As James Franco was accepting the Golden Globe award for Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical for his work in The Disaster Artist, several women were preparing to speak their minds about inappropriate interactions they’ve had with him in the past. While the actor wore a black tuxedo and a Time’s Up pin, symbolizing his standing in unity with those in Hollywood who are fighting back against sexual misconduct, these women say Franco is part of the problem.
Several different women have spoken to the Los Angeles Times about their experiences with Franco, some who were students of his acting school, others who appeared in his low-budget film productions. “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,” Sarah Tither-Kaplan says of her time working on one of Franco’s movies.
She specifically mentions a scene in one of his films where Franco partook in an orgy with several female actresses. According to Tither-Kaplan, he removed the protective plastic guards covering the actresses’ genitals while simulating oral sex.
Hilary Dusome, who took an acting class with Franco in 2012, says she was asked to appear in what was deemed as an “art film,” in which she wore lingerie and a mask–along with several other women–in a strip club. Natalie Chmiel, another actress on the shoot, alleges she was told the footage was being used for a fashion commercial.
However, both women say they were approached by Franco during the shoot and asked which actress wanted to take their shirt off. “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,” Drusome tells the Los Angeles Times. Chmiel adds, “He just took advantage of our eagerness to work and be a part of something bigger.”
The alleged misconduct wasn’t limited to Franco’s films, though. Violet Paley says he pressured her into performing oral sex on him in 2016, after offering to give her notes on a script she’d written. “I was talking to him, all of a sudden his penis was out,” she says of their experience in her car. “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.”
Franco’s attorney disputes all of the claims. This isn’t the first time his conduct has been called into question, though. In 2014, it was discovered he was flirting with a 17-year-old girl on Instagram. After asking her age and if she had a boyfriend, he then asked which hotel in New York City she was staying at and whether he could come there to rent a room.
In a later appearance on Live with Kelly and Michael, Franco apologized for his acts. “I’m embarrassed, and I guess I’m just a model of how social media is tricky,” he said at the time. “I used bad judgment and I learned my lesson.”
While not addressing any of the women making allegations by name, Franco has also addressed these current claims. During an interview on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, he says, “Look, in my life, I pride myself on taking responsibility for things that I have done. 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.”