‘You were so freaked out that I was like well, I gotta make her do it now,’ co-showrunner Ross Duffer told newcomer Sadie Sink, who recalls being ‘stressed out’ on set.
The inevitable Stranger Things 2 backlash is a cautionary tale for anyone trying to salvage a scrap of joy out of this unbelievably terrible year. The Netflix phenomenon began as a pure pop-culture confection; a thrilling piece of pastiche that starred some cute kids and Winona Ryder. Now, over a year later, Stranger Things fans are learning the hard way that nothing good can ever stay. Stranger Things 2 has arrived and so has the end of our communal innocence, between Charlie Heaton’s cocaine bust and the first wave of tepid reviews. The Daily Beast’s Kevin Fallon acknowledged that the second season of the Netflix original was faced with “monstrously high expectations,” and concluded that the latest Duffer brothers offering “doesn’t live up to the hype.”
But while Stranger Things may not be immaculate, it’s still a feel-good series—as evidenced by the adorable cast of kids who can now be spotted grinning in formalwear on red carpets. Watching the real-life Stranger Things gang adapt to their whirlwind fame was one of the purest joys of 2016—so I guess we should have known.
This season of Stranger Things culminates at a Hawkins Middle School “Snow Ball” dance. The wintery wonderland apparently proved a rich source of inspiration for the Duffer brothers, who decided to add a last-minute, unscripted kiss between Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) and new addition Max (Sadie Sink). While a relatively chaste kiss might seem like fair game for two professional child actors, the circumstances surrounding the scene, which were openly discussed in an episode of Netflix’s Beyond Stranger Things after-show, has raised red flags on social media.
In the relevant clip from Beyond Stranger Things—itself a gimmick that’s only accelerated Stranger Things’ inevitable overexposure—the 15-year-old Sink sits down with her fellow middle school dance attendees and Duffers one and two. Ross Duffer opens a discussion of the kiss by telling a visibly worked-up Sink that the scene was “all [her] own fault.” Sadie points out that “the kiss was not written in the script.” She recalls, “I get there, the first day of Snowball… one of you, I think it was you Ross, you say, ‘Ooh, Sadie, you ready for the kiss?’ I’m like, ‘What! No! That’s not in the script… that’s not happening.’” She continues, “So the whole day I was like stressed out, I was like oh my god, wait, am I gonna have to… and it didn’t happen that day, but then the second day of Snow Ball.” At this point, Duffer explains, “You reacted so strongly to this—I was just joking—and you were so freaked out that I was like well, I gotta make her do it now… that’s why I’m saying it’s your fault.” And no wonder Sink was so “stressed out”; as she goes on to describe, the kiss was filmed in front of a full room of extras, plus “their parents, and the crew, and my mom.”
The entire conversation, in which Sink repeatedly recalls feeling caught off-guard while the Duffers giggle, strikes an odd tone, particularly in light of ongoing conversations in Hollywood regarding the exploitation of underage actors and issues of consent. The Duffers’ response to Sink’s initial pushback against the kiss—to insist upon the unscripted scene and then mine it for laughs during their after-show—feels deeply insensitive, grown men essentially bragging about their decision to ignore a 15-year-old girl’s justified discomfort. As Teen Vogue noted, “Many are now taking to social media to discuss this decision and question why the director didn’t comfort the actress, leave the kiss unscripted, or work with Sadie to capture the scene in a way that was comfortable and worry-free for her.”
Making matters worse—or maybe just more embarrassing—is the fact that Stranger Things actor Finn Wolfhard recently left his agency after sexual assault accusations surfaced about his now-former agent. (Representatives for Sink and Netflix did not return requests for comment.)
Of course, this strange interlude isn’t happening in a vacuum; as the entertainment industry continues to be upended by sexual assault and harassment allegations, Netflix in particular has come under scrutiny.
There’s no denying that writer-director Angela Robinson has excellent timing. Her new film, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, about the creation of the Wonder Woman comic book character, has been in the works for years. But it finally came to fruition the same year Warner Brothers’ Wonder Woman climbed the box office charts and made a huge splash for the character. Interest in Wonder Woman and her strange, colorful, bondage-filled history is at an all-time high, and Robinson’s seems poised to fill in the gap. The movie comes to theaters disguised as a lively, colorful origin story for a colorful character — a conventional biopic about a creator whose fierce lady superhero character met a prudish, scolding response when he introduced her in 1941.
But Professor Marston is in no way conventional. Robinson is a gay black writer-director whose previous films, the action-comedy D.E.B.S. and the Disney adventure Herbie Fully Loaded, both focused on adventurous female leads who felt subversively smuggled into theaters. And while her new film looks at Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston (played by Luke Evans), it’s even more interested in the women who shaped his life: his wife Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall) and their lover Olive (Bella Heathcote). The movie tracks how William and Elizabeth Marston’s psychological studies led to his theories about the emotionally curative powers of bondage and discipline, which William put directly into his early Wonder Woman comics. And it explores their relationship with Olive, particularly around Elizabeth’s fears of being judged, and William’s fight to get his theories recognized. It’s an unusual story, but Robinson keeps it lively and compelling. She has a light, playful hand with the material, and the movie is alternately erotic, funny, and fiercely supportive of sexual freedom and exploration.
It’s worlds away from Warner Bros.’ darker, more serious Wonder Woman, but there’s a recognizable thread running through both, a defense of women’s independence and self-determination, and an acknowledgement that no matter what social mores of a given era may say, mutually supportive relationships between equals are exciting, sexy, and life-affirming. I sat down with Robinson at the Toronto International Film Festival to talk about how she got this startlingly original film to theaters, what went into the writing, and what makes a good sex scene, both for the actors and for the viewers.
As a director, how do you get from Herbie Fully Loaded to an erotic historical biopic? What was the path there?
[Laughs] I think you start with a deep commitment to and interest in strong female protagonists. D.E.B.S. was my first feature, back in 2003 or 2004, it’s all a blur. And then I did Herbie right away. But actually, my first job ever in Hollywood was as a writer on the first season of The L Word. That was a really groundbreaking show which explored a lot of elements of sex and female sexuality. So after I finished doing Herbie, [series co-creator] Ilene Chaiken invited me back to The L Word to direct. And I found I really loved working in cable television, because I felt you had the freedom to explore a lot of different ideas. And so I stayed and worked at Showtime and HBO for a number of years. And still, to this day, that’s my primary job, writing and directing for television.
I feel like I was part of the cable renaissance that happened through the last 10 years. I was able to participate in this really exciting stuff happening on television. I felt like the movies had kind of… maybe not gotten stale, exactly, but they ceased to explore. They used to talk about these concepts, but not anymore. I started writing this movie on nights and weekends, as a passion project. And then I was finally able to get it made.
Did Warner greenlighting Wonder Woman as part of its big superhero universe help you get financing?
I don’t know! Everybody’s commenting on how incredible the timing is. But for me… I’ve been actively trying to get this made for the last four years, and the movie came together and fell apart a couple of times. So it feels more like a coincidence to me. We shot this movie a year ago, and nobody was anticipating the huge success of the Wonder Woman movie, which I’m so fucking excited about. [Laughs]
I do think we started to see a growing Wonder Woman moment three or four years ago, with this reembracing of Marston’s ideas in a number of different mediums, and that led to a Wonder Woman movie finally coming out, after 75 years, she finally got a film. So I do feel like it all merged this summer.
Given some of the critical and fan backlash against earlier DC Universe films, were you ever concerned about what would happen if DC completely botched the character? Did you worry it might reflect badly on your film?
You know, I just really wanted to tell this story, and really wanted to get my film out there. It was such an indie, and Stage 6 and Sony Worldwide really took a chance on the film, and greenlit the project and really believed in it. So those would have been luxurious thoughts to have! [Laughs] I didn’t even know if we were going to get distribution. I just wanted to make it and hope for the best.
Wonder Woman is an inroad to this story, and a framing device, but she isn’t the primary focus here. As you were writing it, how did you approach balancing your story between the origins of this popular, familiar character, and the relationship and people behind it?
