Hollywood star James Franco is being sued by two of his former acting students who have accused him of sexual misconduct.
The Golden Globe-winning actor allegedly abused his position to engage in “sexually charged behaviour towards female students” by “dangling the opportunity for roles” in his films, according to a lawsuit.
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, states that the alleged abuses took place at Franco’s Studio 4, which opened in 2014 and closed in 2017.
It is claimed that 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 that parts in Franco’s films would be made available, according to the lawsuit.
Lawyers for Franco have said the women’s claims “have already been debunked”.
The two women have alleged, 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.
The actor’s production company, Rabbit Bandini, and his two business partners are also named as defendants in the lawsuit.
Ms 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.
At the time, actress Violet Paley also accused him of pushing her “head down in a car towards your exposed penis”, and also trying to pick up her 17-year-old friend.
Franco, who was nominated for the best actor Oscar for his role in 127 Hours, said the allegations were “not accurate” when they first surfaced.
The 41-year-old told US chat show host Stephen Colbert at the time: “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.”
Following the lawsuit, 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.”