Sharing our story in solidarity with Rachelle Vinberg
Sharing our story in solidarity with Rachelle Vinberg, who was brave enough to speak up about her experience with Cary Fukunaga.
“Do you know how bad this would look with the Me Too movement?”
We were 20 when we met Cary Fukunaga on the head-spinning 1940s seance set of Netflix’s Maniac. From the very first night we found ourselves sitting on the steps with him in that Long Island mansion, he had us in the palm of all four of our hands. He’d look us directly in the eyes when speaking with us, stepping away from the stars of the show to ask us about our family and our hometown.
Over the next three years, we’d all three be wrapped up a hot-and-cold relationship that the two of us hoped would mold itself into one of two categories: a simple trio of friends, or a romantic relationship between one of us and Cary.
At first, Cary seemed to have mostly “chosen” Cailin as the object of his flirty Instagram DMs. Then came the invite to join him and his friends at a Soho club, where we both wound up blacked out in the bathroom, for the first time in our lives. A night out with our director, who we had enormous respect for, ended with us both pressed against Cary’s body on the dance floor, lapsing in and out of our lucid states, occasionally falling to the floor in a haze. It was our best friend who was there with us who saw to it that we did not go home with him that night.
Over a year later, we had to eventually turn down plans to see him in London, where he’d invited us several times over months to visit him while he worked on No Time to Die. We were there staying with a friend, and excited to reunite with the man who had been on our minds so much, but he canceled all plans the moment he found out we were, as he put it, ‘rolling deep’— we planned to go only if we could bring our friends along. He said he was tired after just wrapping the film, didn’t feel like “entertaining” people he didn’t know, and was disappointed we weren’t more “understanding” of that.
Our friends tried to tell us that we were being manipulated—he had plans that involved a pair of twins and no witnesses—but at that point we simply felt guilty and that we had come off as insensitive. Later that night, after calling us out, he’d send yet another message with his location and a wink in case we changed our minds. At that point, going to see him felt like an apology that we needed to make. What kept us back was the more-consuming feelings of guilt we’d had about getting our friends wrapped up in the whole scenario, so we didn’t go.
That’s why when, a few months into 2020, we still had no proof that Cary’s intentions were anything more than to get to know us, for real this time, when he invited us to “come and escape quarantine” with him in his farm house upstate. He told us that we’d go swim in his backyard pool and make food together.
At that point of isolation, we just weren’t comfortable to be with anyone outside of our immediate circle—so we told him we’d have to wait. The following week, he reached out again and asked if we’d like a ‘visitor,’ and that’s how Cary Fukunaga wound up spending the night with us at our parents home in Pennsylvania. His plan was for his assistant to drive him to pick up his motorcycle, which was being worked on in Virginia, and then he would drive the motorcycle to our parents’ place as his assistant took the car back home. When he showed up to the shop, his bike wasn’t ready, meaning he’d have to come with her or not at all. He came anyway.
The red flags were there, but we chose to let them slide. That is our fault. While on the road, just a few hours away, Cary messaged us requesting that he’d we all ‘drink all night.’ As soon as he stepped out of the car, he told us his visit was to remain “top secret.” That night, at a local restaurant, Cary continued to open up to us, about his family issues and struggles with fame. We were whipped, and he knew it. While walking out of the bar and heading for our home, Cary grabbed Cailin by the leg and commented that she seemed cold. Back at home, we all slipped into the family’s hot tub, where he asked us if we were virgins, and what our thoughts on threesomes are. When we told him that we would never participate in one, he reminded us that they ‘do them in pornos all the time,’ and even suggested incest is fine ‘if all parties are okay with it.’ He brought up our blacked-out night at the club with him—You two were really messed up, do you think you were roofied? We told him we were both taking Lexapro for anxiety, and that maybe that had something to do with it: though we never got close to that inebriated before, or since, that night.
We chalked up his bold comments to a curious nature and lack of emotional maturity. They say that fame can stunt a person in some ways, and that’s what we thought we were seeing in Cary. He’d fall asleep in our laps and ask for his hair to be stroked. He’d tell family stories with what seemed like genuine sadness. We felt sorry for him. We no longer saw him as the poised auteur we’d met on set years ago, but a vulnerable, maybe even lost, soul who was only seeking connection. We both truly liked him.
Still, we kept our drinking to a minimum that night, and ordered or poured our own drinks. Even though our emotions had all but consumed us, we wanted to make sure we at least stayed in total control of our bodies.
Looking back, maybe it should have been obvious that the two of us and Cary wanted different things. By then, it was almost certainly clear to him. He was too flirty, with us both, to just be a platonic friend. But he also didn’t seem to want a monogamous romantic relationship with either of us. We just didn’t know how to stop the train that was in motion with a man who we both genuinely liked, and the idea of us cutting him off felt over-dramatic on our part—like we couldn’t handle ourselves and we weren’t capable of just riding a wave. Whether or not we can be blamed for bringing the pain that would come next is something that we will never stop wondering.
