Eight Women Accuse Hollywood Filmmaker Max Landis of Emotional and Sexual Abuse: ‘We’re Not People to Him’
Eight accusers have come forward against the ‘Bright’ screenwriter and Hollywood scion alleging a pattern of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse that spans a decade.
When Ani Baker decided to post her Max Landis warning on social media last week, it was with one word in mind: “protect.”
She had been extremely upset to learn that Landis, the screenwriter behind Chronicle and Bright, still had videos of Baker posted in the “highlight” section of his Instagram, despite the fact that she had broken up with him months ago and demanded no contact. Baker figured that new, vulnerable women just entering Landis’ life would quickly find her page.
“If you have found my page via Max Landis, hi,” Baker wrote. “I’m going to give you some direct info I wish I had gotten, because the experience/aftermath of this person is really destructive, and it will be riddled with pain and emotional work that you don’t need to spend your precious energy on.”
Baker told The Daily Beast that she quickly received supportive responses, many from other women who had their own Max Landis stories: “Women that I had never heard of who are like, I too was tortured by this person.”
“It gets worse every day,” Baker continued. “Every story I hear, I’m like, how did I think I knew this person? It’s horrifying. But I just feel like I need to be as honest as possible, since my goal in this is to help other people to not be in the same position.”
Baker wasn’t the first person to call Landis out on his “destructive” behavior. Back in 2017, a number of entertainment-industry insiders wrote about Landis on social media—the posts ranged from not-so-subtle subtweets to overt call-outs. In response to a Netflix tweet promoting Bright, an upcoming Landis project, the actress Anna Akana responded, “Written by a psychopath who sexually abused and assaults women, right? Cool.” (Max Landis did not respond to multiple requests for comment through his representative.)
“I can’t imagine who is more scared in a post-Weinstein world than a famous director’s son,” musician and writer Allie Goertz posted. Landis’ father, John Landis, is best known for directing films like National Lampoon’s Animal House, An American Werewolf in London, and Coming to America.
Akana, who has continued to speak out publicly about Landis, told The Daily Beast that she first started hearing “terrible things” about the screenwriter when they were still friends, years ago. “And then after I went public there were more people who came to me.” She estimated that she had heard “a little less than a dozen, maybe like 10 or so” firsthand allegations of sexual misconduct in total. As for secondhand allegations, there were too many to count. “There’s too many voices to ignore,” Akana insisted. “And I felt the need to be vocal because Max is intimidating and he’s scary. And I’ve seen, being in that friend group, one of the most frustrating things is that he would lord his power and his money over people and intimidate them into friendship, or into forgiveness.”
“He trusted that we wouldn’t ever say anything, worked actively to discredit people who were saying things, and was just as consistent in the abuse as he was with covering it up and manipulating us afterwards,” Julie*, an ex-girlfriend and former friend of Landis’s, explained. “I didn’t realize that I had been raped consistently and deliberately by this man for two years until today, when I wrote it down.”
Recently, Julie joined Baker in publicly denouncing Landis. “Even up until the end of last year, I told Max that after everything I still believed he was a Good Person and that he was Trying,” Julie explained in a written statement that she shared with The Daily Beast. “In short, the reason I let him back into my life was his subsequent relationships. The incredible, smart, nurturing and empathetic women he conned into a relationship after me seemed to vouch for his improvement and I thought, if these women believe in him, he must have learned. Just by association he seemed like a better person.”
Many of the ex-friends, colleagues, and girlfriends that spoke to The Daily Beast for this piece stressed the role that Landis’ careful cultivation of acquaintances played in his alleged pattern of predation. Landis’ wealth and family connections were certainly tools in his arsenal, but so was the friend group he kept around him as both a lure and a shield.
At one point known as “the Colour Society” (a spelling that Landis allegedly insisted upon), Landis’ circle was an immediate draw for Julie, who first met Landis when she was relatively new to Los Angeles. “Max’s whole entire MO was, he had a special friend group, it’s very exclusive, and you’re lucky to be a part of it. He introduced me to almost every single one of my current friends.”
Lainey*, a former friend of Landis’ whose stint in the Colour Society overlapped with Julie’s, had a similar introduction to the circle. “Max was one of the first people I met when I moved to Los Angeles. He had amassed this huge group of really cool people that he would get together for ridiculous activities. One-hundred person Nerf battles and elaborate theme parties which he casually spent 50K on. As someone who grew up with just a small group of close friends, the idea of feeling part of this crazy, creative, weird and charismatic community was really appealing. It gave me this sense of belonging I’d always craved.”
Multiple ex-members compared aspects of the group dynamic to a “cult.” “I think he really does operate sort of as a cult leader,” Samantha*, a former friend who also briefly dated Landis, told The Daily Beast. “Here’s someone with a lot of resources and power and glamour, and he’s surrounding himself with people, basically kids who just moved to L.A. from who knows where, who don’t have a network. He swoops in, and like a predator, he knows how to hook a person.”
