- James Franco’s lawyers filed a demurrer in response to a lawsuit that accuses Franco of sexually exploitative and inappropriate behavior.
- His lawyers accused the women who filed the suit, Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Tina Gaal, of taking advantage of the #MeToo movement by falsely bringing down Franco, who they maintain is innocent.
- They called the Tither-Kaplan and Gaal “attention-hungry” and said they were jumping on the bandwagon to “ruin the next celebrity.”
- Tither-Kaplan and Gaal’s lawyer said that Franco’s new effort to play the victim is a “tactic commonly used by perpetrators of wrong-doing” that makes it harder for women to bring accusations forward.
Lawyers File Demurrer
James Franco’s lawyers are alleging that the two women accusing him of sexually exploitative behavior in a lawsuit are taking advantage of the MeToo movement in hopes of seeking public attention.
His lawyers filed a demurrer on Friday, which was obtained and shared by Variety Monday. They claimed that while Franco himself is a supporter of the MeToo and Times Up movements, these accusations are false and without legal grounds.
“The #MeToo and Times Up movements have made tremendous and important contributions to improving not only the culture of the entertainment but also the world as a whole,” the demurrer said. “Unfortunately, while these movements have rightly brought down a number of reprehensible individuals, they have also ensnared an innocent man, James Franco.”
The lawyers continued to say that allegations against Franco “made great tabloid fodder, but like most tabloid stories, they are false and inflammatory.” They believe their purpose was to grab “as much publicity as possible for the attention-hungry plaintiffs.”
What Was in the Lawsuit?
The plaintiffs, Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Tina Gaal, filed a suit back in October saying that when Franco ran a film an acting school called Studio 4 between the years of 2014 and 2017, he engaged in sexually exploitative behavior with students. One of the advantages Franco touted about his classes was that students would have chances to get roles in his upcoming projects.
They claimed that he, along with two other men involved with the school who are also listed as defendants in the suit, “opted 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 boundaires.”
They claimed that the school was fraudulent and that opportunities for women increased if the women agreed to “overt sexual acts” or scenes involving nudity and sex. The lawsuit said that Franco was “looking to create a pipeline of young women who were subjected to his personal and professional sexual exploitation in the name of education.”
Franco has maintained his innocence since allegations first arose against him. His lawyers further defended him in their demurrer. They claimed that prior to this lawsuit, Tither-Kaplan had spoken words of praise for Franco and the school. The document accused her of jumping on the bandwagon to “ruin the next celebrity.” It also said that Gaal’s complaints were “personal grievances” that had no place in a lawsuit.
A lawyer for Tither-Kaplan and Gaal, James Vagnini, gave a statement to USA Today suggesting that this action only furthered Franco’s guilt. He said that in filing this demurrer, Franco was putting forth an “aggressive effort to position himself as the victim and smear the reputation of the survivors who have come forward is, unfortunately, a tactic commonly used by perpetrators of wrong-doing.”
“It is one of the many reasons that so many survivors are still afraid to speak publicly about their experiences,” Vagnini added.
Background on Allegations
Major allegations against Franco involving his acting classes were first brought forward in a Los Angeles Times report in 2018. Five women spoke to the outlet, each alleging their own experiences with Franco that were inappropriate.
Tither-Kaplan was one of the women who said she was chosen to appear in one of Franco’s projects. She said she was asked to do a “bonus” scene that would involve her and other actresses simulating an orgy with Franco. She claimed that during this scene, Franco removed the protective plastic vaginal guard the actresses had on and simulated oral sex without protection. His lawyers claim this is false.
Several actresses said that either in class or in his personal projects, Franco would ask women to take their tops off. In some instances, they said he was angry if they refused. They also said that when roles were actually offered to people in the class, they were either small extra parts or scenes that required nudity.
Katie Ryan, another actress that spoke to the Times, said that Franco would “always make everybody think there were possible roles on the table if we were to perform sexual acts or take off our shirts.”
Franco has consistently denied wrongdoing but has still encouraged women to speak up. In a Seth Meyers appearance in 2018, he said that the accusations he had seen so far were not accurate, but he still supported their right to speak out.
“One of the things that I’ve learned is that this is a conversation that needs to be had. There are people and women and others that have not been a part of this conversation,” he told Meyers. “So I support them”
“If I have done something wrong. I will fix it — I have to,” he said in a separate 2018 statement.
See what others are saying: (USA Today) (Variety) (Vanity Fair)
Chris Pratt Denies Association With Hillsong Church: “I’ve Never Actually Been”
The church has been accused of having anti-LGBTQ ties, something Pratt has taken a hit for.
Pratt Addresses Hillsong Controversy
After several years of facing criticism for his alleged ties to the controversial Hillsong Church, actor Chris Pratt said he has “never actually been” to the church and is “not a religious person.”
The Hillsong Church has been condemned for being anti-LGBTQ. The issue received increased attention in 2019 when actor Elliot Page tweeted, “If you are a famous actor and you belong to an organization that hates a certain group of people, don’t be surprised if someone simply wonders why it’s not addressed.”
“Being anti LGBTQ is wrong, there aren’t two sides,” he continued.
At the time, Pratt responded to the allegations by saying that “nothing could be further from the truth” and that he believes “everyone is entitled to love who they want.” He doubled down on his denial in a profile published Tuesday in Men’s Health.
“I never went to Hillsong. I’ve never actually been to Hillsong,” he told the outlet. “I don’t know anyone from that church.”
Instead, Pratt said he attends Zoe Church in Los Angeles, though not exclusively. According to Men’s Health, Zoe Church is not without its issues. The church was founded by a pastor who produced a film that equated “sexual brokeness” to “same-sex attraction.” Other outlets have also described it as a Hillsong affiliate.
