James Franco’s multi-pronged academic pursuits have been well-documented over the past few years, and one of the common refrains has been awe and disbelief that the actor could manage to squeeze in all the necessary course work while also taking time to shoot movies like 127 Hours and Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
Well, according to one former NYU professor, Franco’s secret was not coming to class much at all.
Jose Angel Santana is reportedly suing the university for wrongful termination, discrimination, and harassment, alleging that when he gave Franco a “D” in Directing the Actor II for missing 12 out of 14 classes, he was demoted, systematically isolated from the university, and eventually denied reappointment. Santana also alleges that Franco hired another professor, Jay Anania, to write and direct a feature film starring the actor, and that the chair of the graduate film department John Tintori appeared in a cameo role in the film. (That film, The Stare, a psychological thriller, reportedly finished filming this month.)
“We have not seen the lawsuit yet, but the claims we are seeing in the media are ridiculous,” says a university spokesman in a statement. “Beyond that, it is regrettable and disappointing to see a faculty member — former or otherwise — discuss any student’s grade for the purpose of personal publicity.”
Santana also claims that Franco publicly disparaged him when discussing the grade in interviews. In a Sept. 2010 interview with SHOWBIZ411, Franco acknowledges that he did miss several classes in Santana’s class to shoot 127 Hours. He also calls Santana “a decent guy” (though not by name), and says that the professor gets “railed on” in a documentary about Method acting legend Sanford Meisner by Meisner himself.
A spokesperson for Franco could not be reached for comment.