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James Franco agrees to over $2 million settlement in sexual misconduct suit

The settlement includes language that "all parties strongly believe that now is a critical time to focus on addressing the mistreatment of women in Hollywood."
/ Source: NBC News

Actor James Franco has agreed to pay over $2 million to settle a sexual misconduct lawsuit filed by several of his former students, according to court documents seen by NBC News.

In 2019, Franco was sued in a class action lawsuit by two former students who attended Franco's Studio 4 acting school, which he ran from 2014 to 2017.

Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal had alleged in their class action suit that they and others were coerced into filming overt sexual acts by Franco and his partners.

It accused the respondents of seeking to "sexualize their power and fame by dangling the opportunity to aspiring actors of employment in film and television in exchange for explicit nudity, sex and as Franco put it, the "pushing of boundaries'" at Studio 4.

Their suit had described his acting school as "fraudulent." Franco closed Studio 4 in 2017.

In a filing dated June 24, but made public Wednesday, the plaintiffs' legal teams proposed terms of the $2.2 million settlement to a Los Angeles judge, who still has to be approve the deal.

Representatives for Franco, Tither-Kaplan and Gaal did not immediately respond to an NBC News request for comment.

At the time the suit was filed, an attorney for Franco, Michael Plonsker, said the claims were "debunked" and dismissed the allegations as a "scurrilous publicity-seeking lawsuit."

The proposed settlement includes language that would release claims by all parties, while Franco and the other defendants continue to deny the allegations.

"While Defendants continue to deny the allegations in the complaint, they acknowledge that Plaintiffs have raised important issues; and all parties strongly believe that now is a critical time to focus on address the mistreatment of women in Hollywood," the proposed statement reads.

"All agree on the need to make sure that no one in the entertainment industry — regardless of sex, race, religion, disability, ethnicity, background, gender or sexual orientation — faces discrimination, harassment or prejudice of any kind.”

Just under $1 million of the payment goes to the named plaintiffs, and just over $1 million goes to a "common fund" to settle additional claims that might be pursued by other members of the class action.

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