For me, it always was fundamentally a love story. That is what I set out to tell. And then how this really unconventional love story ended up reflected in the pages of the Wonder Woman comic, and the character we came to know. So for me, it was always about the relationship between William and Elizabeth, and how Elizabeth and Olive inspired him to create Wonder Woman, and how he put their lives into the comics pages. And I wanted to discuss his philosophies about women, sex, and gender, and how his psychological philosophies emerged from his life, very literally.
Elizabeth and Olive haven’t gone on the record much about their personal lives and what their relationship looked like from the inside. How did you approach how you wanted to characterize them?
It was really important to me. There are certain facts in the Marstons’ life that are indisputable, that everybody agrees with. And then there are certain facts that are open to interpretation. And so this film is definitely my interpretation of all of my research, basically. I do things you do in all historical biopics, where I condense time and locations, and there are some composite characters and stuff like that. But I had a story that I interpreted all of the facts around. I started out just trying to tell a very organic love story. The biggest thing that hit me very early on is that Olive and Elizabeth lived together for 38 years after Marston died. That fact just blew my mind. I was very compelled by how much love there was in there. Elizabeth named her only daughter after Olive. They formed a family and lived together in this way.
What was most important to bring across about each of the characters in order to shape the story you wanted to tell?
What was most important about Marston was, I became very obsessed with his ideas and DISC theory, which I feel like was his main jam. I really honed in on that. Every scene in the movie kind of revolves around “Dominance, Inducement, Submission, Compliance.” And the question of “Is he a feminist, or like, an exploitative pervert?” [Laughs] I thought, “I just don’t know about this guy! So in order to figure him out, I felt I had to figure out Elizabeth. With her, I became fascinated by the fact that all the reports say she was so smart and she had three degrees, but she ended up for much of her life supporting the family, and working as a secretary. Which is how Diana Prince [Wonder Woman’s secret identity] became a secretary as well. That’s how Elizabeth was reflected in Wonder Woman. A lot of the movie is about men and women, and masculinity and femininity, and entitlement, and how Marston was able to go on and be the one who was known, whereas Olive and Elizabeth were kind of hidden by history. I thought that was very much a reflection of their times. You feel a lot of that frustration in Elizabeth, and how she’s most engaged in and aware of [the social and political] reality.
For me, she and Olive both really represented Marston’s conception of women. I’m exploring his notion of Wonder Woman as this kind of combo of the two women. Elizabeth goes on this tremendous growth throughout the movie. And then what Bella [Heathcote, who plays Olive] does in an extraordinary way in the film is present incredible vulnerability and strength, simultaneously. Wonder Woman is embodied by tons of contradictory ideas, which I think is why she holds so much space in the popular imagination. There are certain things I think of as the third rail of the American psyche, those pop culture things that just like make people’s brains go [electric zapping noise]. They can’t quite reconcile it. “How can she be a feminist if there are these bondage scenes? Her outfit is too kinky! She doesn’t represent me personally!” Wonder Woman has always been a lightning rod for criticism. And Marston created her expressly to be psychological propaganda, to get people to think. But he he based her in this belief that women are inherently loving, and men are inherently violent, so women hold the path to peace on our planet. And that the highest emotion is love. And Wonder Woman was created to represent that. So that was my biggest takeaway for all of them.
The film isn’t sexually graphic, but it’s fairly daring about its eroticism. How did you decide how far you wanted to push the audience with the sex scenes?
Two things. The sexuality was really what a lot of Marston’s theories were about. He and Elizabeth were psychologists studying sex, so I didn’t want to shy away from their exploration of what that was like. A lot of times, sex in stories isn’t essential to the story. But here, you literally can’t understand the people if you don’t understand this part of them. That was essential here. And overall, the scenes revolved around this DISC theory, around dominance and submission and so forth. So I was obsessed with exploring not only the male / female desire, but the dimensions of female desire, and how complicated that can get. I was obsessed with the notion of consent, and I thought that’s what was sexy about it, about the emotional limbs they were going out on.
I think often when directors shoot sex scenes, the movie’s going, and then it stops, and actors stop acting, and then do the sex scene. Everybody just wants to get it over with, because it’s uncomfortable to shoot. And then the movie resumes. I really wanted to direct the actors through the sex scenes, and not put a big ellipsis in it where the movie stops. I’ve done a lot of work in cable, so I actually think my perspective was different. I spent a decade working on shows like The L Word and True Blood and other things where you’re allowed to explore that stuff. So then returning to a movie format, I feel like I had developed a different perspective on these scenes from my work in cable that of brought to the film.
Did the actors have barriers you had to get over, in terms of getting them comfortable, or getting them out of that movie mindset?
Not really. All three of them are extraordinary talented, and incredibly committed to telling the story. And in all my initial conversations, I really made it clear about how I wanted to shoot the scenes, to give them a comfort level. But it was mostly them understanding what I was doing, and how I was going to do it, and why. Then they were fully committed and trusted me fully, and it was really easy from that point.
Films tend to forget that sex is fun. That’s one of the extraordinary things here — the sense of play and exploration involved.
Yeah, totally, yeah yeah yeah!
How did you get to that approach?
I remember talking to the people at Stage 6, who financed it, and I said, “The sex in the movie is in the lie detector scene. That’s where it’s transpiring. The sex scenes are about freedom and discovery and fantasy. There’s a dialectic in the movie between fantasy and reality. And this is when they become most fully themselves. It’s about them transcending the real world, and losing themselves in the sense of fantasy, where they can be their freest, truest selves. It wasn’t like, “You’re doing that thing to this person.” It was about discovering this space with each other.
Earlier this week Netflix shut down production on House of Cards in the wake of actor Anthony Rapp’s sexual abuse allegations against Kevin Spacey. Today, the streaming service announced it is going a step further, and will no longer work with the actor in any capacity whatsoever.
“Netflix will not be involved with any further production of House of Cards that includes Kevin Spacey,” a Netflix spokesperson said in a statement. “We will continue to work with MRC during this hiatus time to evaluate our path forward as it relates to the show. We have also decided we will not be moving forward with the release of the film Gore, which was in post-production, starring and produced by Kevin Spacey.”
In a statement, Media Rights Capital says that Spacey has been suspended from the production, effective immediately.
Production on the show’s sixth season was well underway before Rapp’s allegations surfaced in an interview with BuzzFeed. Spacey responded by coming out as a gay man publicly on Twitter, in what was widely criticized as an attempt to divert attention away from the accusations. Soon thereafter, word broke that the sixth season had already been planned to be the last hurrah for the political drama. On Halloween, both Netflix and production partner Media Rights Capital decided to put production of the series on hold. In the days since, an increasing number of people have come forward with sexual harassment allegations against the actor, with a report from CNN detailing multiple incidents during production of House of Cards itself.
The show’s producers have reportedly been considering ways to move forward, either by killing off Spacey’s character, or perhaps moving to spin-off shows. As for Spacey himself, a representative for the actor said on Wednesday that he is “taking the time necessary to seek evaluation and treatment.” The actor was dropped by both his publicist and talent agency CAA on November 2nd.
The drama could join ‘Star Trek’ on the network’s SVOD platform.
The Twilight Zone is entering a new dimension.
CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves on Thursday announced during the company’s earnings call that CBS All Access is readying a new take on the iconic sci-fi anthology. It’s unclear at the moment if it’s a straight-to-series order or just development.
The Rod Serling-created series ran for five seasons on CBS from 1959-1964. Producers CBS Television Studios retained the rights to the cult classic and will executive produce the new take. Sources say the show hails from Jordan Peele’s Monkeypaw banner, with Marco Ramirez (Netflix Marvel dramas The Defenders and Daredevil, Sons of Anarchy) is set to pen the script and serve as showrunner. CBS All Access declined comment on Peele and Ramirez’s involvement as official details have not yet been revealed beyond Moonves’ initial announcement.
The news comes as CBS All Access has found success with its revival of Star Trek: Discovery, which the streamer said drove record subscriptions to the platform and has been renewed for a second season. The Twilight Zone joins a roster of CBS All Access scripted originals that also includes dramas The Good Fight (a spinoff of The Good Wife), Strange Angel, $1 and comedy No Activity.
Peele found success with the horror feature Get Out, which many have described as an African-American version of The Twilight Zone.