Multiple women who dated Landis described similar experiences of being relentlessly pursued and eventually dragged into his orbit—first as friends, and then as something more. “My initial impression of him was he’s trouble,” explained Samantha, who met Landis in college at the University of Miami. “He just sort of wears you down. He’s that persistent. He sees something shiny and he wants it. He’s like, I have to have it.” She added, “He would systematically try to have sex with all the women I knew. We’re not people to him.”
Julie’s romantic relationship with Landis lasted for two years. Like Samantha, she recalled being relentlessly pursued by Max. “He jokingly called me a ‘paint cat’ in reference to the ill-fated feline who tries desperately to escape the clutches of Pepe Le Pew,” Julie wrote in her statement. “I was showered with affection, new friends, parties, and intense I-love-yous.”
Describing the spectrum of abuse that she experienced during their relationship, Julie wrote, “[Landis would] bring up his hand and fake that he was going to hit me, and laugh when I flinched. He’d constantly threaten to break up with me, speak about his ‘prospects’ to me and openly flirt in front of me. On multiple occasions he’d refer to me as his ex-girlfriend in front of girls at parties we’d go to together as a couple. He’d openly critique my body in front of people and tell me privately that I had the potential to be ‘so hot’ if I committed to working out more. He’d graphically describe sex with his ex-girlfriends and rate their abilities compared to mine, both to me and to his friends and work associates.”
Lainey recalled witnessing this kind of behavior on multiple occasions. “Things like introducing [Julie] as his ex-girlfriend and calling her fat when she walked away to go get a drink.” Samantha also observed the way [Landis] spoke to both Julie and Dani Manning, a previous ex-girlfriend. “It was abusive,” she insisted. “He would manipulate them, body-shame them, and was just generally cruel.”
But what Landis’ extended friend group didn’t see was the “sexual violence” that Julie contends was part of their relationship “from the beginning.”
“He showed me abuse and humiliation porn and constantly tested my boundaries—this became murkier and murkier as our relationship got more tumultuous, as I grew to view sex with him as the only way to receive love and connect,” Julie wrote in her statement. “This lead to me allowing myself to become more and more abused. He claimed that seeing me cry was a turn-on—this later turned into a routine of him yelling and humiliating me until I cried, then having sex with me while I continued to cry with no regard or effort to make things right. He’d instigate fights, belittle and upset me, just so he could have sex with me, and the real, legitimate fights ended the same way. He choked me until I passed out and did humiliating, degrading things to me that I still can’t manage to write out on paper.”
“He continued to violate my boundaries into even after our relationship, and if any of this still feels like a blurred lines scenario let me assure you that he did hold me down and rape me while I said ‘no’ over and over. Afterwards I punched him in the shoulder and I told him, ‘When someone says no, you’re supposed to stop. What you just did is what they call rape.’ He said he thought we were playing a game, and that I liked it. He didn’t care.”
While Julie only recently disclosed this alleged sexual abuse to her two sisters, they both recall picking up on “red flags” from the very start. Her oldest sister recalled an incident in which Julie called her crying “after a big fight when he jumped on the hood of her car.”
“I’d see pictures and notice she was losing weight,” she added. “Her self-confidence was plunging, and she stopped really sharing with us… Toward the end of their relationship was a really negative time for us as sisters because I didn’t really know what was happening in her life. And then once she stopped dating him that completely changed, which was pretty crazy to see that 180 happen.”
“I just got the sense that he’s this very controlling guy,” Julie’s other sister told The Daily Beast. She agreed that, “He definitely used to try to drive a wedge between us. [Julie] was like, Max thinks that you guys are so different from me and that’s why I felt left out between the three of us for so many years. He almost convinced her of problems within the family.”
“Max Landis is a serial rapist, gaslighter, physical and psychological abuser who tormented me for six years, long after our romantic relationship, both directly and behind my back,” Julie wrote in her statement. In a 2016 email to Max Landis that was reviewed by The Daily Beast, Julie summarized much of the alleged physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, including the “jumping on my car” incident and the night “where I said no multiple times then punched you in the shoulder after and said, ‘if someone says no, they mean no,’ and you laughed it off.”
Landis responded to the email: “Well, this all sounds horrible.”
When Julie and Landis first met, a vibrant social life was part of Landis’ appeal. During their romantic relationship and after it ended, it was a weapon he used against her. “Friendship has always been currency to [Landis],” Julie explained. “He’d isolate me from [friends], make sure I wasn’t invited to things, tell them terrible things about me even after we dated, after I found forgiveness for him… He discredited any person who criticized him and started smear campaigns on pretty much every person who has ever been his friend.”
Julie told The Daily Beast that recent conversations she’s had with Baker and Kerry*, another ex-girlfriend of Landis’, caused her to further reassess her relationship with Landis. Her continued friendship with Landis, which lasted for years after they broke up, was built on the foundational myth that he “was getting better”—“better with Kerry than he was with me, better with Ani than he was with Kerry. And then it became clear that he had continued to hurt women in the same way that he hurt me. He never got better; he only learned to say the right things.”
