Max Landis’ Sexual-Assault Accuser Speaks Out Against His Hollywood ‘Comeback’
The anonymous woman spoke to The Daily Beast about the terrifying encounter in 2012—which Landis admitted was ‘a boundaries violation’—and why she’s decided to share her story now.
In December 2017, Hollywood screenwriter Max Landis was the subject of a number of tweets alleging that he has a history of sexual misconduct. As The Daily Beast previously reported, they included thinly veiled musings like, “I can’t imagine who is more scared in a post-Weinstein world than a famous director’s son,” and, around the time that the Landis-penned Bright debuted on Netflix, “Written by a psychopath who sexually abused and assaults women, right? Cool.”
Following these myriad posts, Landis—the son of celebrated director John Landis—appears to have taken a substantial break from social media, and was shut out of a planned Bright sequel. But recently, as The Daily Beast reported, Landis has been having something of a comeback: “According to Jan. 30 reports, Chloe Grace Moretz is set to star in the upcoming Shadow in the Cloud, penned by Max Landis and with Roseanne Liang directing. Two days later, The Hollywood Reporter announced that Idris Elba is in negotiations for the sci-fi thriller Deeper, also written by Landis.”
Amidst this potential professional resurgence, an anonymous accuser penned a Medium post on Sunday coming forward with her own allegation.
In the post, she explained that she had been interviewed by The Hollywood Reporter in 2017, but that the “meticulously researched” piece, which she says included testimonies from other accusers, ultimately was not published “because we were all unwilling to put our real names on the record for fear of harassment.”
“After THR decided to shelve the story, I was frustrated, but I stepped back because it seemed that Max had been blacklisted and would no longer have the same level of power over vulnerable women,” she wrote in the Medium post. “I was extremely disappointed to learn that his career has been revived, with two more films in the works.”
The Daily Beast reviewed screenshots of the anonymous poster’s email inbox, which confirm that she was previously in conversation with The Hollywood Reporter journalists about a potential Max Landis article. (THR did not respond to requests for comment.)
The Medium post described an incident that allegedly occurred during a June 2012 trip to Hicksville Trailer Palace in Joshua Tree with Landis. “Our relationship had always been platonic, and I was clear with him before the trip that I did not intend for it to be romantic in nature (not that it matters — I still would have had the right to say ‘no’),” the author of the post writes.
“That night, I drank quite a lot more than I usually do. I had also eaten a small amount of mushrooms, which [Landis] had given me, though the effects had worn off hours before the incident. Suffice to say that I was pretty intoxicated, but my memory of what happened is extremely vivid. I started feeling dizzy and decided to lie down. I accidentally caught sight of him changing out of his bathing suit, and he told me later that I had laughed flirtatiously. Taking that as an invitation, he ran over to me and grabbed me. I wormed out of his arms and ran away, thinking at first that he was just playing around. He 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. Specifically, I stated the following: ‘This is a really bad idea. Stop. Please, no, this is a really bad idea. No, stop.’ (Repeated a dozen or so times.)”
“I soon realized that I was fighting a losing battle,” the post continues, “so I went limp and pretended to pass out. He got off of me and rolled over, and then he fell asleep spooning me. I laid there all night wide awake but trying not to move, holding my breath, trying to understand what had just happened, and trying to figure out what I was going to do when morning came and I had to sit next to him while he drove the 100 miles home. I felt terrified and nauseous from the adrenaline.”
The writer of the post went on to state that, as far as she knows, “Max has never disputed that this occurred, but he has always maintained that it was an unfortunate drunken misunderstanding.”
“He did a masterful job of manipulating me into believing that I had simply overreacted and misinterpreted his intentions,” she continues. But, “I eventually came to accept that Max’s explanation was untenable. For one, he seemed completely sober and lucid. Besides, one should not initiate sexual activity with someone who is as intoxicated as I was. Moreover, if this had been an unfortunate misunderstanding, it was not the first, nor was it the last. The rumors began piling up, and I realized that what happened was not an isolated incident, but a pattern of behavior from a man who never liked to be told ‘no.’”