Pratt faced his biggest wave of backlash in 2020 when Internet memes declared him the “worst” Chris compared to other actors with the same first name, including Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, and Chris Pine. A slew of celebrities quickly came to Pratt’s defense, arguing the criticism was unjustifiably mean. Their speedy responses only heightened the online conversation and many of the celebrities who spoke out were eventually mocked for doing so.
Pratt Says He is Not Religious
As for why the Internet has become increasingly anti-Pratt, his alleged association to Hillsong was a major factor. Some also speculated he was a supporter of Donald Trump as he did not join his “Avengers” co-stars for a Joe Biden fundraiser, though Pratt is not usually politically outspoken in either direction.
Pratt believes the backlash against him started when he gave a speech at the MTV Movie Awards in 2018 where he said, “God is real. God loves you. God wants the best for you.” He understands why those remarks may have rubbed people the wrong way.
“Maybe it was hubris. For me to stand up on the stage and say the things that I said, I’m not sure I touched anybody,” he told Men’s Health. “Religion has been oppressive as fuck for a long time. I didn’t know that I would kind of become the face of religion when really I’m not a religious person.”
He went on to explain that in his eyes, there is a difference between adhering to certain customs and believing in God versus using God to control and harm people and justify hatred.
“The evil that’s in the heart of every single man has glommed on to the back of religion and come along for the ride,” he said.
See what others are saying: (Men’s Health) (The AV Club) (People)
Jodie Sweetin Releases Statement After Getting Pushed By Officers at Pro-Choice Protest: “This Will Not Deter Us”
“Love everyone out there in the streets fighting for what’s right,” she wrote on Instagram.
Actress Pushed at Protest
After viral footage showed Jodie Sweetin getting pushed to the ground by officers with the Los Angeles Police Department while attending a pro-choice protest, the “Full House” actress said demonstraters “will continue fighting” for their rights.
Sweetin was attending a protest off the 101 freeway on Saturday following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Photojournalist Mike Ade, who captured the video, said the actress was “trying to lead a group of peaceful protestors away from the freeway” when officers pushed her. Sweetin was standing on a curb when she was pushed and fell down on the cement road. Ade wrote that she was “fortunately…okay.”
Ade shared a handful of other videos depicting officers using similar tactics on other protesters. As these videos started circulating online, many became outraged by the LAPD’s response to the protests.
Sweetin Addresses Incident
Following the incident, Sweetin released a statement where she said the fight against the court’s decision is not over.
“I’m extremely proud of the hundreds of people who showed up yesterday to exercise their First Amendment rights and take immediate action to peacefully protest the giant injustices that have been delivered from our Supreme Court,” Sweetin said. “Our activism will continue until our voices are heard and action is taken. This will not deter us, we will continue fighting for our rights. We are not free until ALL of us are free.”
Sweetin also shared footage of the incident and other clips of officers clashing with protesters on her Instagram story. She cheered protesters in a comment on a video of the push shared by a social justice group called The Progressivists.
“Love everyone out there in the streets fighting for what’s right,” she wrote.
According to a statement obtained by Deadline, the LAPD is looking into the matter.
“The LAPD is aware of a video clip of a woman being pushed to the ground by officers not allowing the group to enter on foot and overtake the 101 freeway,” the statement said. “The force used will be evaluated against the LAPD’s policy and procedure.”
See what others are saying: (Deadline) (Rolling Stone) (The Hollywood Reporter)
Dave Chappelle Decides Against Having Former High School’s Theater Named After Him
“The idea that my name will be turned into an instrument of someone else’s perceived oppression is untenable to me,” the comedian reportedly said.
Theater Named Announced
Comedian Dave Chappelle opted on Monday to not have the theater at his alma mater high school named after him, according to a report from The Washington Post.
The Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington D.C. previously planned to name its theater in honor of Chappelle, as he is a distinct alum and donor. While Chappelle formerly said such a gesture would be “the most significant honor of [his] life,” he announced during Monday’s naming ceremony that it would bear a different title.
The school’s theater will instead be called the Theater for Artistic Freedom and Expression.
A naming ceremony was initially set to take place in November, but was postponed after the comedian began facing backlash for transphobic jokes in his Netflix special “The Closer.”
Among other things, he said he was “Team TERF,” which stands for trans-exclusionary radical feminist. He also made a joke about Caitlyn Jenner and remarks comparing the genitalia of transgender women to Beyond and Impossible meat.
The jokes embroiled Chappelle in controversy, and reports claimed that some students at Duke Ellington took issue with the comments. When Chappelle ended up visiting the school amid the scandal, Politico reported that one student told the comedian, “I’m 16 and I think you’re childish, you handled it like a child.”
Chappelle Defends Controversial Special
According to The Post, Chappelle said the criticism against him “sincerely” hurt, but added that “the Ellington Family is my family.” He claimed he did not want the theater being named after him to distract students.
“The idea that my name will be turned into an instrument of someone else’s perceived oppression is untenable to me,” he said according to Josh Rogin, a columnist for the outlet.
Rogin also tweeted that Chappelle took time out of the ceremony to slam the criticisms levied against him, accusing upset students of promoting someone else’s agenda.
“These kids didn’t understand that they were instruments of oppression,” he reportedly said.
“You cannot report on an artist’s work and remove artistic nuance,” Chappelle continued while denouncing the press coverage of his Netflix special.
According to David Frum, a staff writer for The Atlantic who attended the ceremony, Chappelle suggested he was open to potentially adding his name to the theater at a later date when the community is ready.