“Now I understand that he won’t get better and he is a dangerous person and everything that I thought about him trying and him improving was really just an act.”
Julie is still coming to terms with “how much [Landis] hid behind his friends and surrounded himself purposefully with good people, and how much guilt I feel over the fact that I may have made it seem like he was safe, just by being around him and just by lending my presence to his friend group. He used all of us.”
As the founder and leader of the Colour Society, Landis was able to lavish his friends while also keeping them in line. “Every Halloween, he’d pick out his 10 favorite people of the moment, rent a limousine and take them celebrity party-hopping,” Lainey recalled. “Then the next year, half those people weren’t deemed worthy anymore and were replaced. He’d also hold annual ‘Burning Max’ trips to Big Bear or Idyllwild where it was the same deal. No matter the occasion he’d encourage people to talk shit about the people who weren’t there. Create rifts he could manipulate later for fun, or get information he could use. It was both incredibly juvenile and a cleverly megalomaniacal way to keep people in line. Everyone wants to feel special, and he did that while also tearing you to shreds.”
The group was constantly in flux, with ex-members recalling the frequent, unexplained disappearances of key players. “People would leave in waves,” Lainey told The Daily Beast.
Multiple sources confirmed a pattern in which a friend or recent ex-girlfriend of Landis’ would disappear from the social scene, and Max would immediately begin to speak ill of them. Brad Gage, who was one of Landis’ best friends for almost a decade, recalled, “He would have these people in his life and he would torment them so much where they would literally cut him out completely. And it was such a foreign idea to me, but now I understand—they were smart. He portrayed them as crazy, but of course they were the ones who knew that they needed to just completely excise him from their life.”
Friends who cut Landis out recall his efforts to bring them back into the fold. Over their roughly four-year friendship, Lainey said that Landis “bullied and emotionally abused” her. On top of making “fat-shaming comments” at her expense, Landis allegedly engaged in “psychological toying,” as in, “I’m going to give you attention and tell you you’re great and then I’m going to ignore you for five weeks like you did something wrong and then I’m going to give you a little bit more attention.” She noted that, “He did that with a lot of people.”
Lainey also recalled an instance in which she “went to the bathroom and threw up” because she didn’t know she was going to be seeing Landis. “I couldn’t stop shaking. He was always vicious, but everyone would say, oh, that’s just how Max is. He’s a jerk. He knows it. He calls himself out on it. There was this conflation of self-awareness with meaningful change. In my opinion, some of the worst people in the world are those who openly admit they’re terrible, using that proclamation as a get-out-of-jail-free card. They think, well, you were warned.”
After Lainey extracted herself from the group, Landis would occasionally call her and ask her to come back. “Because the closer you keep the people you hurt, the less likely they are to have enough distance to realize what really happened.”
When Anna Akana first called out Landis on social media in 2017, Lainey received a call from him, which she categorized as “damage control”: “He called me to apologize, and in the very same breath said he didn’t really remember what he did to me. He says, I don’t know what I’m apologizing for, but I’m very sorry if I ever made you feel bad. It was surreal.”
“I was friends with Julie when she dated Max and you could see her losing weight, and witness him going after other women while he was with her to keep her on her toes,” Dani Manning recalled. “And the same thing happened to Kerry.”
In a statement to The Daily Beast, Kerry wrote that Landis “picked on me constantly. He’d say ‘you don’t do hot girl well’ or ‘you should do whatever she does to work out’ while pointing at some other woman’s body. He’d compliment me for not eating. He bought me workout classes to shape me the way he wanted. I lost 15 pounds I couldn’t afford to lose while we were together, and even though he’d bring up openly that he’d given an ex-girlfriend an eating disorder I somehow didn’t identify what was happening to me as that.”
In an interview that was written up by Jezebel, Landis infamously mentioned an ex-girlfriend who he “gave a crippling social anxiety, self-loathing, body dysmorphia, eating disorder to.”
Throughout the three years that Landis was in her life, Baker found herself taking on the roles of “teacher, PR person, and therapist.” She was entirely dedicated to the project of Landis’ self-improvement. “He opened with, yeah, I used to be terrible but I’ve changed so much, and I want to keep changing.” After a period of dating while still seeing other people, Landis took Baker out to lunch and told her that he wanted to commit to her and “become a new person, really, for real.” His life had already “started to implode,” Baker explained, and longtime friends like Gage had cut him out for good. “I said, OK. And he walked me to my car and he kissed me and he said, I kind of want to get you a personal trainer.”
“Abuse is slippery. No one starts out announcing that they’re abusive, you discover it slowly,” Kerry wrote in her statement. “But Max did, somewhat, announce that he was abusive. That was what was so disarming about his particular brand of manipulation… Max also quickly lets you know that he’s sick (with cyclothymia—a form of bipolar disorder) and this was tied to the ways in which he was abusive. It made it even harder to see clearly. It caused me to often mis-file his abusive behaviors as sad indicators of his illness and, as a result, I would often wind up comforting him in regards to his own remorse over his actions.”
