Actor James Franco has been accused of sexual misconduct by two former students at his acting and film school.
The Hollywood star allegedly abused his position to engage in “sexually charged behaviour towards female students” by “dangling the opportunity for roles” in his films.
The former students, Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal, say Franco tried to
“create a pipeline of young women who were subjected to his personal and professional sexual exploitation in the name of education”.
The lawsuit, filed at a court in Los Angeles, says the alleged abuses took place at Franco’s Studio 4, which opened in 2014 and closed in 2017.
It is alleged female students were pushed into taking part in explicit sex scenes “that went far beyond the standards in the industry”.
Those who performed were led to believe parts in Franco’s films would be made available, the lawsuit says.
The two women are alleging, among other offences, sexual harassment and discrimination and are seeking unspecified damages and for any video recordings of the sex scenes to be destroyed.
They have also asked for the lawsuit to be given class action status, so other alleged victims can join.
Franco’s production company, Rabbit Bandini and his two business partners are also named as defendants.
Tither-Kaplan had previously come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against Franco, shortly after he won a Golden Globe Award for his film The Disaster Artist last year.
Gaal is speaking publicly for the first time. When the allegations first surfaced, Franco said they were “not accurate”.
During an appearance on US chat show The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Franco, 41, added: “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. It’s, I think, a good thing and I support it.”
Franco has starred in films including Pineapple Express, This Is The End and 127 Hours, for which he was nominated for the best actor Oscar.
As well as acting, Franco has also directed a string of films, with varying degrees of success.
2017 comedy The Disaster Artist was well-received by critics, but Zeroville, which is in cinemas now, has been a critical and commercial flop.
Franco’s lawyer Michael Plonsker said: “This is not the first time that these claims have been made and they have already been debunked.
“We have not had an opportunity to review the ill-informed complaint in depth since it was leaked to the press before it was filed and our client has yet to even be served.
“James will not only fully defend himself, but will also seek damages from the plaintiffs and their attorneys for filing this scurrilous publicity-seeking lawsuit.”