The now defunct school, Studio 4, was "an environment of harassment and sexual exploitation both in and out of the class", the lawsuit states. "In essence, Franco took the "casting couch" to another level by creating a 'casting class'".
It says the class began with "encouraging female student actors to appear topless, then perform in sex scenes, then orgies and gratuitous full nudity", without the careful guidelines and closed sets that are the industry standard for shooting sex scenes.
"Studio 4 allowed Franco and his entourage to collect tuition for their own personal gain, and stockpile explicit footage of women", the law firm Valli Kane & Vagnini, which is representing the plaintiffs, said in a statement Thursday. The school offered "master's classes" for as much as $2,000, including a $750 class for sex scenes where prospective students were required to audition on videotape and sign away their rights to the recordings.
Also named as defendants in the suit are Vince Jolivette, Franco's business partner, their production company, Rabbit Bandini, and Rabbit Bandini's general manager, Jay Davis.
According to the New York Times, Tither-Kaplan and Gaal say in the lawsuit that Mr. Franco and his partners "engaged in widespread inappropriate and sexually charged behavior towards female students by sexualizing their power as a teacher and an employer by dangling the opportunity for roles in their projects".
Gaal is speaking out for the first time.
In 2014, Franco and his business partner Vince Jolivette opened Studio 4, which had branches in NY and Los Angeles, as Variety reported.
"[Tither-Kaplan] told The Times that in a nude orgy scene she filmed with Franco and several women three years ago, he removed protective plastic guards covering other actresses' vaginas while simulating oral sex on them", wrote LA Times reporters Daniel Miller and Amy Kaufman.
Discussing the 2018 allegations previous year, Franco told Late Night host Seth Meyers "I have my own side of this story, but I believe in these people that have been underrepresented getting their stories out enough that I will hold back things that I could say, just because I believe in it that much".
Kaplan and Gaal said that other students were promised opportunities to audition for independent films that Franco directed and produced.
The women are seeking monetary damages and the return or destruction of any video recordings of former Studio 4 class members in addition to class-action status. Plaintiff Tither-Kaplan was one of five women who accused Franco of sexually inappropriate behavior in a 2018 Times story. "I think it's a good thing and I support it". Franco's representatives have been contacted for comment but have yet to reply.
"If I have done something wrong", he added, "I will fix it - I have to". So, I don't want to shut them down in any way.