“Once he choked me and told me he wanted to kill me. And I would wind up reassuring him that he wasn’t a monster when he felt bad about it. Because I felt bad that he was so sick.”
Manning, who started dating Landis around 2007, “has blocked most of that time out.”
“It was a long time ago and I know there are other things that I just cannot bring forward and do not want to in my mind,” Manning wrote in a statement. “The emotional abuse took control of me to the point where I got down to 115 lbs. at 5’10—still not skinny enough. He’d smack food out of my hand in front of his family to stop me from eating it. He told me that if I worked out more I’d be supermodel pretty. Except I was not pretty. And I would be told why, in detail. Which body parts and facial features. I’d get insulted if the outfit I wore didn’t look sexy enough or made my body look bad.”
She added, “There was no option of not having sex if Max wanted to and you did not.”
“The first incident that I can remember, we were at some public event and I think I laughed at something and he just started choking me to the point where my eyes were blacking out,” Manning told The Daily Beast. “I felt such confusion that I tried to leave and I was drunk and I had to just kind of wait while he tried to convince me that he didn’t mean it.”
“I remember going rollerskating with Max. He was not good at rollerskating, and I laughed. I was knocked to the ground. He threw the plate of food he’d been holding in my face.”
Even after Manning broke up with Landis, he remained an oversized presence in her life. “It felt like everywhere I went wasn’t safe because he would be there and all the places I loved, he would be there. There was no escaping him, so I kind of just gave up. Because if I wanted to stay away from him, I would have to cut off all my friends and I wasn’t strong enough to do that.” Like other women, Manning received a call from the screenwriter when the public allegations began. “He called me crying and saying I’m sorry for anything I ever did to hurt you. But I don’t know how many people got that call.”
Like many others, Manning told The Daily Beast that Landis’ abuse followed an increasingly predictable pattern. “He does the same thing to every woman,” she explained. “You’re always not quite good enough. And there’s always a woman who he’s dated before you and he’s done all the same things to her. His excuse is that he sees his own faults and acknowledges what he did to these women. Meanwhile, he’s doing all of those same things to you. I just remember he was so honest about the way he treated the woman he dated in college, saying I gave her this eating disorder and I cheated on her a million times; and at the same time, he was already making comments about my weight.”
Gage, who first became friends with Landis at the University of Miami in 2007, told The Daily Beast that Landis had a “whole history” of “transforming these incredible, vibrant women into this type of woman that he was looking for.” He added, “All of them go blonde, all of them lose weight, and all of them are under his spell.”
A heavily redacted legal document obtained by The Daily Beast shows that Max Landis was involved in a September 2008 Miami circuit court case, “Domestic Violence Division.” The Daily Beast reached out to Callie Ray, the woman listed on the documents. Ray confirmed that she made the 2008 sexual-assault allegation against Landis, and eventually dropped the case. She directed The Daily Beast to her close friend, Ashley Heffington Dionne, who witnessed her alleged sexual assault by Landis.
In a written statement, Dionne recalled that Callie had told her she was going out for drinks that night with a group of friends, including Max Landis. Later that night, Dionne wrote, “I was asleep and awoke to what sounded like a person falling, and then I heard what sounded like another person picking up someone and setting them down. I then heard more sounds of motion, then I heard Callie’s voice ask in a confused and quiet voice, “[her then-boyfriend’s nickname]” and then repeat the name she called her boyfriend, still sounding confused and delirious. I then heard a male voice confirming he was [boyfriend’s name]. Knowing her boyfriend was out of town at the time, I jumped out of my bed and walked into our shared living room to see Max over Callie on our couch. He was on top of her and her pants were off and he was thrusting and I could hear the sound of what he was doing. I yelled, ‘You need to leave right now!’ He got up, quickly pulling his pants up, and I physically rushed him, aggressively demanding he leave.”
“Standing now in the car port I yelled at him that what he was doing was wrong and it was not OK and that he needed to leave right now,” Dionne continued. “He started to get highly emotional and was crying, saying he knew it was wrong and he was so sorry. It seemed as though he was hoping to be comforted in that moment.”
“I went back inside to check on my friend. She was crying and confused and in and out of consciousness.”
The next morning, Dionne asked her friend if she remembered anything from the previous night. “She could not remember much, but woke up feeling physically ill and profoundly sad,” Dionne wrote. “She recalled she had been out having drinks with a group of friends that included Max. She could remember being out drinking but couldn’t remember much more than that. I told Callie what I witnessed and that I thought it was a serious violation to her and a crime. After talking through it, we decided to go to the police station to file a report that morning. I drove her to the station and we both gave a statement and filed a police report.”
