Photo Credit: Gary Miller/FilmMagic
Did James Franco use his celebrity influence to have one of his professors fired? That's what New York University film professor Jose Angel Santana tells the New York Post. Santana, 58, has filed a lawsuit against NYU for unlawful termination, saying that he lost his job after giving the school's most famous graduate student a "D."
"The school has bent over backwards to create a Franco-friendly environment, that’s for sure," says Santana. "The university has done everything in its power to curry favor with James Franco."
Franco, 33, was enrolled in Santana's "Directing the Actor II" class while working towards his master's degree in fine arts. The former professor says that he couldn't in good conscience give Franco a better grade, because the Oscar nominee missed 12 of Santana's 14 classes.
The actor, who was shooting 127 Hours during the course, complained about the grade to Showbiz411 in 2010.
"I did the work, I did well in everything else," said Franco, who suggested that his acting teacher was probably uncomfortable having a famous actor in class.
Santana acknowledges that Franco did do well in other classes, but he believes that the actor's other professors were essentially bribed. One professor, Jay Anania, was hired by Franco to write and direct an independent film in which Franco starred. Another, film department chairman John Tintori, appeared in a cameo in a film financed by Franco. The actor was also hired to teach an NYU course on adapting poetry into short films, generating additional interest (and money) for the university.
"In my opinion, they've turned the NYU graduate film degree into swag for James Franco's purposes, a possession, something you can buy," complains Santana.
While he was pursuing a master's degree at NYU, Franco was also attending Brooklyn College for fiction writing, North Carolina's Warren Wilson College for poetry and Columbia University for his creative writing MFA -- while simultaneously making movies, showcasing his artworks and appearing on General Hospital. He's now studying art at the Rhode Island School of Design and is working towards a PhD in English at Yale.
Given Franco's completely insane schedule, it's no wonder that his attendance was spotty. But does that mean his professors should give him a free pass to miss class? If Franco missed that many days on a movie set, he'd be fired in a heartbeat. It doesn't seem fair to the other students that he's allowed to blow off college classes whenever he has a scheduling conflict. Then again, non-celebs skip classes all the time and earn good grades if they do the work and fare well on tests. Why shouldn't the same be true for Franco? Either way, now that Santana is suing, it's a matter for the courts to decide.