SCUMBAG SQUAD

Does Brett Ratner Have a Grab ‘Em by the Pussy Posse?

The filmmaker, who stands accused of sexual misconduct by at least six women, has boasted of his sketchy friend group in the past—which includes Roman Polanski and James Toback.

As the seismic Harvey Weinstein scandal continues to reverberate throughout the entertainment industry, new allegations have fallen loose. Each subsequent aftershock unearths a name that isn’t altogether shocking—men who have been whispered about before, and men who were slow to denounce or even quick to defend known abusers in the past. When the dust settles and the #MeToo movement outs its last open Hollywood secret, it’s easy to imagine that there will be countless threads webbing these men together as friends and complicit collaborators.

Slowly but surely, the wisdom that women have had no choice but to accumulate—the whisper networks, the creep-dodging techniques, the painful knowledge that nearly everyone has a story—is going mainstream. The fact that men who consistently violate women’s boundaries like to hang out with one another is obvious to many of us. But in the wake of Weinstein, this phenomenon is being publicly substantiated by an ever-growing list of alleged offenders.

On Wednesday, the Los Angeles Times published the testimonies of six women accusing director Brett Ratner of sexual misconduct. In the exposé, actress Natasha Henstridge recalls an experience she had with Ratner when she was just 19. Henstridge explains that she and Ratner had been watching TV with friends at his New York apartment. The then-model fell asleep; when she woke up, she was alone with Ratner, who proceeded to block her from leaving. “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,” Henstridge claims. “At some point, I gave in and he did his thing.”

Actress Olivia Munn also told the LA Times, “I’ve made specific, conscientious choices not to work with Brett Ratner.” In her memoir, Suck It, Wonder Woman!: The Misadventures Of A Hollywood Geek, Munn described an incident in which a director masturbated in front of her without warning or consent. While Munn didn’t name Ratner, the director claimed the anecdote himself a year later, albeit offering a radically different account. “I used to date Olivia Munn, I’ll be honest with everyone here,” Ratner claimed. “But when she was ‘Lisa.’ She wasn’t Asian back then. She was hanging out on my set of After the Sunset, I banged her a few times, but I forgot her. Because she changed her name. I didn’t know it was the same person and so when she auditioned for me for a TV show, I forgot her, she got pissed off, and so she made up all these stories about me eating shrimp and masturbating in my trailer.”

The phenomenon of bad men admiring and befriending one another comes as no surprise.

According to the LA Times, “[Munn] 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.’” Munn further claims that at a party in 2010, the year her book was published, Ratner “boasted of ejaculating on magazine covers featuring her image.”

“It feels as if I keep going up against the same bully at school who just won’t quit,” Munn 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.”

These allegations against Ratner, who’s previously made headlines for using a homophobic slur during a screening Q&A, follow the outing of filmmaker James Toback as an alleged serial abuser.

Hundreds of women, including actresses Julianne Moore, Selma Blair, and Rachel McAdams have come forward with their stories. Blair shared an incident in 1999 when Toback invited her to his hotel room under the guise of discussing an upcoming project. After speaking highly of Blair’s potential and bragging about his industry connections, Blair told Vanity Fair, “He said, ‘I need you to take your clothes off. I need you to do this monologue naked.’” She continued, “I told him I was uncomfortable. But he continued to coax me—saying that this was in no way a come-on. This was part of training. He wanted to make me a good actress. He wanted to make me comfortable. I thought, ‘Well, my representation sent me to see him. He must be really important.’ I took off my sweater…As I was telling him, ‘Guess I better get out of here . . .’ he sat down on the bed and said, ‘No, you have to talk to me.’ He started to rub his penis through his pants and asked, ‘Would you fuck me?’”

“I went to leave and he got up and blocked the door,” Blair recalled. “He said, ‘You have to do this for me. You cannot leave until I have release.’ I said, ‘What do I have to do? I cannot touch you. I cannot have sex with you.’ He said, ‘It’s O.K. I can come in my pants. I have to rub up against your leg. You have to pinch my nipples. And you have to look into my eyes.’ I thought, ‘Well, if I can get out of here without being raped . . .’” Toback allegedly threatened to kill Blair if she ever spoke out about their interaction.