Shortly after they filed the report, Dionne accompanied Callie and her mother to the courthouse for a hearing. As they were sitting in the waiting area of the courtroom, Dionne recalled Max’s attorney approaching them. “She began speaking and her tone was condescending and aggressive, asking if Callie understood what the process would be like. She indicated it would be long and she would have to talk about the assault over and over. The attorney came off patronizing as she said things like, I will make you look like an idiot and this is not going to be easy on you. The attorney said she was going to make a fool of Callie, talking about how much she drinks and talking about the nature of her relationship to Max. She then asked again if this is how Callie wanted to handle ‘this issue.’ I could feel that Callie was overwhelmed. Callie sat there, tears running down her face, holding hands with her mother and with me. Callie said she did not want to go through with ‘this process.’”
“I think if I had not been home to hear Max violate my friend she would not have known what happened to her,” Dionne concluded. “I had hoped that us confronting him would mean that he would not do it again. She had always characterized and viewed their friendship to be platonic. And regardless, what I saw was no grey area. My friend was not in a conscious state and he lied to her by implying he was her boyfriend. This was rape.”
Despite an alleged decade-long history of sexual misconduct, it wasn’t until this year that a detailed firsthand allegation against Landis first surfaced. As The Daily Beast reported at the time, the anonymously penned Medium post “described an incident that allegedly occurred during a June 2012 trip to Hicksville Trailer Palace in Joshua Tree with Landis.” According to the author of the post, she was intoxicated when Landis first attempted to “grab” her. After she tried to run away, the writer continued, Landis “grabbed me and pushed me down onto the bed, with his knees holding my thighs apart and his hands holding down my arms so that I couldn’t get away. I could feel his erection pressing into me through my clothes, and he was pulling up my shirt. He kept trying to kiss me as I was turning my head from side to side trying to dodge him. I kept saying no.” Eventually, the writer wrote that she “went limp and pretended to pass out,” and Landis got off of her. The Medium post also referenced a would-be 2017 Landis exposé in The Hollywood Reporter, which was never published. THR did not respond to The Daily Beast’s requests for comment at that time.
For Ani Baker, the Medium post was the final straw. Ever since Anna Akana and the first wave of social-media posts, Landis had been terrified of sexual misconduct accusers coming forward, Baker told The Daily Beast. “We knew about the story that was possibly going to break and I said, I want you to tell me about each and every one of these encounters, have you assaulted or raped anybody. He maintained that he hadn’t. And he walked me through each of the situations, like the Joshua Tree story, he told me his version: I tried to hook up with her. She said stop. And I did.”
“He knew who the women were that were on record. So he would tell me about each of those accounts, either dismissing them and saying like, she’s doing this now for a purpose, or saying actually, I probably was scary to her in that situation. I went to therapy with him about this, where he entered into a stage of trying to figure out if he could be a rapist. He would say, I’ve gone through the list in my mind, every single encounter that I’ve ever had, and I just have to say, I’m not a rapist. And he’d be crying.”
Baker encouraged Landis to hire a new publicist to help him write a statement maintaining that he wasn’t a sexual assailant, but apologizing to women who he had mistreated or hurt in the past.
Baker and Landis spent countless hours “exhaustively going through” the stories—his versions of them, at least. “I said, Max, if I ever learn that you are lying to me about any of these encounters and there’s more to these stories than what you’re telling me… If I learn that you have raped someone, if I learn that you have sexually assaulted somebody, then I’m not going to be able to handle that. And he would say, I know, I told you everything, there’s nothing else that I’m not telling you, that will never happen.”
Reading that Medium article, Baker saw a different version of the story that Landis had relayed to her countless times. “I read what actually happened from her perspective, and it is aggressive sexual assault. And I immediately emailed or texted him and I said, you lied to me.”
According to Baker, Veronica* was another potential accuser that Landis tried to preemptively discredit. The alleged sexual assault happened while Baker was dating Landis, before they began seeing each other exclusively.
Veronica first met Landis through mutual friends in 2012. “Within minutes of meeting him, he called me ‘retarded’ for my choice in food, and accused another mutual friend of having an eating disorder for her order as well, in the same breath,” she told The Daily Beast. “I immediately wrote him off. He was rude, loud, and obnoxious and I wanted nothing to do with him, and yet I was still curious as to why the majority of my social circle seemed to like him so much.”
Sensing Veronica’s resistance to his friendship, Landis began to “lovebomb” her around 2015—“constantly telling me how smart and talented he thought I was, and how he was so glad we were finally becoming friends.” As Veronica began to consider Landis a close friend, the disturbing behavior that previously repulsed her was used to pull her even closer. “I began to notice how he treated people who crossed him. He created a group chat with his closest friends where he would essentially character assassinate people he didn’t like to us… His character assassinations carried weight. People were iced out of the circle and lost friends and opportunities, all over lies that he told us. I see all of this now as him openly displaying his power to us, and what he could do to us if we dared to challenge him. It was his subtle way of bolstering the loyalty of his base and keeping us in line.”