CBS last tried to revive The Twilight Zone in 2012 when the studio teamed with  X-Men‘s Bryan Singer to develop, exec produce and potentially direct a new version of the anthology. The network revived the series in the 1980s that ran for three seasons and again in 2002 for a season on UPN with host Forest Whitaker. The franchise has also been licensed to a new stage play set to premiere in December at the Almeida Theatre in London and run through January. The original series won three Emmys during its 156-episode run and explored topics including humanity’s hopes, despairs, prides and prejudices.
The Twilight Zone revival arrives as individual episodic anthologies have become increasingly popular following shows like Netflix’s Black Mirror, HBO’s Room 104 and TBS’ The Guest Book. In a crowded landscape of nearly 500 scripted shows, individual episodic anthologies are easier to consume.
Meanwhile, reboots and revivals continue to be in high demand as broadcast, cable and streaming platforms look for proven and easy to market IP in a bid to cut through the cluttered landscape. Key to the reboots is having the original producers attached, with would be CBS Television Studios in the case of The Twilight Zone.
Peele, whose credits also include Netflix’s Big Mouth, Comedy Central’s Key and Peele and TBS’ The Last OG, as well as the feature Keanu, is repped by CAA, Principato-Young and Morris Yorn. Ramirez is repped by UTA.
From USA TODAY
Analysis: The problem with ‘good guys’ don’t grope
It’s been nearly a month since sexual harassment and assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein exploded into national headlines, and it seems like nearly every day since, the country wakes up to another story of a powerful man accused of sexual misconduct. But there is one set of allegations that seemed to confound America more than the rest: those against former president George H.W. Bush. Five women have accused Bush of groping them. Their accounts are largely similar. They say the former president tells a dirty joke with the punchline “David Cop-a-feel” and touches their butts. “Squeezed … hard” is how one woman put it. “Patted” is the word Bush’s office used in an apology last week.
Natasha Henstridge was watching a movie on Brett Ratner’s couch when she fell asleep. She was a 19-year-old fashion model; he was an up-and-coming music video director in his early 20s. They had been hanging out in front of the TV with friends at his New York apartment.
But when Henstridge woke up, the others had left. She was alone with Ratner. She got up to leave, Henstridge said, but he blocked the doorway with his body and wouldn’t budge. He began touching himself, she said, then forced her to perform oral sex.
“He strong-armed me in a real way. He physically forced himself on me,” she said. “At some point, I gave in and he did his thing.”
Ratner, through his attorney Martin Singer, disputed her account.
Since that incident in the early 1990s, Henstridge has found success as an actress — starring in the films “Species” and “The Whole Nine Yards.” But she said she has carried the memory of the run-in with her, and watched from afar as Ratner became one of Hollywood’s most powerful players — directing, producing or financing dozens of today’s biggest box-office hits, including “Rush Hour,” “X-Men: The Last Stand,” “The Revenant” and “Horrible Bosses.”
As hundreds of women have come forward in recent weeks with allegations of sexual misconduct at the hands of producer Harvey Weinstein, director James Toback and numerous other powerful men, Henstridge decided she would no longer remain silent.
In interviews with the Los Angeles Times, Henstridge and five other women accused Ratner of a range of sexual harassment and misconduct that allegedly took place in private homes, on movie sets or at industry events.
As is often the case, none of the women reported the allegations to the police.
On Ratner’s behalf, Singer “categorically” disputed their accounts.
“I have represented Mr. Ratner for two decades, and no woman has ever made a claim against him for sexual misconduct or sexual harassment,” Singer said in a 10-page letter to The Times. “Furthermore, no woman has ever requested or received any financial settlement from my client.”
It feels as if I keep going up against the same bully at school who just won’t quit.
Actress Olivia Munn
Olivia Munn said that while visiting the set of the 2004 Ratner-directed “After the Sunset” when she was still an aspiring actress, he masturbated in front of her in his trailer when she went to deliver a meal. Munn wrote about the incident in her 2010 collection of essays without naming Ratner. On a television show a year later, Ratner identified himself as the director, and claimed that he had “banged” her, something he later said was not true. The same year her book was published, Munn ran into Ratner at a party thrown by Creative Artists Agency and he boasted of ejaculating on magazine covers featuring her image, she told The Times.
She said that persistent false rumors that they had been intimate have infuriated her, prompting her to talk to The Times in support of other women who are “brave enough to speak up.”
“I’ve made specific, conscientious choices not to work with Brett Ratner,” Munn said.
“It feels as if I keep going up against the same bully at school who just won’t quit,” she said. “You just hope that enough people believe the truth and for enough time to pass so that you can’t be connected to him anymore.”
Ratner “vehemently disputes” Munn’s allegations, Singer said.
A playboy persona
Ratner, 48, has long flaunted his playboy persona, bragging publicly about his sexual prowess. He has been romantically linked to the likes of Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Mariah Carey. In December, Tina Fey, speaking at the Hollywood Reporter’s annual Women in Entertainment breakfast, cracked: “Brett Ratner is here. In his defense, he thought this was a thing where you could eat breakfast off of 100 women.”
For years, he palled around with Robert Evans, the slick-haired former production chief at Paramount Pictures who was later convicted of trafficking cocaine, and Toback, who, as The Times reported last month, has been accused of sexual misconduct by more than 300 women. In a January interview with Variety, Ratner said Evans, Toback and Roman Polanski, who was convicted of having unlawful sex with a minor in 1977, were among his “closest friends.”
After Ratner quipped that “rehearsal is for fags” while appearing at a 2011 screening of his film “Tower Heist,” he was widely criticized. The misstep cost him a plum gig: He quickly resigned from producing the 2012 Academy Awards telecast and issued an apology, calling it a “dumb way of expressing myself.”
In interviews, Ratner has tried to smooth out the rough edges of his bad-boy image, especially more recently, as he has expanded his business ventures. In 2012, Ratner co-founded production company RatPac Entertainment. A year later, RatPac partnered with now-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s Dune Entertainment to create the investment vehicle RatPac-Dune Entertainment, which inked a co-financing deal with Warner Bros. worth about $450 million. Among Ratner’s executive producing credits via those companies are “Jersey Boys” and “Black Mass.”
The filmmaker often has told reporters that he doesn’t use drugs or drink alcohol. Sometimes, in enumerating his lack of vices, Ratner also points out his love of beautiful women, saying, for example, in a 2008 Jewish Journal story: “I’m not into dark stuff. I’m just a nice Jewish kid … who loves movies and pretty girls.”
Actress Jaime Ray Newman said Ratner put it more bluntly to her, explaining in vulgar terms that he needed sex — not alcohol or drugs.
Newman said she encountered Ratner in 2005 when they were both in first class on an Air Canada flight. The filmmaker swapped seats with his assistant before departure so he could be next to her, she said. Newman, who was on her way to shoot her first major acting role on the TV show “Supernatural,” was excited to talk with a “famous director” about to helm “X-Men: The Last Stand,” she said.
Within five minutes of the plane taking off, she said, Ratner began loudly describing sex acts he wanted to perform on her in explicit detail. He also showed her nude photos of his then-girlfriend, said Newman, 39, who stars on Netflix’s forthcoming “The Punisher.”
“He was graphically describing giving me oral sex and how he was addicted to it,” she said.
Newman said she was so shaken by the encounter that she immediately told a handful of people about it. Both her mother and a friend confirmed to The Times that the actress shared details shortly after the flight.
Ratner, through his attorney, denied that the incident occurred, referring to it as a “ridiculous claim.”
Actress Katharine Towne also described an aggressive come-on by Ratner that left her so uncomfortable that she said she still vividly remembers the incident years later. She said she met the director in L.A. around 2005 at a party in a movie star’s home, where he made unwanted advances. Ratner, she said, was persistent, “making it evident that he had one motive” — to sleep with her.
“He started to come on to me in a way that was so extreme,” said Towne, 39, whose credits include the film “What Lies Beneath.” The actress, who is the daughter of “Chinatown” screenwriter Robert Towne, excused herself. Ratner followed her into a bathroom. “I think it’s pretty aggressive to go in the bathroom with someone you don’t know and close the door,” Towne said.