“I have to comb back through the memories and mentally list off the factors that made this encounter objectively non-consensual: that I had tried to run away, that he had pinned me down to the extent that it bruised my body, and most importantly, that I said no.” (Landis did not respond to numerous requests for comment for this story.)
The Daily Beast spoke with the author of the Medium post, who has chosen to remain anonymous. She shared that, “It was difficult over the last year seeing [Landis’] fans dismiss the allegations as rumor, knowing that at any time I could come forward and provide something concrete. I thought about it all the time, but it gave me so much anxiety. I didn’t want to do something rash that I would regret. Reading those articles this past weekend and realizing that he had ‘won’ despite all that we went through last year, I was done. It needed to come out.”
Reflecting on the social media posts about Landis and the “rumors” that she alluded to in her piece, she explained, “That’s why I’ve always believed the other stories, because they all ring so true. And I didn’t really tell anybody about this except for super close friends, and so I’m really positive that absolutely none of the stories have to do with me, because I was never close with Max’s friend group.” As she notes in her Medium post, “The fine details of the stories I’ve heard are eerily familiar.”
She told The Daily Beast that, “It wasn’t really until I started hearing all these other stories that I was putting together that this was actually a pattern of behavior and it wasn’t a mistake,” adding, “I wouldn’t have ever said anything if there weren’t other women. I would have continued doubting myself forever. A lot of this is that I’m doing it for them, so that if they want to come forward, they won’t be alone.”
Included in the Medium piece are screenshots of Facebook messages between the author of the post and Landis from June 2012. In the messages, Landis describes the incident that occurred in Joshua Tree as “drunkenly making half a move.” When the author of the piece responds that, “half a move wouldn’t have been a big deal at all…,” he replies, “I didn’t try to kiss you/kiss any part of you/touch your privates or boobs…I just sort of wrestled you around. But it was still a boundaries violation.”
In the same conversation, Landis states that, “We probably just have different definitions of what a ‘move’ is. Generally I think of a move as actively trying to begin a sexual activity with someone.” He adds, “I just also I really feel like I have to stick to my guns on this if I’m not going to have to think about it all the time.”
Later on in the conversation, she offers Landis her perspective, writing, “I was 100 miles out into the desert, really fucked up, you’ve got about 50 pounds on me, you were my only way back home, and I felt your boner on me and you were pinning me down and pulling up my shirt after I already ran away twice and said no. At a certain point I accepted that if you really wanted to hurt me I wouldn’t be able to stop it.”
“I’ve got way more than fifty pounds on you, first of all,” he responds. “And I apologize for my boner. Did you in the moment really feel like I was going to hurt you?”
The author of the Medium post sent The Daily Beast her Facebook chat archive, which contains the messages between her and Landis that she shared in her post. The Daily Beast also spoke with a friend of the accuser, who said that the incident described in the post matched up with what she was told about the trip.
“She came over to my house afterwards, like the next day or something like that, and [she] told me exactly what happened. She went with [Landis] out in the desert thinking it was going to be a fun time, and then he basically forced himself on her and she pretended to be asleep and luckily that worked.”
The friend, who explained that she had previously spoken to The Hollywood Reporter as well, said that while this all happened many years ago, she could confirm that the conversation at her house occurred “either the next day or shortly after” the alleged incident.
The author of the Medium post told The Daily Beast that, “Many of us have been in situations in which consent is murky. Sometimes one person feels uncomfortable and doesn’t quite know how to say ‘no,’ or someone is more drunk than they should be, or maybe the consent wasn’t as enthusiastic as it should have been. But this felt very different; it wasn’t a case of blurred lines or mixed signals. I was very clear in saying ‘no,’ if it hadn’t been clear enough that I had run away twice and he had to chase me down, or that I was trying to push him off of me. I can’t say for certain that he would have raped me if I hadn’t pretended to lose consciousness, but I know that being forcibly held down and coerced by someone much larger than you when you’re inebriated and stranded is not okay.”