In early 2017, Veronica went through a breakup, and Landis quickly “swooped in.” He insisted she go on a date with him. “While I wasn’t that interested in him romantically, he did make me believe as though I could trust him fully,” she explained.
“He suggested we go to Disneyland and stay overnight. He drove us there, and we stayed in a room with two beds,” Veronica told The Daily Beast. “Upon arriving to the hotel room, the first thing he did was physically overpower me. He pinned me to one of the beds, face-down, and began touching my crotch through my leggings. I was shocked. When he saw he had scared me, he laughed and said, ‘That made you uncomfortable, didn’t it?’”
“That’s when it began to sink in for me that I was physically trapped there with him for the next 24 hours.”
Referencing the author of the Medium post, Veronica noted, “He took her on a trip physically to another place, drove her there, and then assaulted her there because she couldn’t go anywhere and she was tied to him and couldn’t get home. And that’s exactly what happened to me.”
Once they left the hotel room for the park, Veronica told The Daily Beast, the situation continued to escalate. “He tried to put his hand down my pants and up my shirt while we were waiting in line for rides, surrounded by children and families. People began to notice as I was trying to dodge his hands. I was absolutely humiliated. I told him to stop and he didn’t. Halfway through the day, it escalated into him loudly shouting at me that he ‘wanted to fuck’ so we had to go back to the room.” Veronica was embarrassed by Landis’ public behavior and recalled “thinking I had to get Max out of there or he would get us kicked out by molesting me openly and screaming about sex.”
Back in the hotel room, Veronica and Landis had sex, which she described as “rough and violent, but over relatively quickly.”
“I don’t remember much about it,” Veronica continued. “I was in too much shock over how this ‘date’ was going with someone I previously had so much trust in. Prior to this, Max and I had had no sexual contact.” She begged him to go back to the park, where she felt he “might be held slightly more accountable for his actions.”
That night at the hotel, Veronica claimed that Landis tried to initiate sex again. “I told him I was really uncomfortable with this situation and didn’t want to again. He became enraged, and began screaming at me and throwing things in the hotel room around. I shrank into a corner on the far end of the hotel room to put some space between us and then he loudly complained that I wasn’t being a good date.”
In the morning, Veronica told The Daily Beast, “I awoke to him performing oral sex on me, despite expressing the night before that I wasn’t interested in sex again.”
“I was frozen in fear,” she continued. “When he noticed he said, ‘You know you can ask me to stop, right?’ I said, ‘Oh, I can? Then yes, please stop.’ He actually continued for a moment before deciding he was bored.”
Anna Akana told The Daily Beast that Veronica texted her “when it was going on or right after” her discomfort started at Disneyland, “because he was physically putting his hands in her pants while they were in line for rides and she was like, back the fuck up, there are children around, this is weird. And he just got super inappropriate and then assaulted her at the hotel. She said, I don’t want to do this.”
Veronica also told her friend Ethan* about the incident. “I saw Veronica at a party and I can’t remember how it came up,” Ethan told The Daily Beast, “but she just point blank pulled me into a corner and said remember that shithole Max that everyone knew was a shithole? Turns out he’s a shithole, he sexually assaulted me. And she started getting kind of emotional. She said, I got stuck with him just like everyone else. He took me somewhere where I couldn’t go leave and I thought it was as a friend, and then he sexually assaulted me and I was scared of him. The phrase she said was, everyone’s scared of Max. He gets really, really scary when he’s upset with you.”
Once Landis claimed to have committed fully, both to Ani Baker and to his own self-improvement, she was pressured not to bring up his prior actions. At one point, earlier in their relationship, Baker had decided that she was sick of Landis “actively fucking with [her] emotions,” and sent him a clear and forceful email explaining that while they could continue to be friends, she could no longer sleep with him. Landis responded that he understood and respected her decision to take sex off the table.
The next time they hung out, Baker recalled, Landis drove her home and attempted to initiate sex. “I said, I don’t want to do this with you anymore. And he said, are you sure? But he said are you sure in a ‘I’m playing a sex game and I think it’s hot that you’re saying no’ way. It was like, are you sure as he is starting to unzip his pants. And I said, yes, I’m not doing this with you anymore. I don’t want to. And he pulled his dick out continuing to say, are you sure, and he put his hand around the back of my neck and started to slowly pull my head towards him and his dick is out now. And I said, I really don’t want to do this.”
“He just continued to pull my head slowly, until it was in his lap,” Baker continued. “I was still attracted to him, we had had a sexual relationship and he knew that, but it was that I wanted to protect myself and my own emotions. I expressed that to him very clearly, and he told me that he understood. And he did understand, but he didn’t care. So I did it, and I got out of the car. And after that, we just were having sex again.”
