “storming off” a movie set when women refused his demands to appear naked.
Some of the women tweeted in protest on Sunday night, when Franco, sporting a “Time’s Up” pin, won a Golden Globe for his latest film “The Disaster Artist.”
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Actress Sarah Tither-Kaplan told the LA Times that Franco’s show of support for the Time’s Up movement, founded by powerful women in Hollywood to combat workplace sexual harassment, was a “slap in my face.”
Franco, asked about the tweets by Stephen Colbert on Tuesday, denied any wrongdoing, and said claims of misconduct “are not accurate.”
“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.
“If I have done something wrong,” he continued, “I will fix it — I have to.”
Franco’s lawyer disputed all of the accusations in the LA Times story, and directed the paper to Franco’s comments on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.” The lawyer, Michael Plonsker, didn’t immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
Hours before Franco’s appearance on the show, The New York Times abruptly canceled a live event with Franco to promote “The Disaster Artist,” citing “recent allegations.”
Sopan Deb, the reporter who had been slated to moderate the event Wednesday evening, tweeted that he had asked Franco to respond to the allegations, but the actor refused.
Another of Franco’s accusers, filmmaker Violet Paley, told the LA Times that Franco pressured her into performing oral sex on him in her car. The two had been having a consensual relationship, but they’d never engaged in oral sex before he exposed himself, she said.
“I was talking to him, all of a sudden his penis was out. 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 began to perform the sex act, but was uncomfortable. To extricate herself from the situation, she told Franco she spotted someone near the car.
Two former acting students, Hilary Dusome and Natalie Chmiel, said Franco “stormed off” a movie set when no women agreed to undress for a scene, and described what they called “an unprofessional and hostile” environment.
Another acting student, Katie Ryan, said Franco gave the impression that women could only advance in their careers “if we were to perform sexual acts or take off our shirts,” adding that Franco would send her and other students audition requests for roles as “a prostitute or a hooker.”
The women described feeling exploited and said they had been afraid to speak out because of Franco’s influence in Hollywood.
“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 said.
Franco appeared Wednesday night on “Late Night With Seth Meyers,” and again said the allegations on Twitter were “not accurate.” He added that he wouldn’t “actively refute” the women’s claims because “this is a conversation that obviously needs to be had.” He also repeated his support for Time’s Up.
“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,” he said of the initiative.
In an email to HuffPost on Thursday, Paley said the LA Times article didn’t include all of Franco’s actions toward her. She said there are other women “who were not ready” to share stories about Franco.
Of Franco’s remarks to Colbert and Meyers, Paley said they were “unfortunate because he is lying.”
“He knows what he did,” Paley said. “We all spoke to him in November and December after asking for an apology months before.”
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