She said she was nervous, and tried to make a joke about her weight: “I don’t even know what you want with me. I’m kind of chubby right now.” He was undeterred. “I like ’em chubby sometimes,” she said Ratner replied. Towne gave Ratner her number, hoping to placate him. Ratner’s assistant called her for the next six months, unsuccessfully trying to arrange a dinner for her and the filmmaker, she said.
Ratner’s attorney Singer called Towne’s account “absurd.” “Even if hypothetically this incident occurred exactly as claimed, how is flirting at a party, complimenting a woman on her appearance, and calling her to ask her for a date wrongful conduct?” Singer said.
Although some have questioned his conduct, Ratner has defenders in the industry including five former assistants who have worked closely with him throughout the years. David Steiman, Hopi Dobuler, Drew Sherman, Brett Gursky and Izak Rappaport all said that they did not witness him misbehave and praised him as a boss and mentor.
Steiman, who was Ratner’s assistant from 1999 to 2004, said he never saw him mistreat women, and would be “shocked” if such conduct occurred. Steiman noted that Ratner dated actress Rebecca Gayheart and tennis star Serena Williams during his time working for the filmmaker. Said Dobuler, a longtime former assistant to Ratner: “I think he’s great. … He’s a family guy.”
Over the years, Ratner has received several honors for his philanthropic and humanitarian endeavors. On Sunday, the Jewish National Fund presented Ratner with its annual Tree of Life Award at a gala in Hollywood where the guests included film producer Avi Lerner, United Talent Agency co-founder Jim Berkus and Singer.
Gal Gadot, the Israeli star of “Wonder Woman,” had been slated to give the award to Ratner, but as The Times was reporting on his alleged sexual misbehavior last week, the actress’ publicist announced she would not appear at the event because of a scheduling conflict.
Instead, “Wonder Woman” director Patty Jenkins, who has known Ratner for years, presented him the award, saying: “He’s gone on to be this real power in this town. He’s a big character. He’s a big personality. But you know what I love about Brett, he wants that for everybody else too.”
Munn’s Ratner run-ins
New to Los Angeles and pursuing an acting career, Munn said she was thrilled when a friend invited her to the set of “After the Sunset.” “I was so excited, because I mean, that’s why you come out to California and Hollywood,” recalled the actress, 37, whose credits now include HBO’s “The Newsroom” and the movies “Magic Mike” and “X-Men: Apocalypse.”
Not long after Munn arrived on the Santa Monica set in 2004, she said, she was asked to drop some food off in Ratner’s trailer as a favor. She said she was assured that the director would not be there.
Munn entered Ratner’s trailer and quickly placed the food on a table. She said she was startled to find him inside. She tried to make a quick exit, but Ratner implored her not to leave.
“He walked out … with his belly sticking out, no pants on, shrimp cocktail in one hand and he was furiously masturbating in the other,” Munn said. “And before I literally could even figure out where to escape or where to look, he ejaculated.”
Munn said she let out a “startled scream” and raced out of the trailer. She said she immediately told the man who had asked her to deliver the food. His reaction? “It wasn’t a shock. It wasn’t surprise,” Munn recalled. “It was just, ‘Ugh, sorry about that.’”
Munn said she left the set and called her sister, Sara Potts, who urged her to speak with a lawyer. Potts confirmed Munn’s account.The attorney dissuaded her from going up against a powerful director as a fledgling actress, so she did nothing.
“That did leave an impact on me,” Munn said, reflecting on the conversation. “How broken do women have to be before people listen?”
She wrote about the incident in her book, “Suck It, Wonder Woman! The Misadventures of a Hollywood Geek” — but stripped out names and details. During a 2011 appearance on “Attack of the Show,” a television program Munn previously co-hosted, Ratner identified himself as the unnamed director, but denied masturbating in front of her. “I used to date Olivia Munn, I will be honest with everybody here,” he said. “When she was ‘Lisa.’ That was the problem. She wasn’t Asian back then.”
“I banged her a few times … but I forgot her,” he said.
Days later, he went on the Howard Stern show and admitted he never slept with Munn and expressed contrition for making her look like “a whore.”
“I felt horrible,” he told the Sirius XM Radio host. “I said I banged her three times, which wasn’t true.”
In response to questions from The Times, Singer said that Munn and Ratner had indeed had “an intimate relationship.” Munn described that as “a complete lie.”
“I shouldn’t have to be completely broken, battered, and devalued in order to prove that he crossed a line,” she said.
I shouldn’t have to be completely broken, battered, and devalued in order to prove that he crossed a line.
Munn said she continued to run into Ratner at a handful of Hollywood events.
In 2010, after recently appearing on the cover of a magazine, she attended a CAA-hosted party where, she said, Ratner asked her, “Why do you hate me?” She said she told him: “It’s more of a dislike.”
Ratner grew angry, she said, and responded: “Why? I bought 10 of your magazines and came over all of them.”
Singer said Ratner “has no recollection of making such a statement.”
Immediately after the run-in, Munn told her friend Cara McConnell, whom she had brought to the party, about what transpired.
“She came up to me right afterwards,” McConnell said. “She [said] ‘I can’t believe this happened to me. I can’t believe he did that.’”
An actor who overheard the conversation confirmed Munn’s account. A third partygoer confirmed being told immediately about the “vulgar” encounter from someone who overheard it directly.
On the set of ‘Rush Hour 2’
The claimed incident with Munn is not the only one to allegedly occur on set of a Ratner-helmed film.
Four people who were involved in the production of Ratner’s “Rush Hour 2” in Las Vegas in 2001 described a sexually charged atmosphere — one in which the director was pursuing women. The PG-13 film includes several scenes featuring women in bikinis and lingerie, and the set, according to these people, was teeming with beautiful young women.
Eri Sasaki, then a 21-year-old part-time model and aspiring singer, said her role as an extra required her to wear a skimpy outfit that exposed her midriff. While waiting for filming to begin one day, Ratner approached her, ran his index finger down her bare stomach and asked if she wanted to go into a bathroom with him. When she said no, she recalled Ratner saying, “Don’t you want to be famous?”
A day or two later, Ratner again asked her to go into the bathroom with him, and again asked if she wanted to be a movie star. He offered to give her a line of dialogue in the film. Sasaki said no. Singer said Ratner has no recollection of the alleged incident.
Jorina King also worked as a background actress on the film.
On the first day of shooting, King said, Ratner plucked her from a crowd of female extras and said he later wanted to discuss giving her a speaking part.
The next day, he asked her to come to his trailer and told her he needed to see her breasts, she said. King said she rejected his request and hid in a restroom. “I figured if I could stay out of his eyesight, if I could stay away from him, he will forget about me and he will choose someone else, and that is exactly what happened,” King said, adding that she feared him — and losing the work.
Kent Richards, who was a production assistant on the set of “Rush Hour 2,” said that Sasaki told him, during the production, about her experience with Ratner. He also said he recalled a conversation in which King expressed being uncomfortable on set, and referenced Ratner. Richards also said two or three other background actresses complained to him, alleging that Ratner asked them to show him their breasts or to touch his penis. Singer disputed Richards’ account, calling it a “secondhand story about unnamed individuals.”
David Anthony, whose company at the time, Background Players, handled extras casting for the film’s shoot in L.A. and Las Vegas, said that three background actresses who worked on the project told him that Ratner had asked them out on “dates.”
“In Brett’s defense, I am sure he is not the only heterosexual man hitting on women on that set,” he said.
King, who later founded the background casting agency Wild Streak Talent, said that she’d dealt with brusque men on movie sets, but nothing like Ratner.
“He feels entitled, that this is what he wants, this is how it is going to be, and this feels like normal business to him,” she said.
Singer called King’s claims “absurd” and “nonsensical.” “The movie was obviously already cast and shooting, so the notion that there would be a discussion of getting her a speaking role in the middle of a movie shoot is ridiculous,” Singer said.
He provided a statement by James M. Freitag, an assistant director on the set, who said that he received no such complaints during “Rush Hour 2” filming.
“Any complaints of any kind including sexual harassment would be immediately directed to my attention,” Freitag said. “There were no complaints reported to me whatsoever.”
