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James Franco Accused of Inappropriate Sexual Behavior by Five Women

A new report details allegations of the actor's exploitative actions

Liam Mathews

Five women have accused actor James Franco of inappropriate or exploitative behavior in a Los Angeles Times report published Thursday. The allegations against Franco include claims that he used acting schools where he taught to find actresses to perform low-paying nude scenes in his projects, removing plastic modesty coverings from actresses' vaginas while performing a scene of simulated oral sex and pressuring a woman to perform oral sex on him.

Criticism of Franco began bubbling up during Sunday's Golden Globe Awards, at which Franco won for his performance in The Disaster Artist. Franco wore a Time's Up pin supporting the anti-sexual harassment organization founded by a group of Hollywood women, which prompted many Twitter users to speak out against the actor's apparent hypocrisy and share personal stories of how Franco allegedly mistreated them.

Two of those women, Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Violet Paley, are on the record in the LA Times report. Tither-Kaplan was a student at Studio 4, the film school Franco founded, and acted in a few of his projects. She says she was on the receiving end of or saw numerous instances of Franco exploiting his power over women as a celebrity-director-producer in inappropriate ways, including getting angry when actresses wouldn't take their tops off and the aforementioned oral sex scene, which occurred while filming the currently unreleased film The Long Home in 2015.

"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 Times.

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Another woman, Violet Paley, a 23-year-old aspiring filmmaker, began a romantic relationship with Franco in 2016 after she says he pressured her into performing oral sex on him in her car, a situation that made her uncomfortable.

Their relationship continued in a consensual manner afterwards, but Paley says she would have handled that incident, in which Franco allegedly nudged Paley's head towards his exposed penis, differently today. "I would say, 'No, stop, get out of my car,'" she told the Times. "The power dynamic was really off."

James Franco
Steve Granitz, WireImage

Tither-Kaplan and Paley both say Franco apologized to them last year in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal that kicked off of the #MeToo movement, but both say they found his apology insufficient.

Through his attorney, Franco denied the allegations in the story.

Franco addressed the allegations during late night talk show appearances Tuesday and Wednesday before the LA Times story came out. During Wednesday's appearance on the Late Night with Seth Meyers, he said of the Twitter accusations that arose during the Golden Globes: "The [tweets] I read were not accurate, but one of the things I've learned is that this is a conversation that obviously needs to be had, there are people, women and others, who have not been a part of this conversation. I truly believe, and why I was wearing the pin, is that they need to be part of this conversation, so I support that."

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Franco also told Meyers that he has not reached out to actress Ally Sheedy, who posted cryptic, now-deleted tweets during the Globes alluding to Franco being the reason she left the film and TV business, and said he doesn't know what she was talking about. Franco directed Sheedy in a play in 2014, but the actress hasn't confirmed whether the incidents with Franco she alluded to are connected to that experience.

During his appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on Tuesday, Franco also pledged to make amends for any mistakes he has made, while still denying all the accusations against him. "The way I live my life, I can't live if there's restitution to be made. I will make it. So if I've done something wrong, I will fix it. I have to," he told Colbert.

Talk about Franco's inappropriate behavior made headlines in 2014 when Franco attempted to seduce a girl he knew was 17 through Instagram, offering to rent a room for them to meet in. Franco confirmed the interactions at the time and issued a public apology on Live! With Kelly and Michael. "I'm embarrassed, and I guess I'm just a model of how social media is tricky," he said. "I used bad judgment and I learned my lesson.

TV Guide has reached out to HBO, where Franco is an actor and executive producer on the series The Deuce, for comment on the allegations against the star. Prior to the LA Times report, HBO had told Deadline that there have been no complaints about Franco's behavior during the production of the show.