It’s possible that, like with the Toback case, these initial Ratner allegations will continue to avalanche. Already, actress Amber Tamblyn has retweeted the LA Times story, writing, “I know a woman who was too scared to go on record for this story. I stand with them all. This is not easy to do.”

But sexual misconduct and abuse of power aren’t the only things connecting the filmmakers. In a January Variety interview, Ratner bragged about his best friendship with Toback. “My closest friends are James Toback, Roman Polanski, Warren Beatty, Bob Evans,” Ratner recited. “These are the guys who have helped me and given me the best advice. I show all my films to them, and Roman, he gives me the best notes. He’s so generous with his knowledge, and he’s always giving me ideas.” In other words, prior to being outed for his own alleged misconduct, Ratner was palling around with a convicted child rapist in Polanski and a man who’s now been accused of sexual misconduct by hundreds of women in Toback. Just call them the grab ‘em by the pussy posse.

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Again, the phenomenon of bad men admiring and befriending one another comes as no surprise.  Even the exact timeline of a man supporting an abuser and then being outed as one himself has precedent.

In 2009, a petition demanding the immediate release of Roman Polanski from a Zurich detention center was signed by such luminaries as Woody Allen and Harvey Weinstein. At the time, Weinstein called on “every film-maker we can to help fix this terrible situation.”

Polanski pleaded guilty to “unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor” after he was accused of drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl in 1977. Allegations have continued to pile up against the convicted sex offender and still-celebrated director. Just last month, artist Marianne Barnard came forward claiming that the filmmaker “molested” her when she was 10 years old. In addition to Barnard, three other women have made similar allegations of sexual assault (all three said the alleged assaults occurred when they were under the age of 18).

Like Polanski, Woody Allen is a polarizing figure who somehow continues to make movies and maintain the respect of his industry peers, despite the well-publicized accusation of child molestation against him. In the wake of the Weinstein controversy, Allen was quoted saying that, “The whole Harvey Weinstein thing is very sad for everybody involved…Tragic for the poor women that were involved, sad for Harvey that [his] life is so messed up.” As the BBC noted, “Weinstein has been credited with reviving Allen’s career after Allen was accused of abusing Dylan Farrow.”

In that same Variety interview, Ratner elaborated on his relationships with Polanski and Toback, explaining, “I’m doing Polanski’s new film [“Based on a True Story”], a French movie. I’m producing it. And Toback is writing a new script for me, too. Something for him to direct, and I’d produce it.” If that weren’t enough, Ratner cast Polanski as a shady French police captain in his studio comedy Rush Hour 3.

He also offered Variety a revealing anecdote: “‘A big magazine was going to do this hatchet piece on me,’ Ratner says with a laugh. ‘They had sent this reporter, a total killer. And I was nervous, because my house at that time, it was being called this place of Hollywood sin and debauchery. And I don’t do drugs and I don’t drink, I never have. But I love to party and have fun with my friends, and fine, so maybe some things got out of control. But it was all being blown out of proportion, and I knew I was going to be in trouble because she was writing the piece. So I called [producers] Dino De Laurentiis and Bob Evans, and I said please come over and help me! I don’t know what to do or what to say to her! They came over, and keep in mind, they’d not met ever. They of course knew of each of other, but they weren’t in the same social circles. And they immediately hit it off and it was great and they saved me!’”

Robert Evans produced Polanski’s Chinatown and later pleaded guilty to trafficking cocaine (he does not, as far as we know, stand accused of sexual assault), and in a strange turn, actress Katharine Towne, daughter of Chinatown screenwriter Robert Towne, is one of Ratner’s alleged victims. Earlier in the article, Toback had described Brett Ratner’s Hilhaven Lodge as “my second home.”