Seeing Ratner again
Since their encounter in New York in the 1990s, Henstridge, 43, has crossed paths with Ratner numerous times in Hollywood, including once during the last ten years at a party with her friend Amy Del Rio.
“She saw someone in the crowd and her body language changed,” said Del Rio, an entertainment lawyer. “I asked her if she was OK and she said ‘no.’ Then I saw she was looking at Brett Ratner. I asked if she knew him. She said, ‘He’s not a good guy. I knew him back in the day in New York.’ She was really weird, like, ‘I wanna get out of here.'”
Henstridge detailed the alleged encounter with Ratner to Del Rio only within the last month. But three other people — a former boyfriend, a neighbor and a close friend — confirmed to The Times that Henstridge told them about the incident over a roughly 10-year period beginning in the mid-1990s.
Although he acknowledged spending time with her, Ratner disputed Henstridge’s claims. Singer accused the actress of being “upset after learning my client had a girlfriend who he would not leave” for her.
Henstridge told The Times that she was not interested in dating Ratner and, before that night, had never been alone with him.
Henstridge’s neighbor Lilith Berdischewsky said that the actress told her about the incident with Ratner in the mid-2000s. “I remember when she was going to some audition and she says, ‘I don’t know whether I should go or not, but [Ratner] probably is not going to be there.’ And she came back and she was shaking,” Berdischewsky recalled.
Indeed, Henstridge, who recently appeared on the television shows “Medinah” and “Beauty & the Beast,” went to an audition for the TV drama “Prison Break,” which Ratner executive produced, knowing he might be in the room.
“And he was,” said the actress, who has two sons, ages 16 and 19. “I had two young kids and had to go to work and make a living. And he just acted like we were old friends from back in the day in New York, saying, ‘I haven’t seen you in years.’ Auditioning is already bad enough. But trying to focus on the work, I just felt sick.”
She didn’t get the part.
10.31.17 4:30 AM ET
Don’t be that girl, she scolded herself silently. Just go with it.
Lavished with attention and told how beautiful she was, a part of her felt lucky to have his attention—and yet as his hands explored her body without permission, she went rigid. This was a man she’d admired; a successful, intelligent man she’d wanted to work with and be mentored by. As he kissed her lips she held perfectly still but her lack of response did not deter him. Neither did her silence.
When he bent her over the desk in his office, taking her from behind, Sara struggled with how to say “no” and how to verbalize her feelings without hurting his. She couldn’t. It’s been five years since the incident and Sara still won’t call it “rape,” but the waver in her voice when we discuss the sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein tells me it still hurts. Sara still works with the same architectural firm and won’t risk her career to out the man who sexually assaulted her.
“He’s not famous like Harvey Weinstein, so no one cares,” she says.
As dozens of actresses have come forward to share their traumatic encounters with movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, it’s crucial to understand the importance. These women are speaking up in sisterhood and the public is listening—not because of who he is but because they can relate. If it hasn’t happened to you, then it’s someone you know.
According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), every 98 seconds an American is sexually assaulted and one out of every six women in the United States has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape. Victims of sexual assault will carry those invisible scars for a lifetime. It’s the deep, dark secret some will never share.
Every woman that has courageously come forward with a #metoo hashtag has increased the visibility, showing us just how prevalent this issue is. Social media has given power back to the people, with an instant feedback loop that keeps the conversation alive. You don’t have to be famous to have a voice, and when our voices unite they are heard.
Discussing the sexual assault allegations against Ron Jeremy online in forums was eye-opening for Banks, who has recently been considering the move from webcam model to professional porn. “I started posting on industry-only forums, and producers and industry people were telling me to get used to it. That’s just what happens in porn,” says Banks. “When people are telling me I should expect to be sexually assaulted at my job that’s something I’m not going to stand for. The normalization of it is what disgusts me.”
Motivated to shed light on the allegations against Jeremy that had somehow slid under the media’s radar, Banks made a ten-minute video presentation with collected tweets, articles and commentary. Her goal, she says, was to offer evidence in one easy-to-find place and then allow people to decide for themselves.
Seeing that Ron Jeremy was hired to host the annual webcam awards for a company she’s spent the last eight years working with was the last straw for her. She messaged the company, and was public about her opinions: “I tweeted that I had a problem with a known groper presenting an award.” Banks then messaged the cam company (in a direct message to her, they agreed not to work with Jeremy in light of the allegations) as well as the convention Jeremy was set to appear at. Banks urges performers to use their collective power, saying, “We need to stop supporting people that don’t support us as performers, when you go to these shows people buy tickets based on whether or not you’ll be there.”
Banks describes some of the videos she saw online, in which fans will follow Jeremy around a convention just to catch him groping people—a behavior that Banks says “pisses me off when it gets excused.” I another, she sites the Twitter testimony of a popular cam model who goes by “Miss Lollipop,” who wrote last year, “Not my 1st, but at a my 1st adult con, posing for a photo w ron jeremy – he slips his finger under my panties and into my vagina. #notokay.” Several other models replied to her tweet with their own Jeremy horror stories.
Though Banks has only met Jeremy once, in 2015 at an adult expo, tweets from women she admired— fellow cam models who said they’d also met Jeremy—caught her attention, particularly the allegations that he’d groped them.
A one-woman crusade, Banks says she took it upon herself to contact fellow models, the adult expos, and the companies sponsoring the shows to ask them all why they’d support a convention that supported Jeremy when he exhibits this type of behavior. “I was shocked when Exxxotica said he wouldn’t be there,” says Banks. “It also made me feel really good that’s a direct result of what I was trying to accomplish.”
Speaking to The Daily Beast, Jeremy seems confused about why Banks has chosen to target him on social media. “So she admits she doesn’t know me but I’ve groped her friends?” asks Jeremy. “You’ve worked with me in the past and you didn’t have a problem with me, right?”
I acknowledged that we’d worked together on set without issue.
“I’m older, chunkier, hairier but there are women out there that still want to see me. A lot of women that come out to see me want me to sign a boob,” says Jeremy. “If I ever grabbed a girl against her will I’d have a face like a panda bear. If I did something against someone’s will I’d have been punched in the face by now.”
He adds, “The girl who’s claiming I put my fingers up, I don’t buy that story. I don’t think that happened, maybe I was massaging. I’ve done that. Maybe a little tap, pinch, squeeze. I’ve done that but I always ask first.”
As Ron Jeremy and the once untouchable media mogul Weinstein fall from greatness, Ashley Fires demands to know why the man she says “almost raped me” isn’t facing a harsher sentence within the adult industry. Fires tweeted: “In the wake of recent actions taken against Weinstein, Ailes, O’riley [sic], Jeremy. Why is James Deen still granted shade to abuse women?”
Fires is one of almost a dozen women who have accused porn superstar James Deen of sexual assault, including his former partners, the influential adult actresses Stoya and Joanna Angel. In an essay first published at The Daily Beast, former porn star Tori Lux claimed she was “ruthlessly attacked and degraded” by Deen, while porn star Amber Rayne described her horrifying experience shooting a scene with Deen in graphic detail.
“We were in a piledriver, he was fucking me in the ass and I said something like, ‘Yeah fuck me like that you son of a bitch.’ His face twisted and he came down on my face two times—close-fisted,” said Rayne. “I was punched in the face while he was still in my ass and then he starts going crazy on my butt—extreme, brutally fucking it. He just starts shoving things in to the point where he ripped it and I bled everywhere. There was so much blood I couldn’t finish the scene.”
In late 2016, just one year after the numerous sexual assault allegations against Deen surfaced, he received 33 XBIZ nominations between him and his company, and was allowed to grace the same ceremony as his first accuser Stoya, who was hosting the event.
“With girlfriend Chanel Preston—head of porn’s de facto safety union—by his side, Deen walked the red carpets of the XBIZ and AVN Awards, smiling and posing as if it were business as usual. What’s worse, the XBIZ Awards were hosted by Stoya, Deen’s ex-girlfriend who was the first of several women to accuse him of sexual assault. Stoya was locked into an iron-clad contract to host the ceremony, and was forced to endure the indignity of facing down her alleged attacker in a public forum, surrounded by friends and colleagues,” I wrote at the time.
