On Hollywood Harassment and Assault
In the mid 90s, I was 25. I was working late as a bartender in a pricey Beverly Hills hotel, when the phone rang at my bar. It was an extremely well-known movie producer I had worked with as an actor. He told me he was staying upstairs, and he had the footage from a film I'd worked on a few months back.
He asked me, "Do you want to come up, see yourself in the movie?"
What actor wouldn't.
I closed up the bar and headed upstairs.
On the way to the room, I began to get wary... Was this really the wisest move, coming to this man's room at midnight? Well, I thought, this is a man I know. We're "colleagues" of a sort.
What's the worst that could happen?
I knocked on the door. The producer opened it. In his bathrobe.
As I entered his two bedroom suite, the whole situation became stomach-churningly clear.
Every chair, couch, or any other seating implement had been moved into the "living room" of the suite, and the door to that room had been locked. The tv, along with the entire entertainment console had been moved right up against the end of the bed.
If you wanted to "see yourself in the movie", the only viewing area was the bed. It was a trap.
He hopped up on the bed and patted the seat next to him. With my mind racing as to how I was going to deal with this, I sat down. "You want a beer?" He asked me.
"Sure." I said, a little numb. He leaned across me, stretching across my body, and opened the mini-fridge. We cracked our beers and he ran the footage, not in any order, not scanning to my parts. Just letting it run.
I sat there, uncomfortable as fuck, until he rolled over to hug me. "It's so good to see you." He said.
"It's good to see you as well." I said, with strained formality.
If you're wondering why I was still there by this point, this was a very powerful man. A man who could fulfill your dreams of stardom, money, everything you came to Hollywood for in the first place without too much difficulty.
And look, I bear absolutely no judgement toward any young person who decides to use their youth and beauty and sexuality to advance their careers. If that is how you want to pursue this career, and you feel you can do it without losing your soul, then who am I to judge?
But the thing is, I'm just not gay. So many people that I know and love are, but it's just not me.
So, as the man's head started traveling south, I jumped up off the bed. I apologized, explained that it "just wasn't me" and got the fuck out of there.
Please do not take this as a traumatic admission. It's not. I don't need sympathy, and I do not mean, in any way, to compare my experiences to the abject fear and humiliation faced by so many of the actresses coming forward now. I am extremely thick-skinned and I look back on these incidents as the price of doing business in this strange, fucked-up land of grown-up man-children who wield immense power. I've told the story humorously for years.
But the elements were so similar to the stories told by the women abused by Harvey Weinstein that the incident has been on my mind.
Except, here's the crucial difference... Even though I was young, I was six foot one. I'd had many years of martial arts training by that point. I'd been in a number of street fights. In an earlier incident, I was forced to push another industry veteran up against the wall of an elevator in Cannes, to keep his hands off me. I was not above using violence to protect myself.
The producer and I laughed off the Beverly Hills encounter without too much trauma. But if he had pressed his advantage, or genuinely tried to assault me, I would have broken his arm.
But for the past couple of days, I've been thinking... What if I didn't know how to fight?
What if the man was literally twice my body weight, as Harvey no doubt was, when assaulting his victims?
What if I had just been cast in a role, instead of already done with it?
I've been in that hotel room. I've faced the bathrobe, the groping, the embarrassment. But to be trapped, at the mercy of some gigantic, drooling monster? It's infuriating. Horrific.
I'd met Harvey Weinstein a few times. I'd encountered him at parties, premieres, and so forth. His film credits were extraordinarily impressive, and I would have loved to have been involved in any one of those pictures.
But I knew the man was a monster from the moment I met him. I've spent my entire career avoiding him, and sleazy assholes like him, pretty much since that hotel room -- When I saw all the chairs had been removed. When I saw I'd walked into a trap.
To the women who suffered at the hands of that vile shitbag, I offer my sincerest sympathy. My encounters with harassment occurred, here and there. But for young, beautiful women, men need to realize that this pressure, this threat, this humiliation is constant. Relentless.
To all those affected, you have my belief, my support and this promise -- Any set of mine will be a safe one. If anyone feels threatened in any way, on a project that I am working on, you may consider me an ally, a confidant and someone that takes your safety and well-being seriously.
As a thirty-year veteran of this industry, to the thousands of young men and women who come to Hollywood and put themselves at risk for their dreams, if I can offer any positive advice, it is this:
-- If a man seems like a sleazy asshole, trust that instinct. Avoid them at all costs.
-- If you cannot, avoid ANY situation where you might find yourself alone with them.
-- If you feel your safety is at risk, you can turn down the job. I know that sounds antithetical to your drive to succeed, but here's the thing. If a man says he's going to give you the role of a lifetime, in exchange for sex, and you give in -- You are unlikely to get the role anyway. It is almost always a scam, a promise made in the heat of testosterone. And your career will go on. If you're lucky, and talented, there will be other opportunities for success.
-- Learn how to fight. Even the biggest, most overpowering man has weak points. Every woman needs to know how to exploit them to stop an attack. Every young man should too.
I sincerely hope that the Weinstein debacle will help curb the Hollywood predators' pervasive sense of impunity. And you should all take strength and confidence from the destruction of this man. The times may be changing, if slowly.
In the meantime, protect yourself.
Your dreams are important. But they are not worth your soul.