Whenever magazines get attention for photoshopping their covers, it’s usually because they tried to make the women on them look thinner, whiter, or just not at all like themselves. In a rare turning of the tables last week, according to the Hollywood Reporter‘s Chris Gardner, Vanity Fair scrubbed James Franco from Annie Leibovitz’s group shot of Hollywood royalty on its cover because of recent allegations of sexual harassment made against the actor. (In much less significant photoshop news, the shoot also apparently provided Oprah and Reese Witherspoon with extra hands and legs.)
The allegations surfaced right after the Golden Globe Awards earlier this month, where Franco showed up wearing a Time’s Up lapel pin. As Daniel Miller and Amy Kaufman of the Los Angeles Times reported, five women — four former students of Franco’s and one who identified Franco as her mentor — were appalled by his brazen obliviousness and came forward on Twitter, accusing the actor of “behavior they found to be inappropriate or sexually exploitative.”
One of the former students, Sarah Tither-Kaplan, recounted 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.” Two others said that Franco would get mad on set when no women would agree to go topless. According to the Los Angeles Times, another former student, Katie Ryan, said the actor “would always make everybody think there were possible roles on the table if we were to perform sexual acts or take off our shirts,” and that she continually received mass email requests to play a prostitute in his projects.
Violet Paley, a 23-year-old aspiring filmmaker, took to Twitter on January 8, saying, “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?” Back in 2014, Franco allegedly attempted to pick up a 17-year-old on Instagram.
“I feel there was an abuse of power, and there was a culture of exploiting non-celebrity women, and a culture of women being replaceable,” Tither-Kaplan told the Los Angeles Times.
Franco — the self-styled performance artist, who you may remember from our numerous posts on his projects, including his “homage” to Cindy Sherman — has denied the most recent allegations, telling Stephen Colbert: “The things that I heard that were on Twitter are not accurate, but I completely support people coming out and being able to have a voice, because they didn’t have a voice for so long. So I don’t want to shut them down in any way. It’s, I think, a good thing, and I support it.”