The nominations and awards appearances left many in the adult industry scratching their heads. “I feel like its all been swept under the rug and it’s back to normal for James Deen,” adult actress/director Tanya Tate told me. “Although he didn’t go to trial and he’s not being charged, there were numerous allegations, it’s not just one person. There’s no smoke without fire.”
Deen has maintained his innocence, telling The Daily Beast late last year: “I’m James Deen forever. That’s why I didn’t pursue any defamation charges,” he says. “Every attorney I spoke to said it’s the sex workers curse. There’s no way to get a jury of your peers or people that will understand. I feel like the media didn’t do their due diligence and distorted the facts. How can I say [to a jury] these stories about rough crazy sex hurt my career? They’d just look at some of my scenes.”
Multiple sources have also informed The Daily Beast that Deen recently entered into a financial settlement with porn actress Holly Hendrix over a shoot that allegedly turned violent. Hendrix, however, could not confirm the details of the settlement. Deen claims there is no truth to this, telling The Daily Beast: “Me settling with anyone is completely untrue…There was never even a suit to settle.”
Andy Dick has been fired from his upcoming indie film Raising Buchanan over multiple sexual-harassment and misconduct allegations on set. According to TheHollywood Reporter, the comedian and actor has been accused of groping, nonconsensual kissing and licking, as well as sexually propositioning at least four people on the film. Dick denies groping anyone, but tells THR that it’s likely he licked people and admits to making propositions. “My middle name is ‘misconduct.’ They know what they signed up for,” he said. “I didn’t grope anybody. I might have kissed somebody on the cheek to say good-bye and then licked them. That’s my thing — I licked Carrie Fisher at a roast. It’s me being funny. I’m not trying to sexually harass people.” He continued, “I didn’t grab anybody’s genitals. Of course I’m going to proposition people. I’m single, depressed, lonely and trying to get a date. They can just say no, and they probably did and then I was done.”
A source tells THR that Dick appeared intoxicated during filming. Dick claims he took more Xanax than prescribed that made him “loopy” on set, but that he’s sober. “That didn’t make me rape people. I really don’t get it. I’m always trying to be funny and trying to get a date,” he told THR. According to Dick, some on set were “sensitive” to his comments about the Harvey Weinstein scandal (Dick has made four Weinstein films), though it’s unclear what he said. He also claims that because of his age (51), he does not know the difference between sexual harassment and flirting. Dick tells THR he’ll retire if he faces future accusations of misconduct, but also “won’t lick anyone’s face anymore.”
Celebrities are incensed over Kevin Spacey’s “sincerest apology” to Star Trek: Discovery actor Anthony Rapp.
Rapp told BuzzFeed that when he was 14, the House of Cards star, inebriated at a party thrown at Spacey’s apartment, made a sexual advance on the then-underage actor. Rapp said Spacey placed him on a bed and climbed on top of him but Rapp was able to leave before the encounter could go further.
In a statement on Twitter, Spacey also came out about his sexuality, explaining “I choose now to live as a gay man.”
While House of Cards creator Beau Willimon called Rapp’s story “deeply troubling,” and said he was never aware of any misconduct by Spacey during their time working together on the Netflix political drama. (Willimon left the show after Season 4.)
“I neither witnessed nor was aware of any inappropriate behavior on set or off,” he told USA TODAY in a statement provided by his representative Rachel Aberly. “That said, I take reports of such behavior seriously and this is no exception. I feel for Mr. Rapp and I support his courage.”
Zachary Quinto, who, like Rapp, is a member of the Star Trek franchise family through his role as Mr. Spock in J.J. Abrams’ films, wrote “It is deeply sad and troubling that this is how Kevin Spacey has chosen to come out. Not by standing up as a point of pride — in the light of all his many awards and accomplishments, thus inspiring tens of thousands of struggling LGBTQ kids around the world — but as a calculated manipulation to deflect attention from the very serious accusation that he attempted to molest one.”
Quinto, who came out in 2011, continued, “I am sorry to hear of Anthony Rapp’s experience and subsequent suffering. And I am sorry that Kevin only saw fit to acknowledge his truth when he thought it would serve him — just as his denial served him for so many years.”
He concluded, “May Anthony Rapp’s voice be the one which is amplified here. Victims’ voices are the ones that deserve to be heard.”
Rose McGowan, who is one of dozens accusing Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct, urged the media to BE THE VICTIM’S VOICE” and maintain a focus on Rapp. “Help us level the playing field,” she tweeted.
She later added, “Bye bye, Spacey goodbye, it’s your turn to cry, that’s why we’ve gotta say goodbye.”
Wanda Sykes chastised Spacey for what she says was an attempt to “hide under the rainbow.”
Lance Bass scolded Spacey on Twitter.
“Being gay should never be equated with sexual assault or pedophilia. Thanks for giving the homophobes more ammo #KevinSpacey,” he tweeted.
American Idol Season 2 runner-up Clay Aiken, who came out as gay himself in 2008, told Spacey, “You can choose to act like a pervert; you can’t ‘choose’ to be gay.”
Larry Wilmore deemed Spacey’s statement “wrong on so many levels.”
Billy Eichner tweeted, “Kevin Spacey has just invented something that has never existed before: a bad time to come out.”
Singer Richard Marx called the allegation “disgusting. Period.”
Actress Louise Brealey believes “Spacey trying to hide behind coming out & offering drunkenness as an excuse for jumping on a child shows his breathtaking arrogance.”
Comedian Paul F. Tompkins said, “Thus with one statement ‘Carson impression at the 2017 Tonys’ moves down to 3rd on the list of the worst things Kevin Spacey has ever done.”
It seems TV viewers were more offended by Adam Sandler touching The Crown star Claire Foy’s knee during Friday’s episode of the BBC’s The Graham Norton Show than she was.
The actress issued an official comment saying she took “no offense” after viewers in the U.K. suggested that the actor’s gesture made Foy and fellow interviewee Emma Thompson uncomfortable.
The episode is set to air in the U.S. this Saturday and no clip of the segment in question has been officially released yet.
After having his hands folded in his lap for the majority of the show, Sandler, 51, placed his hand on Foy’s right knee while telling a story, something he has also done to men. She then picked it up and put it back on his own leg.
For readers unfamiliar with Norton’s show, the host brings all of his guests out at once and they share the same couch while drinks flow freely.
Foy, 33, did not appear to harbor any lingering ill will afterward.
USA TODAY has reached out to Foy’s camp for comment.
In a statement to USA TODAY, Sandler’s rep Cindy Guagenti described the incident as “such a non-story” and noted that he did something similar during an interview with Dustin Hoffman on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon earlier this month.
However, Sandler’s gesture triggered viewers at home, who tweeted their concern.
“He was trying to seduce me,” Anthony Rapp told BuzzFeed News. “I don’t know if I would have used that language. But I was aware that he was trying to get with me sexually.” Meanwhile, Spacey apologized, saying he’s choosing “now to live as a gay man.”
Star Trek: Discovery actor Anthony Rapp has accused Kevin Spacey of making a pass toward him when he was only 14. In response, Spacey tweeted his “sincerest apology” late Sunday night and came out as a gay man.
Rapp told BuzzFeed News in a story that posted online Sunday that the two met in 1986 when both were appearing in Broadway shows (Rapp in Precious Sons and Spacey in Long Day’s Journey Into Night). One night, Spacey invited Rapp to his apartment for a party; later, Rapp says, he found himself bored and watching TV in Spacey’s bedroom when he realized that he was the only one left in the apartment with the actor, who was 26 at the time.
Spacey then appeared and “sort of stood in the doorway, kind of swaying. My impression when he came in the room was that he was drunk.”
Rapp, now 46, claimed that Spacey then “picked me up like a groom picks up the bride over the threshold. But I don’t, like, squirm away initially, because I’m like, ‘What’s going on?’ And then he lays down on top of me.”
Rapp alleged that Spacey was holding him down while tightening his grip on Rapp, who was able to get away after some time.
“He was trying to seduce me,” Rapp said. “I don’t know if I would have used that language. But I was aware that he was trying to get with me sexually.”
Rapp then went into the bathroom and closed the door.
