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James Franco is involved in a “he-said, he-said” debate with his former college professor, and it just escalated to a legal level. Franco’s former New York University professor, Jose Angel Santana, has filed a lawsuit against Franco for defamation, claiming the actor made “disparaging and inaccurate public statements” about him because he gave the actor-director a “D” in his directing class. He is suing for unspecified damages.
Franco was attending NYU in 2010, earning his Masters in Fine Arts. Santana claims that Franco’s other professors were starstruck and let the actor get away with far more than they would the average student. He claims the other professors “bent over backwards to create a Franco-friendly environment.”
Santana maintains that he awarded Franco the grade he deserved after the actor missed 12 of the 14 lectures in Santana’s class.“Whoever was in Clint Eastwood’s chair at the Republican National Convention was more present than Mr. Franco was in my classes,” Santana told the New York Post.
The former professor also insisted that Franco “uses the bully pulpit of his celebrity to punish anyone who doesn’t do his bidding.”
The comments Franco made that inspired this lawsuit occurred when Franco was asked, upon release of his new movie The Broken Tower, about his poor grade in Santana’s class.
Franco stated that Santana was “awful” and “I didn’t feel the need to waste my time with a bad teacher.”
Santana came back with, “I didn’t deserve to be on the receiving end of those falsehoods. I was outraged that someone with his attendance record at NYU had the audacity to make those statements.”
Franco continued speaking lowly of Santana to the press, saying, “No teacher will ever be fired from NYU for giving a student a ‘D.’ He wasn’t fired, he was asked not to come back after three years because they didn’t think he was a good teacher.”
Franco was referring to Santana being let go from his $70,000-a-year professor job in September of 2011. Santana fought the legality of that decision as well, filing a lawsuit against the university in November of 2011. In that lawsuit, he claimed there was a conspiracy among the professors at the university to let Franco pass his courses no matter what. Santana maintains that he refused to compromise his values and standards as a professor and award a grade to Franco that he didn’t deserve.
Franco disagrees wholeheartedly with Santana’s claims, stating, "I did the work, I did well in everything else.”
The university appears to be on Franco’s side, as they have already let Santana go and even hired Franco to teach a course on adapting poetry into short films. Which side will the court take?