A few weeks later, Cary invited us both to join him for dinner at his NYC penthouse. We came up with a plan: Cailin would go a few hours earlier, giving him a chance to make a move or speak up about what he wanted without both of us around.
When Cailin arrived, Cary ordered drinks and took her to his bed, where they got under the covers. Cary put a documentary on his laptop, and Cailin laid with her head on his chest. For over an hour, he did nothing but take head massages as she gave them. He didn’t really engage when she asked questions to try to get to know him better.
Later, when Hannah arrived, Cary, no longer a man of few words, skipped the small talk. He asked how our dear friend, who’d had a late-term abortion, was doing, and what we’d do if we were to become pregnant. We told him that wasn’t possible, that both of us were on birth control for hormone regulation. He wouldn’t accept that as an answer: I meant hypothetically, he replied, a tinge of annoyance in his voice. We told him we were not interested in casual relationships, and would both only have sex with someone we were seriously dating. He suggested that our waiting for a committed relationship before sex may ‘put pressure on the guy.’
When the conversation ended, and as Cary sat serenading us with his singing and guitar playing, his words still swirled around in our heads. We felt prudish. What had always felt like a personal choice we had every right to make suddenly seemed silly.
Then, he pulled out the big guns—the unreleased James Bond movie—and it was a party of three in his bed. Neither of us knew how to say no when he motioned to either side of him on the pillow. As we watched the film, he put his hand up underneath Cailin’s skirt and massaged gently. After he closed his laptop, he grabbed her and pulled her on top of him, Hannah still right there. Cailin lie there limply, just as terrified of what it would say about her if she followed his lead as it would if she didn’t. Then, she climbed off. He seemed disappointed, but invited us both to ‘drop acid’ and do molly at his house upstate that weekend, his next plan already in motion.
The next morning, Cailin sent him a long text saying we just couldn’t do it anymore, the flirting with us both. He asked to meet up with her at his apartment for breakfast. Upon arrival, Cailin spent 25 minutes, upon Cary’s request, helping select an area rug for his place. When it was finally time to discuss the elephant in the room, Cary started the conversation by asking Cailin if Hannah was “disappointed” about the canceled trip upstate. He asked Cailin to explain herself. She could barely squeak words out other than to say we both felt stupid for what had been going on, and didn’t think going upstate was a good idea until we got some clarity. He did a full 180, saying that if we thought anything at all was going on, or that he wanted a threesome, it was our anxiety disorders talking. He said that Cailin was clearly living on a different planet than he was, and that his ex-girlfriend was the same way. When she cried, he mocked her and asked why she was so bothered when we ‘didn’t even know each other.’ He said he ‘talks about sex’ all the time with people he knows, and that she was trying to find meaning that didn’t exist because she liked him. He asked if she knew ‘how bad this would look’ if the story came out in the wake of the Me Too movement, saying he ‘did not like’ the person Cailin was describing. Cailin still remembers the wild look in his eyes when he spoke to her, like she was just out of her mind for caring at all, about any of it. She called an Uber as he called after her, and neither of us ever saw him again. A final text to Hannah, claiming the whole thing was a big misunderstanding, and that he had “nothing but respect” for the two of us, went unanswered.
We both still think of his words whenever we feel like we care too much about someone or something, and probably always will. We do have anxiety disorders, but they have never caused us to see or hear things that weren’t there. We can be emotional when it comes to things and people we care about, absolutely: but if anything, we’ve always given people the benefit of the doubt, even when friends and family tell us no doubt is there. Cary’s words have made us both question, time and time again, whether our feelings are valid and our thoughts in line with reality, and we fear that will never go away.
We were not raped, fired from a job, or made to do anything physical against our will. So why does it sting so bad now to see this man, the one who we willingly walked away from, propped up as the honorable creator who brought a much-needed, ‘feminist twist’ to an iconic film franchise? We are in the driver’s seat of our own lives. We flirted back. We welcomed him into our family’s home, and when it came to be too much, we walked away through unlocked doors. Was it all our fault? Or is the influence of a powerful man, much older and supposedly wiser, enough to take at least part of the blame off our shoulders?
As for our story: if it has a moral, we don’t yet know what it is. Maybe we never will. The point of writing it is not to start a witch hunt directed at Cary, or any one man. We will never even know for sure what his intentions were. We only know what happened and how it made us feel. We’re sharing it because we know we aren't alone in our experience, and the way it has stayed with us and worn on our hearts. We’ve learned how powerful and validating it is to hear that someone else has stood in our shoes and yes, they are painful. Sometimes manipulation is less of a scream and more of a million little whispers: and just as years of pain can begin with a whisper, so can change.