“I was like, ‘What is happening?’” he told BuzzFeed News. “I saw on the counter next to the sink a picture of him having his arm around a man. So I think on some level I was like, ‘Oh. He’s gay. I guess.’ Then I opened the door, and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to go home now.’ He followed me to the front door of the apartment, and as I opened the door to leave, he was leaning on the front door[frame]. And he was like, ‘Are you sure you wanna go?’ I said, ‘Yes, good night,’ and then I did leave.”
Rapp said he feels lucky that nothing more happened but is still incredulous that he had that experience at age 14. He said he thought about reaching out to Spacey afterward but ultimately decided not to.
The two later crossed paths at the 1999 Tony Awards, where Rapp was performing and Spacey was nominated. He isn’t sure if Spacey has any recollection of the alleged encounter.
Said Rapp: “He looked at me, and I thought I saw some form of recognition, and I quickly looked away. I passed him and went out the door.”
Spacey, now 58, tweeted a statement late Sunday night in response, apologizing for “what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior.” He said he does not remember the encounter but is “beyond horrified” to hear Rapp’s account.
He also notes that he’s had romantic relationships with both men and women, and he’s now choosing “to live as a gay man.” Read his full statement below.
Many were quick to criticize Spacey’s statement on Sunday night. And on Monday morning, GLAAD released its own statement ripping Spacey and reminding the public and the media that the focus should be on Rapp’s tale of survival and his decision to speak out.
“Coming-out stories should not be used to deflect from allegations of sexual assault,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD. “This is not a coming-out story about Kevin Spacey, but a story of survivorship by Anthony Rapp and all those who bravely speak out against unwanted sexual advances. The media and public should not gloss over that.”
For his part, Rapp said he was motivated to share his story following the numerous sexual harassment and abuse accusations coming to light against Harvey Weinstein, James Toback, Mark Halperin, former APA talent agent Tyler Grasham and others in the industry.
“Not to simply air a grievance, but to try to shine another light on the decades of behavior that have been allowed to continue because many people, including myself, being silent.… I’m feeling really awake to the moment that we’re living in, and I’m hopeful that this can make a difference,” Rapp said.
LOS ANGELES — There’s no script for this.
Hollywood’s men — both the world-famous variety and executives who sit at the top of the studio system — have struggled to find the right words as the Harvey Weinstein scandal tornadoes through Los Angeles, turning the existing power structure to rubble.
After a deafening silence, stars of both genders began issuing statements about multiplying Weinstein allegations, which range from sexual harassment to rape. But aside from Quentin Tarantino (the sole male voice who has copped to knowing “enough to do more than I did”), most are being excessively careful to keep plausible deniability on their side.
Which begs the question: Why are men so afraid to talk about Weinstein? Or disgraced filmmaker James Toback, alleged to have sexually harassed or assaulted hundreds of women? Or the persisting allegations against R. Kelly, accused of sexual misconduct with minors and entrapment? And others in positions of power, whose names remain in the shadows but are well known within women’s whisper networks?
Some say stars are caught in a quagmire: Those who stay silent are judged as complicit. If a bold-faced name acknowledges knowing, they’re scolded for not doing more (see: Matt Damon, who recently admitted he knew how the mogul once harassed Gwyneth Paltrow, and director James Gunn, who took to Twitter to remind this journalist he’s been publicly sounding the alarm on Toback for years).
“Shocked” and “appalled” statements are dissected by an increasingly hostile public. And if you pipe up, your own skeletons could come out to haunt you.
“You can’t win,” says a Hollywood insider unwilling to speak publicly because of the sensitivity of the topic. “The guys who are shutting up are being accused of being accomplices. The guys who speak are being accused of being liars. It’s gotten a little McCarthy-esque out there.”
Across the country, non-famous men are struggling, too, often growing quiet around the proverbial water cooler as Weinstein’s name is invoked by their female counterparts, afraid of saying the wrong thing. From a recent scan of popular men’s online destinations such as GQ and Maxim — vs. female-focused sites like Refinery29 and Teen Vogue — a striking imbalance in coverage isn’t helping, either.
“Part of the problem is that we have a pop culture that reinforces those old (macho) notions of masculinity,” says Michael Kasdan, director of special projects for The Good Men Project, a social platform that invites men across the country to share their stories around fraught topics like rape culture, racism, sexism and consent.
“A lot of the publications that are leading voices are women’s publications like Teen Vogue. We have to do a much better job, not only for men but also for boys,” he says. “That’s where it all starts.”
Hollywood adopts zero tolerance
Meanwhile, the playbook is shifting inside Hollywood faster than the patriarchy can fathom.
Amazon Studios fired or accepted resignations of three executives last week after allegations surfaced of sexual misconduct; an agent was fired for the alleged sexual assault of an underage male client; Nickelodeon canned The Loud House creator Chris Savino after multiple women lodged complaints against him; NBC News suspended political journalist Mark Halperin (who also just lost a book deal and a HBO movie) for allegations of sexual harassment more than a decade ago; and studios are hastily holding sexual harassment seminars.
The newfound zero tolerance has unnerved some Hollywood publicists, who worry about their high-profile clients being hit with false allegations.
“That’s a crock,” scoffs activist Melissa Silverstein, founder of the Women and Hollywood website, which advocates for parity across the entertainment industry. “It’s still so difficult for any woman to come out. It does not benefit you. It’s not something that you do lightly. It’s something that you weigh very, very heavily.”
More notably, she says, the jig is up on Hollywood’s pervasive culture of toxic masculinity. “These white men all benefited from the status quo,” she says. “They have the privilege of not having to see these things. So the ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ — I don’t buy any of that.”
Denials vary from ‘lies’ to ‘grossly naïve’
A disintegrating status quo is why this particular scandal has become a nightmare for the testosterone-fueled showbiz industry, says Eric Schiffer, chairman of Reputation Management Consultants in Los Angeles.
Many powerful men haven’t said a word because they “don’t want to add to the power of this movement, which is terribly sad and unfortunate,” he says.
He’s skeptical when high-powered stars and executives say they knew nothing about Weinstein’s alleged predatory behavior, calling some of the comments “epic-scale lies” and others “likely true and grossly naïve in the way they perceived their surroundings.”
One-on-one, candid insiders like Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi will cut through the controlled silence. “Everyone has heard these stories for many years,” the New Zealand director, who has never met Weinstein, told USA TODAY recently. “And no one has done anything about it until now. It’s so crazy that this stuff can go on in the background and people can go, ‘Oh, I never knew.’ “
In fact, when he arrived in L.A., “my impression of Hollywood producers was they all tried that,” he said. “I’ve been to cafés where I’ve heard sleazy guys (BSing) young, pretty actresses about being producers. … I find it really gross.”
The truth hurts. But it’s working.
Where do men go from here?
Read primers. Listen to women. “Create the environment so this can change,” says Silverstein. “And own it. If you’ve done it, own it.”
Coming clean and apologizing is the one strategy that seems to be working.
Ben Affleck apologized to actress Hilarie Burton when an old groping story surfaced on Twitter recently. Last week, George H.W. Bush apologized through a spokesman for having “patted women’s rears.” Halperin issued a lengthy apology on Twitter Friday, owning his past behavior.
George Clooney says he hopes “something good” will come out of allegations of sexual abuse against Harvey Weinstein, with Julianne Moore and Matt Damon looking for accountability. (Oct. 23)AP
Several who worked with Weinstein have vowed to do more. Kevin Smith, who built a career off Weinstein’s influence, announced he will donate residuals from films like Clerks and Chasing Amy toWomen in Film, a nonprofit that advocates for women in the industry.
Tarantino called for “other guys who knew more to not be scared,” he told The New York Times. “Don’t just give out statements. Acknowledge that there was something rotten in Denmark. Vow to do better by our sisters.”
And George Clooney says it’s time to strip Hollywood of its safety net.
“What we hope is that this is a watershed moment for us as a society,” the Suburbicon director told USA TODAY. “Where women feel safe enough to talk about this issue, feel believed. And where men who are committing these crimes, these violations, don’t feel safe, and feel as if they do these things, they are going to be outed, they’re going to be sued, they may even get litigated, maybe even go to jail for it.
“If we can get to that point, then we’ve actually succeeded.”
