An ex-NYU professor says he was axed for giving James Franco a "D" in his directing class -- and he's now suing the university for compensation.
Dr. Jose Angel Santana said Franco deserved the poor grade in "Directing the Actor II" because he missed 12 out of 14 classes in 2010, according to the complaint. Documents say the professor was then publicly ridiculed by the "Planet of the Apes" star and later fired from his department.
"The school has bent over backwards to create a Franco-friendly environment, that's for sure," the 58-year-old professor told the New York Post. "The university has done everything in its power to curry favor with James Franco."
Santana claims that NYU was just using Franco for positive publicity and profit. The lawsuit points out that Franco hired another professor, Jay Anania, to write and direct a movie he starred in and that the film department chairman, John Tintori, performed a cameo role in the same movie.
"In my opinion, they've turned the NYU graduate film degree into swag for James Franco's purposes, a possession, something you can buy," Santana told the paper.
NYU's spokesman John Beckman said he hasn't seen the lawsuit, but called 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," he said in a statement to NBC.
When Franco was pursuing his master's in fine arts, the actor had a lot on his plate. In addition to taking film classes at NYU, Franco took creative writing courses at Columbia University uptown while flying in and out of the city to work on "127 Hours" and "Howl."
But even Franco, who went on to host the Oscars, take classes at Yale, get accepted into University of Houston's doctorate writing program, and even teach at NYU, isn't immune to the consequences of a busy schedule. A now-infamous photo posted by TMZ shows the award-winning thespian nodding off in lecture at Columbia.
The celebrity laughed off the incident and even opened up about that "D" he received in September 2010. He told Showbiz411 that he "did the work" but the acting teacher probably felt uncomfortable with having a well-known actor in his class. Franco also acknowledged he missed a lot of class time because he was shooting "127 Hours" -- which earned him a "best actor" nod at the Oscars.
Santana is also suing NYU for a number of other reasons, claiming the largely white department treated him differently because he was Hispanic and that he did not receive the additional compensation he deserved for having a Ph.D. degree.