When aspiring actor Sarah Tither-Kaplan signed up for a sex scenes ‘master class’ at James Franco‘s acting school, Studio 4, she assumed she’d learn how to manoeuvre professionally with a co-star.
She was thrilled to pass a filmed audition for the class; Franco was an actor she admired, and the fact he’d chosen her suggested he valued her talent.
But Tither-Kaplan claims that, as the program progressed, she discovered it was far from the education she’d hoped for.
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“I didn’t know anything about nudity riders, the detail required in them, the right to counsel with the director about nude scenes, the custom to choreograph nude scenes ahead of time to negotiate them with the cast and the director — I knew none of that throughout that class,” she told NPR.
“I did what seemed to be the thing that they wanted in this class, and that was get naked and do sex scenes and not complain and, you know, push the envelope.”
Tither-Kaplan and fellow former Studio 4 student, Toni Gaal, are now suing the 41-year-old Hollywood star and two other men who ran the now-defunct business, alleging that the school “served no other legitimate purposes other than to dupe unsuspecting and often very young ‘students’ out of their money and talent to serve Defendants’ financial and exploitative desires”.
In their complaint, which was filed in the Los Angeles County Superior Court on Thursday, the women allege that Franco and his partners subjected them to sexually exploitative auditions and film shoots, while promising them roles in movies that never eventuated or were never released.
They claim those alleged actions “led to an environment of harassment and sexual exploitation both in and out of the class”.
The ‘Sex Scenes’ class.
According to their complaint, the ‘Sex Scenes’ course, which reportedly cost students an additional US$750 on top of their $300/month fee, saw participants pressured to engage in simulated sex acts that went far beyond industry standard.
Tither-Kaplan claims she also received special treatment after completing her audition for the class and performing a nude scene: “I started working with them very regularly,” she told NPR. “And not a lot of other students got that chance.”
The auditions were recorded, allegedly so that Franco could review the footage at a later time, and students were reportedly asked to sign away rights to the recordings.
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But it went further still, Gaal alleged.
“We were consistently auditioning for projects that had nudity, and we had to upload our self-tapes at home, so they were consistently getting footage of this sensitive nature of work,” she said.