McGowan has accused Weinstein of raping her in 1997 while she was appearing in “Scream,” a horror hit that was released by Miramax, his former company. Dozens of women have accused Weinstein of assault and harassment. His accusers include Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Mira Sorvino, and Cara Delevingne.
Rodriguez worked with Miramax, and later the Weinstein Co. for years, primarily releasing films through Dimension, a genre label run by Harvey’s brother Bob. Films he made for the companies include “From Dusk Til Dawn,” “Spy Kids,” and “The Faculty.” The relationship continued even after “Grindhouse” was released to tepid box office results, with Dimension distributing Rodriguez-directed sequels to “Spy Kids,” “Machete,” and “Sin City.”
Here is Rodriguez’s account of what McGowan told him about Weinstein, the production of “Grindhouse,” and what he hopes the entertainment industry will do to reform itself in the wake of an ongoing harassment and abuse scandal. Here is his statement printed in full. A spokesperson for Harvey Weinstein had no immediate comment. A rep for McGowan declined comment.
As one of the first victims to come forward with stories of sexual assault by Harvey Weinstein, Rose McGowan is a very brave woman who I applaud for speaking out about Weinstein’s repulsive behavior.
Today over 50 remarkable women have come forward to detail the horrors they endured. This saga has been a watershed moment in our country, and now because of the courage of Rose and others, countless women who previously were unable to stand up and speak out against sexual abuse can do so without fear.
I have not previously discussed what I knew about the 1997 incident that Rose suffered in a hotel room during the Sundance Film Festival. I never wanted to do anything that jeopardized a legal settlement she entered into with Harvey Weinstein. Now that she’s able to tell her story, I want to provide an account of what I knew, when I knew it, and what I did about it.
I met Rose in Cannes on May 19, 2005, at an amfAR after party. “Sin City” had just screened at the Festival the night before. Rose and I were talking, and she told me she was a film noir fan and that she wished she could have been cast in “Sin City.” I asked her “Why didn’t you audition for it? You would have been terrific.” She said that she couldn’t because she had been blacklisted from working on any Weinstein movies. When I asked what she meant by that, and how could she possibly be blacklisted, she told me the horrifying story of what Harvey did to her seven years earlier.
My first reaction was one of shock. I recall clearly what I said next, “My God, why didn’t you say anything? People would have stood up for you! And where was your fiancé during all this? I would have at least beaten the crap out of Harvey if I had heard that.” Rose said they didn’t know what to do. She confided that a female attorney had told her that because she had done nudity in movies that no jury would believe her and that it would turn into a he said/she said case.
Rose told me that all she could do at the time was to get Harvey Weinstein to donate money to an abused women’s shelter and in return she had to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) that forbade her from talking about the horrific violation without being sued, and that she shouldn’t even be telling me. To add insult to injury, she told me that she was blacklisted from even auditioning for any Weinstein movies.
Incensed at what I heard, I told Rose that she was not blacklisted from MY movies and that Harvey couldn’t tell me who to cast. The reason was that Harvey didn’t work on my movies, I made movies all those years for Dimension and Bob Weinstein. So I explained that if I cast her in my next film, Harvey couldn’t suddenly tell me no, because my first question would be “Oh, really? Why can’t I cast her?” And I was sure he would not want to tell me why.
I then revealed to Rose right then and there that I was about to start writing a movie with Quentin Tarantino, a double feature throwback to 70’s exploitation movies, and that if she was interested, I would write her a BAD ASS character and make her one of the leads. I wanted her to have a starring role in a big movie to take her OFF the blacklist, and the best part is that we would have Harvey’s new Weinstein Company pay for the whole damn thing.
Just as I finished telling Rose this, I saw Harvey walking around the party! I called Harvey over to our table, and as soon as he got close enough to see that I was sitting with Rose, his face dropped and went ghostly white. I said, “Hey Harvey, this is Rose McGowan. I think she’s amazing and really talented and I’m going to cast her in my next movie.” Harvey then dribbled all over himself in the most over the top performance I’d ever seen as he gushed, “Oh she’s wonderful, oh she’s amazing, oh she’s fantastic, oh she’s so talented… You two should definitely work together.” And then he skittered off. I knew right then that every word Rose told me was true, you could see it all over his face.
I looked over at Rose. Her mouth was open, and her eyes were wide. “WOW. I’ve never seen that before,” she said. I then told her that if she wanted a role that I would write it for her and Harvey’s company would have to fund it. Rose agreed, and the deal was done. I found it so commendable that she was putting the incident behind her and moving forward with her career. I wanted to help. We had a plan, and more importantly, we had a mission.
Since the Weinstein’s had a first look at any project of mine or Quentin’s, I knew they’d never let this project go to another studio. Casting Rose in a leading role in my next movie felt like the right move to make at the time – to literally make him pay.
But because of the NDA Rose told me she had signed, at Rose’s request I had to keep it quiet from everyone until now as to why we were even making that film together, especially Harvey. We knew that strategically we couldn’t rub it in his face why we were REALLY doing this movie, because then he’d just bury the movie, not sell it well, and everyone would lose. To our horror, Harvey buried our movie anyway, and because we did not want to risk getting sued, we never spoke publicly about the matter. It would have been much easier on both of us if we could have just revealed why we were doing it.
Even after 12 years, I will never forget sitting with Rose at that party and instantly getting inspired to create a bad ass female action heroine who loses her leg and transforms into a superhero that rights wrongs, battles adversity, mows down rapists, and survives an apocalypse to lead the lost and weary into a land of hope; all with a crackling, retro B-movie aesthetic. I’ll admit it felt really good at the time to realize we could use our art form to help Rose right a serious wrong in both how he victimized her years earlier, but also what Harvey was doing to a wonderful actress by blacklisting her and keeping her from working with filmmakers that would have wanted to work with her. At the time, it was the only thing we could do.
With great understatement, I have to say that it was a long hard road to get that movie made. And even though “Grindhouse” received great reviews, Rose got terrific notices, and the film is still a fan favorite today… it was heartbreaking to see Harvey simply bury the movie for its release.
Until now, I’ve not been able to say anything about it out of respect for the NDA Rose had signed under extreme pressure from Harvey. I am still haunted and disillusioned that after all the good intentions, immense pain and struggle Rose and I and so many talented people went through to make the film, that Harvey Weinstein won in the end by burying the movie just because Rose was the lead actress.
It’s been really difficult to admit and come to terms that the NDA handcuffs forced us to needlessly jump through hoops that today would have been unnecessary because of Rose’s fearlessness to speak out, despite the consequences. I hope that new legislation will result in NDAs to be legally null and void in situations where rape and assault have been committed and where power is so unequally distributed.
Looking back over the years, I have wondered if I would have made the same choices, knowing the bleak outcome. We all suffered greatly on the film, and the journey ended up costing us all more than we ever bargained for. For me personally, it cost me my marriage of 16 years, my family, a large dose of sanity, and for years I have grappled with the sobering idea that maybe I made a grave error in standing up at all, when no one was even asking me to. I know that’s not the message I’d ever want to send out, but it’s been hard to justify something that now is clear was a lose/lose situation from the get-go, and that in the end failed and simply caused more damage. The reason I’m saying this is because it’s very clear to me now that when someone does what Harvey Weinstein did, the devastation goes far beyond predator and victim.
These past few weeks have given me new clarity and hope by seeing the tide finally turn, seeing Harvey finally on the run, and seeing all the brave women who have come forth with their own shocking and distressing stories of abuse. Since I’ve seen a distinct lack of stories coming from men who may have tried to do the right thing, I wanted to come forth to say that no matter the consequences, no matter how far you have to stick your neck out, no matter what you have to lose, that we must fight the good fight. Everyone has to make a stand and take action.
Speaking out is not nearly enough. Even catching someone in the act right away and calling them out as soon as possible is still not nearly enough. What I’ve learned from my own experience is that we as a society need to do a hell of a lot more about prevention. Once someone like Harvey Weinstein strikes, the waves, ripple effects, and the collateral damage that takes place are far-reaching, unstoppable, and unending. Once a predator strikes, it’s simply too late. We have to stop these actions from happening to begin with through education, harsher consequences, and zero tolerance. We must ensure that justice is served and demand cultural change in our country so that this never happens again.