On Tuesday, the Film Academy revealed the contenders for this year’s Academy Awards—but James Franco was not among them. Although the actor won a Golden Globe earlier this month for his portrayal of Tommy Wiseau in The Disaster Artist, he failed to secure a best-actor Oscar nod—proof, perhaps, that voters really do cast their ballots at the last minute. On the night of the Globes, the actor found himself mired in controversy as women came forward to accuse him of sexual misconduct. Shortly afterwards, five of them spoke to the L.A. Times about his alleged behavior. Then, in a case of eerie coincidence, two of those accusers appeared on Good Morning America on Oscar nominations morning to share their stories.
Violet Paley, who on the night of the Globes accused Franco of attempting to coerce her into performing oral sex, told G.M.A.’s Amy Robach that her decision to tweet about her experience “was impulsive.” In her tweet, Paley wrote, “Cute #TIMESUP pin James Franco. Remember the time you pushed my head down in a car towards your exposed penis & that other time you told my friend to come to your hotel when she was 17? After you had already been caught doing that to a different 17 year old?” When Robach asked Paley if her subsequent consensual relationship with Franco complicates her story, the aspiring comedy writer said, “Yes, of course. I mean, I am regretful. I was young. He was a celebrity that I looked up to.”
Beside Paley sat another accuser, Sarah Tither-Kaplan, who also tweeted her own accusation: “Hey James Franco, nice #timesup pin at the #GoldenGlobes, remember a few weeks ago when you told me the full nudity you had me do in two of your movies for $100/day wasn’t exploitative because I signed a contract to do it? Times up on that!” As Kaplan, who was once in a “Sex Scenes” master-class of Franco’s, told Robach, “James abused his power by exploiting the non-celebrity women that he worked with under the guise of giving them opportunities.”
“I’m shaking, yeah,” Kaplan replied, adding, “Being an actor and a filmmaker and working in the industry has been my dream since I was maybe five or six, and I knew that by coming forward I was risking my career.” According to Kaplan, Franco’s class included multiple sex scenes and nude scenes that would be added after his students had been given the original scripts. “I wished I had more time to consider them or understand the artistic value of them,” Kaplan said. Students who didn’t comply, however, would be asked to leave or simply not asked to be in other projects, Kaplan said.
When asked where Franco falls on the spectrum of bad behavior among Hollywood men, Kaplan made it clear that she does not equate what Franco allegedly did to, say, the horrifying allegations that have been leveled against Harvey Weinstein. (Weinstein has denied all claims of nonconsensual sex.) “He is not an unfeeling monster who has no sense of reality,” Kaplan said of Franco. “He created exploitative environments for non-celebrity women on his sets, but I also think James is a very talented and valuable person. It’s a pyramid, and at the top is rape and sexual violence and at the bottom are the other abuses of power that, when they continue to happen over and over, build and build and build and create a culture that allows the most heinous examples of sexual violence and misogyny and discrimination to happen. And so if we allow any of them, we’re allowing all of them.”
Franco and his representatives did not offer any comment on ABC’s report, except to say that the women’s claims are not accurate. They referred back to Franco’s interview with Stephen Colbert, in which the actor said, “The way I live my life, I can’t live if there’s restitution to be made. I will make it. So if I’ve done something wrong, I will fix it. I have to.” Still, the controversy surrounding the actor has not relented: Scarlett Johansson even called the actor out over the weekend during her speech at the Women’s March in Los Angeles.
If Franco is looking for a way to make restitution here, Kaplan has a suggestion: she said Franco could make things right by “using his power to give opportunities to women that are real and valuable and actually give the career advancement. He’s not an unforgivable person,” she said, “at least for me.”