Earlier this week, The Atlantic published a deeply disturbing exposé on the sexual misconduct allegations that have followed director Bryan Singer throughout his career. Singer’s latest project, the controversial Bohemian Rhapsody, was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, just a day before the Singer investigation dropped. In the piece, Alex French and Maximillian Potter reported that, “Almost from the moment his star began to rise, Singer, who is now 53, has been trailed by allegations of sexual misconduct.”
“We spent 12 months investigating various lawsuits and allegations against Singer,” they continued. “In total, we spoke with more than 50 sources, including four men who have never before told their stories to reporters. A man we’ll call Eric told us that he was 17 in 1997 when he and Singer had sex at a party at the director’s house; another we’ll call Andy says he was only 15 that same year, when he and Singer had sex in a Beverly Hills mansion. Both men say Singer, who was then in his early 30s, knew they were under 18, the age of consent in California.”
“The accusations against Singer cover a spectrum. Some of the alleged victims say they were seduced by the director while underage; others say they were raped. The victims we interviewed told us these experiences left them psychologically damaged, with substance-abuse problems, depression, and PTSD.” (Singer denied the allegations, branding the article a “homophobic smear piece” in a statement that The Daily Beast’s Tim Teeman deemed “absurd.”)
In the wake of The Atlantic’s reporting, scrutiny immediately turned to Singer’s next big project, Millennium Films’ Red Sonja reboot. It’s worth noting that the planned remake stars a Marvel Comics’ protagonist who is a sexual assault survivor.
Back in September 2018, according to The Hollywood Reporter, Singer’s new assignment was “seen as a step toward rehabilitating the director’s image.” That report added, “While audiences and critics will be the jury on Bohemian Rhapsody when it opens Nov. 2, Millennium is willing to take a chance on Singer given that ‘none of the allegations seem to have merit’ says an insider.”
Millennium Films’ CEO Avi Lerner is now publicly defending his director, telling THR that, “I continue to be in development for Red Sonja and Bryan Singer continues to be attached.” The producer added, “The over $800 million Bohemian Rhapsody has grossed, making it the highest grossing drama in film history, is testament to his remarkable vision and acumen. I know the difference between agenda driven fake news and reality, and I am very comfortable with this decision. In America people are innocent until proven otherwise.” (Titanic is actually the highest-grossing drama in film history; Gone with the Wind is when adjusted for inflation.)
THR went on to note that, “Sources say Millennium had been inundated with calls and emails over the past day calling Millennium complicit if it continued to work with Singer, but Lerner decided to stay the course.”
This will not be Lerner’s first brush with accusations of complicity. Last February Terry Crews, the actor whose sexual assault suit against Adam Venit eventually led to the agent leaving WME, tweeted, “Management got a call last week from Avi Lerner producer of EXPENDABLES 4 saying I could avoid any ‘problems’ on the sequel if I dropped my case against @WME. Guess who’s Sly’s agent? ADAM VENIT.” “Sly” refers to Sylvester Stallone, who had reportedly clashed with Avi Lerner over The Expendables series. Terry Crews declined The Daily Beast’s request for comment on this alleged intimidation attempt.
Additionally, in May of 2017, an ex-Nu Image executive filed a lawsuit against Avi Lerner and his companies Millennium Films and Nu Image Entertainment. In legal documents, the anonymous Jane Roe alleged discrimination and creation of a hostile work environment based on gender, among a number of other complaints. The lawsuit alleged that the former employee, who began working at Nu Image in 2011, “was subjected to a discriminatory, harassing and misogynistic work environment” throughout her employment.
“Demeaning comments were made in the workplace about women on a regular basis, including referring to various women as ‘whores,’ ‘cocksuckers,’ and ‘mistresses,’ including by owner Avi Lerner,” the complaint continues. “Describing female actresses as ‘too fat,’ ‘too ugly,’ or ‘too old,’ including when discussing famous actresses the development team had determined were appropriate creatively for certain film roles. Similar derogatory comments were not made when discussing male actors. Criticizing a female vice president for not properly producing a movie because she was ‘too busy having sex with her boyfriend.’”
The suit went on to describe allegations of “hiring Avi Lerner’s unqualified girlfriends to produce many of his movies, and giving them preferential treatment over female employees who were not having affairs with Lerner or other high level executives.”
“When Plaintiff protested,” it continued, “She was told that ‘the girls’ were valuable to the company not only because they had sex with Lerner, but also because they helped procure hookers for the actors working with Nu Image, as well as Lerner’s friends.” The suit further alleged “pervasive wage inequality, in which male employees were paid more than female employees for comparable work.”
According to the suit, Jane Roe filed a complaint with HR about the hostile work environment she was experiencing, specifically calling attention to “the inappropriate conduct by Jeffrey Greenstein, president of international sales and distribution.” After the complaint was documented, “Nu Image rewarded Greenstein by moving him to a private, spacious corner office, with no negative repercussions resulting from his behavior. Thereafter, Greenstein bragged and taunted Plaintiff that he had been promoted for sexually harassing Plaintiff.”
The plaintiff was allegedly “labeled as a troublemaker for having dared to bring such a complaint, and Lerner mused that there was a ‘witch cursing the company.’”
Jane Roe claims in the suit she was terminated in December 2016, shortly after disclosing that she was in imminent need of major back surgery, which would necessitate medical leave and other accommodations.
In a statement to Deadline at the time, Avi Lerner claimed that, “It’s all lies.” He added, “It’s all a joke.”