Last week, when Bryan Singer was fired from the Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, it was a bit like seeing a mobster go down for tax evasion. After all, Singer has been hounded by sexual assault allegations for years and in the midst of the #MeToo movement, the news that he was being removed from a studio film so close to completion seemed like an indicator that a story about sexual misconduct was about to drop.
Not that his firing wasn’t salacious enough—the reports that he’d gone missing from the film’s set for days, had fights with star Rami Malek, and had a history of vanishing from film sets like Superman Returns and X-Men: Apocalypse highlighted how Singer’s career was the epitome of Hollywood’s white male privilege problem. He’d been rewarded for years for unprofessional behavior that would get women and directors of color fired. But as it often seems in this Hollywood climate, a swift firing does indeed mean that the other shoe is about to drop.
Days after Singer was released from Bohemian Rhapsody, a new lawsuit was filed against him by Cesar Sanchez-Guzman, who alleges the director forced a then 17-year-old Sanchez-Guzman to perform oral sex on him before raping him on a yacht in 2003. Sanchez-Guzman also alleges the director threatened him should he choose to come forward with his story. Filed in the state of Washington (and available to read here), the lawsuit states Sanchez-Guzman is suing for: “emotional distress, mental anguish, physical and mental pain and suffering, a decrease in his ability to enjoy life, past and future medical expenses, attorneys’ fees and costs, and other general and special damages, all in an amount to be determined at trial.”
Given most studios’ swift responses to recent sexual assault allegations, this might’ve been enough to get Singer removed from Bohemian Rhapsody on its own, even without the added chaos of fighting with the film’s lead and vanishing from set. But will it be enough to effectively end Singer’s career the way that Kevin Spacey’s allegations have? That’s up for debate. After all, once Anthony Rapp came forward about Spacey allegedly forcing himself on him at age 14, it opened the floodgates of Spacey-related stories not just from his past, but recent ones from the set of House of Cards.
When it comes to Singer, no such stories have surfaced. Perhaps it’s because of accounts like Bryan Tyler Skopek’s, an ex teen lover of Singer’s who shared with Deadline that many of the young men who’ve attended Singer’s infamous Hollywood parties did so to make it ahead in Hollywood. There’s always been the “casting couch” hanging over the heads of young Hollywood hopefuls, but it takes on a different nature when it’s used to manipulate gay men. For men to admit that they’ve taken part in the so-called casting couch, many would have to admit their sexuality in an industry that still shames men for being gay, still casts straight men in gay romances like Call Me by Your Name, and allows performatively masculine alpha men to mock people for being effeminate, whether they’re gay or not, in professional settings. It was basically a running joke on Entourage; it’s why many people in Hollywood still fear coming out. Even in 2017, it could effectively end a career.
There’s also the fact that Sanchez-Guzman is being represented by Jeff Herman, a lawyer who tried to take down Singer in the past. He represented Michael Egan, who accused Singer and other men in the industry of sexual misconduct, only to withdraw his claims. Singer’s lawyer has latched onto this information to discredit Sanchez-Guzman.
Andrew Brettler, a partner at the firm representing Singer, issued a statement in defense of the director: “Bryan categorically denies these allegations and will vehemently defend this lawsuit to the very end. When Sanchez-Guzman filed for bankruptcy only a few years ago, he failed to disclose this alleged claim when he was supposed to identify all of his assets, but conveniently, now that the bankruptcy court discharged all of his debts, he is able to recall the alleged events. The attorney behind this lawsuit is the same lawyer who represented Michael Egan, the convicted felon who sued Bryan Singer in 2014. In the end, Egan was forced to dismiss that case once the facts came out and his story completely fell apart.”
Singer, having faced off with these types of charges before, is obviously confident that he can beat them again. He’s so emboldened, in fact, he had the gall to prophesize not only his eventual comeback, but Spacey’s as well, to TMZ: “He’ll always be able to work. It’s just up to the audience. These are loaded questions. These questions…people want to hear one answer or the other. He’s a guy that I helped launch his career. He’s an acquaintance of mine, and it depends on the project, I guess.”
Why wouldn’t Singer believe that he and Spacey could make comebacks? Hollywood, after all, continues to celebrate men like Woody Allen who has had a child molestation allegation against him, and Roman Polanski, who has been convicted of actual rape charges. Even this week, Armie Hammer, who called out the double standard of Nate Parker’s career ending while Casey Affleck went unscathed for sexual harassment allegations, issued a public apology to Affleck in order to avoid legal ramifications (he referred to the allegations as “assault,” not “harassment in his interview). This is how quickly Hollywood lawyers work.
In an industry that continues to cater to powerful men and make excuses for them—hell, in a country where our president can ignore his own sexual-assault allegations and throw his support behind a Senate candidate with allegations of hebephilia against him—why wouldn’t Singer believe that he and Spacey could be seated next to each other at some future awards ceremony, laughing at everyone who dared try to take them on?