James Franco, star of Spider-Man and Rise of the Planet of the Apes, is being sued by New York University film professor Jose Angel Santana for defamation. While attending NYU's MFA program in 2010, Franco received a “D” in Santana’s class, “Directing the Actor II,” for poor attendance – Franco reportedly only attended two of a possible 14 classes.

Upon receiving the low grade, Franco allegedly made “disparaging and inaccurate public statements” about the professor, Santana told the New York Post.

“Whoever was in Clint Eastwood’s chair at the Republican National Convention was more present than Mr. Franco was in my classes,” Santana said. “He uses the bully pulpit of his celebrity to punish anyone who doesn’t do his bidding.”

Santana is suing for undisclosed financial damages from Franco. Santana also sued NYU for wrongful termination shortly after he was fired in September 2011. He had been teaching at the school since 1979 and was reporetedly earning a $70,000 salary at the time he was let go. Santana believes he was fired in part because other professors were much more lenient with Franco and “bent over backwards to create a Franco-friendly environment,” while Santana refused to do so.

NYU has denied Santana’s claims.

Franco, 34, was asked last April during a Q&A session for his film The Broken Tower, about Santana’s initial wrongful termination suit against the school, and it was these comments that lead to Santana's lawsuit against Franco. “No teacher will ever be fired from NYU for giving a student a D,” Franco told reporters at the session. "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, who was, ironically, offered a teaching position at NYU for a course on turning poetry into film, went on to say: “He’s not going to win the lawsuit, and he’s not going to get hired at another institution. It’s ridiculous. And I’m teaching at NYU, so what does that say?”

Franco also told reporters that he missed class in order to continue working on films. “I decided to do 127 Hours instead of going to acting class. I’ve been in eight years of acting class. I didn’t feel like I needed to waste my time with a bad teacher and that I should go and work with Danny Boyle. I felt like that was the right decision.”

127 Hours received six Oscar Nominations at the 2011 Academy Awards, including a Best Actor nomination for Franco.

Franco’s ambitious academic pursuits have led some to speculate just how much academic work is humanly possible for a person to complete at one time. Franco enrolled at UCLA in 2006 (he had dropped out in 1996) and took between 20-62 credits per semester when the average course load was 19. He simultaneously attended three MFA programs in New York City: NYU for film, Columbia University for creative writing and Brooklyn College for creative writing.

During those three MFA stints he also attended Warren Wilson College in North Carolina to study poetry. Franco has since received his degree from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2012 and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in English from Yale University. He was accepted into a Ph.D. program at the University of Houston as well, though he elected not to attend. –Hal Sundt

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