James Franco’s sexual misconduct accusers have claimed he “continues to downplay” their experiences after he admitted it was “wrong” to sleep with his students.
The 43-year-old actor was accused of sexually inappropriate behaviour by five women in a 2018 article, which resulted in two of the women – Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal – filing a lawsuit against him in 2019, for which they reached a $2,235,000 settlement earlier this year.
The allegations stemmed from Franco’s acting school, Playhouse West Studio 4, which he opened in 2014 before it closed in 2017, where the five women were students.
And in a recent interview addressing the allegations, Franco admitted he did sleep with some of his students but said that while he thought it was fine at the time because it was “consensual”, he now knows it was wrong.
However, in a statement released by the attorneys who represent Sarah and Toni after the interview, the women accused Franco of being “blind about power dynamics”, as well as being “completely insensitive” about the “immense pain and suffering he put his victims through”.
The statement read: "In addition to being blind about power dynamics, Franco is completely insensitive to, and still apparently does not care about, the immense pain and suffering he put his victims through with this sham of an acting school.
“It is unbelievable that even after agreeing to a settlement he continues to downplay the survivors' experiences and ignore their pain, despite acknowledging he had no business starting such a school in the first place.
“This wasn't a misunderstanding over a course name, it wasn't the result of him being overworked — it was, and is, despicable conduct.
“Nobody should confuse this interview with Franco taking accountability for his actions or expressing remorse over what happened. It is a transparent ducking of the real issues released just before a major holiday in hopes that he wouldn't face any scrutiny over his response."
In Franco’s interview, the actor admitted he was wrong to sleep with his students, but insisted he didn’t start the school to “lure” women in.
He said: "I’ll admit I did sleep with students. I didn’t sleep with anybody in [my ‘Sex Scenes’ class], but, over the course of my teaching, I did sleep with students and that was wrong.
"But like I said, I, it’s not why I started the school and I, I didn’t, I wasn’t the person that selected the people to be in the class. So, it wasn’t a master plan on my part. But yes, there were certain instances where, you know what I was in a consensual thing with, with a student and I shouldn’t have been."