There was another incident later on in their relationship, which Landis later claimed not to remember. “We finished having sex and we were standing naked in this kitchen and I slapped his butt, and he said, don’t slap my butt. And I said, no, I’m going to, in a way that I thought was playful, and he snapped, is the only way I can describe it. He turned around and he put his hands around my throat and he got very close to my face and he said, ‘I will fucking kill you. Do you understand what I’m saying? I will fucking kill you.’”
One of the most “emotionally painful” things that Landis did occurred early in their romantic relationship, Baker said. She recalled an incident, right after they had slept together, when Landis asked her if she wanted to see something “awful.” He opened his computer and showed her a “very long list” of women’s names—all of the women who he had slept with, according to Landis. “At the top was a key he had made to rank each experience as enjoyable or not, exciting or not, etc. Some of the women weren’t listed by their names, just by their ethnicity and the location of the encounter, because he didn’t know their names. He scrolled to the bottom and showed me my name, with his rankings next to it.”
When Baker began to cry, she told The Daily Beast, Landis looked at her “expressionless.” He said that he had shown the list to other women, and that they had had “the same reaction” as Baker, “So he ‘didn’t know why he kept doing it.’”
“This list, and the way he went about showing it to the women who were on it, was one of the most telling things about the way he viewed women,” Baker concluded. “He collected experiences with women for his own enjoyment and ego, and then turned those experiences into pain and devaluation, for as many women as he could.”
Baker claimed that Landis “would not let [her] leave” when she attempted to break up with him, and believes that Landis clung to her with greater fervor the more he feared for his career following a spate of online allegations. “He would constantly say, like when he was ready to cop to stuff, he would say, OK, fine, I’ve made women feel used. I’ve been a shitty guy, but I have never ever let it bleed into my work life. I’ve never had a sexual relationship with anybody on any set, I’ve never been inappropriate with anybody on a set. He said, that’s not what kind of a monster I am. He said, everyone who’s ever worked with me will say that it was the best experience of their life.”
When she was an 18-year-old college student, Masha Mendieta had an unpaid acting role in a student film. Max Landis played an unspecified role in the production. “I’m pretty sure he was just another actor, I’m almost positive that was not his script or his production,” Mendieta told The Daily Beast. But over a decade later, Landis still holds the distinction of being “one of the worst guys on set that I’ve ever encountered.”
“The title goes to Max Landis for introducing me to sexual harassment in the workplace,” she said.
Mendieta went on to work as an actress for almost 10 years, but that little role on a comedy short film was one of her first parts. She had been cast as a “sorority extra” in a group of other female actors. Once she got to the February 2007 shoot, she was instantly confused, “because the name of who was in charge was not Max Landis, but when I showed up, Max was sitting there on the director’s chair.” Emails from December 2006 listing both Mendieta and Landis as actors on the project were reviewed by The Daily Beast.
As the shoot progressed, Landis shouted out orders and issued rude and condescending suggestions, according to Mendieta. To her surprise, everyone involved in the production seemed to accept his unearned authority. When Mendieta and the other “sorority girls’” time came, they were informed, “all of a sudden,” that they needed to be topless for the scene. The Daily Beast reviewed a copy of the script that was sent to Mendieta ahead of the shoot. It does not include any explicit mention of the “sorority extras” being topless.
“And I remember Max specifically yelling that at us. And all of the girls going, what? Because that was not the expectation,” said Mendieta.
She and the other actors went into the dressing room area and emerged topless.
“I’m trying to face the wall and show my back instead to the crew and Max is still posted up on his chair and he starts making sexual jokes and just harassing us. I remember he starts making a joke about, like, us dropping our hands and starting a party, that kind of thing. Granted it was 12 years ago we’re talking about, but I remember him making comments about our breasts and our bodies. He was doing it in front of everyone and nobody stood up or said anything. And that’s when I decided, this is not OK.”
Mendieta and some of the other actors demanded pasties, which had not been supplied. This only reinforced Mendieta’s impression that “the intention going in was just to have a half-dozen girls walking around with their boobs out for your enjoyment on this like 90 percent male set.” Eventually they found some tape the women could cover themselves with. “I’m pretty sure it was duct tape,” Mendieta added, “because I remember it hurting so much coming off at the end.”
“At one point I walked by and Max said something, kind of hitting on me,” Mendieta continued. “Can I hug you, or come sit on my lap, it was something like that. And at that point I’d had enough. And still nobody said anything to him, and it just completely soured the experience. I turned around and I told them, I’m out.” She said a number of other actors also left before shooting was done.
Mendieta’s relatively brief interaction with Max Landis stuck with her, and she’s since wondered how Landis’ behavior may have devolved even further as he accrued more and more power in the entertainment industry.
Tasha Goldthwait met Max Landis while she was working as a set costumer on his 2015 feature directorial debut, Me Him Her, which was filmed in the summer of 2013. This professional role was a “newer experience” for Goldthwait, who was in her mid-twenties at the time. The rate was “dirt-cheap.” Once she was on set, Goldthwait learned that she and Landis, the screenwriter and director of the film, had mutual friends in common. Landis quickly began subjecting Goldthwait to what she described as “physical, sexual, and verbal abuse.”
