Professor Says He Was Fired for Giving James Franco a ‘D’

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Alessandro Bianchi / Reuters

For anyone still wondering, “Is James Franco for real?”—the answer is yes, but he may not be the model student he’s made out to be. At least that’s what one of Franco’s NYU professors is claiming.

José Angel Santana says he was fired from his position as professor with the university for giving the actor a “D” in his “Directing the Actor II” course, the New York Post reports.

Apparently, Franco missed 12 of the 14 classes in the course, which are a part of Franco’s master’s in fine arts program. Seeing as most college-level dramatic arts courses knock a student down half a grade for each absence, Franco’s “D” seems pretty fair. His absences would also explain how he’s been able to shoot so many films while simultaneously racking up various degrees from the country’s top colleges. But was his bad grade really enough to get a professor fired?

Santana is now suing NYU in Manhattan Supreme Court, and says that after issuing the “D” grade, Franco “publicly ridiculed him, followed by the rest of the department. He also says that other professors  were perhaps granting Franco generous grades as a thank you for work the actor has supplied them. The 127 Hours star hired his professor, Jay Anania, to write and direct the film William Vincent, and gave a cameo in a film to the head of the graduate film department.

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“The school has bent over backwards to create a Franco-friendly environment, that’s for sure,” Santana told the Post. The school is predictably defending its position and R. John Williams, one of Franco’s English professors from Yale, jumped to the actor’s defense, writing a piece for Slate entitled “What It’s Like To Be James Franco’s Professor.”

In it, he writes that he was “shocked” to hear Santana’s accusation: “…it struck me as highly uncharacteristic for him to just ‘blow off class,’ as several articles are suggesting.” Williams then goes on to explain how he’d been assigned to be Franco’s adviser in the English department, meeting with him for weekly discussion meetings for their directed reading, along with another student. The secret to doing all Franco does, Williams discovered, is the enormous amount of downtime on set that allows him to read, study and write while everything around him is set up.

Even so, if Franco missed 12 out of 14 courses—sure, he deserves a “D.” But was that really a legitimate enough reason—even with politics—to fire Santana? NYU issued a statement to NBC, calling the claims ridiculous: “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.”

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