“He would talk about his penis all the time to me, brag about the size of it.” She continued, “On set he would touch me all the time, he would pick me up and turn me upside down and carry me around set. My shirt would come above my face and I’d be exposed. At one point we were on set with people around and he pushed me down and got on top of me on a bed. I raised my voice and told him to get off of me, and eventually managed to get him off.”
Goldthwait eventually quit. “I didn’t quit until the last two or three weeks,” she told The Daily Beast. “I’m a very hard worker and I thought, I need to stick it through. And then I realized that this is not—of course our business is difficult, but sexual abuse is something else entirely.”
She recalled telling her boss about the abuse, explaining, “I’m fearful to come to work every day. I’m so depressed, I’m crying. And I’ve never felt so isolated.” A producer then came to speak with Goldthwait about her allegations and exit. “It was not usual for the producer to come into the costume trailer to speak with the set costumer,” Goldthwait explained. Even more shockingly, he offered to pay her her rate for the remainder of the shoot, “which was very, very odd, because the movie had no money.” Later, Goldthwait wondered if it was a payoff.
The Daily Beast reviewed an earnings report for Goldthwait from Me Him Her that claims that she worked on Aug. 16, 2013, and lists her “last day worked” as Aug. 23, 2013. The Daily Beast also reviewed emails and call sheets from another job that Goldthwait worked through Aug. 16, which Goldthwait sent as proof that she continued to be paid for the Me Him Her shoot despite physically being at another job. In the meeting with the producer, and ever since, Goldthwait has been candid about Landis’ behavior and adamant that he should be held responsible. “I’m not shy to say who it was who assaulted me,” Goldthwait insisted, “because I think that needs to be known.” And, Goldthwait added, “I think I got away lucky, because I know that he has taken it much further.”
Aprill Winney, who worked as a script supervisor alongside Goldthwait, said that while she “feel[s] like I have this image of [Tasha] being carried upside down,” due to the amount of time that’s passed, she can’t recall other specific instances. “Remembering Max, though, I have zero doubt that he did those things,” she continued, “especially thinking of the women on that film, I feel bonded to them because we got through it together. I remember those friendships being so powerful because we had this common enemy.”
Winney described Landis’ behavior throughout the shoot as “abusive, and harassment.”
“I will tell you that the list of people that I will never work with again is one person long, and it’s him.”
Bobcat Goldthwait, the comedian and director, told The Daily Beast that his daughter Tasha informed him about her experience with Landis after he had a chance run-in with the screenwriter a few months later. “I ran into him, and he said, I thought you would hate me, I thought you hated me. And I didn’t know what he meant. It was a pretty odd thing. And then when she told me about her being assaulted by him, obviously it all made sense.”
Goldthwait told her father about “some of the behavior, you know, him lifting her up and having her shirt open up and him being very crude constantly around her.” The comic continued, “My daughter knows the difference between people making a joke and people creating an unsafe and aggressive work environment.” He added that, aside from his daughter, he’s heard “a lot of talk about [Landis’s] behavior… And I don’t know why the story never gets broken, and I don’t know if he has the ability to crush this story or his family does, or the people that hire him.”
Many of the sources who spoke with The Daily Beast said that they had been expecting a call, and an article, for years. Veronica was deeply disappointed both by the allegedly shelved Hollywood Reporter piece and reports about a pair of upcoming Landis projects, Shadow in the Cloud and Deeper—his professional “comeback.”
A representative for the producers of Shadow in the Cloud told The Daily Beast that they were not aware of any allegations prior to optioning the script, and that “after the allegations surfaced and some time went by, the producers renegotiated with Landis to have him removed as a producer, and to allow for extensive re-writes by Roseanne Liang at the time she was hired. He has not been on set and will not be involved in the film in any way.”
“It sucks so bad that it’s been drawn out like this,” Veronica told The Daily Beast. “I don’t like scrolling through Twitter and seeing his face, it’s triggering. It’s very panic-inducing, and I know the other girls feel the same way. It’s hard to be constantly dealing with it, and then to think that nothing is ever going to change.”
Women like Ani Baker and Julie realized that Landis had a skill for bringing women that he had victimized back into the fold by any means necessary, and insisting that they never leave.
“One thing I really want to help other people understand, in whatever way I can, is that you can’t see it when you’re in it,” Baker told The Daily Beast. “It can be the clearest thing to everyone else, to the friends that you’re crying to about the abuse, but you can’t see it.”
Baker and Julie only began to see it in full when they compared their stories. Recognizing that the pattern of abusive behavior had persisted long after Landis first promised to change, they realized that they were the only ones with the power—not to fix Max, but to warn others. “He’s not safe. He’s never been safe,” Julie wrote in her statement. “Protection of other women is my primary motivation,” Kerry added. “Enough is enough.”
*Names have been changed to protect the identities of women wishing to remain anonymous.