Move over, Harvey Weinstein and James Toback, and make room for mega-producer Brett Ratner. The Los Angeles Times’ Amy Kaufman and Daniel Miller offer up the next Hollywood blockbuster on sexual harassment and assault in Tinseltown, as six women go on the record to accuse Ratner of conducting a decades-long reign of terror. The pattern of these allegations sounds stunningly familiar to Weinstein/Toback allegations, and has to leave people wondering just where this ends.
First up: Natasha Henstridge, who later found fame in films like Species and The Whole Nine Yards, but not before falling victim to Ratner on his way up the entertainment-industry ladder.
Natasha Henstridge was watching a movie on Brett Ratner’s couch when she fell asleep. She was a 19-year-old fashion model; he was an up-and-coming music video director in his early 20s. They had been hanging out in front of the TV with friends at his New York apartment.
But when Henstridge woke up, the others had left. She was alone with Ratner. She got up to leave, Henstridge said, but he blocked the doorway with his body and wouldn’t budge. 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,” she said. “At some point, I gave in and he did his thing.”
Olivia Munn had a similar experience a decade later, although not an assault. Munn got out in time to prevent it, only to be smeared by Ratner shortly afterward:
Olivia Munn said that while visiting the set of the 2004 Ratner-directed “After the Sunset” when she was still an aspiring actress, he masturbated in front of her in his trailer when she went to deliver a meal. Munn wrote about the incident in her 2010 collection of essays without naming Ratner. On a television show a year later, Ratner identified himself as the director, and claimed that he had “banged” her, something he later said was not true. The same year her book was published, Munn ran into Ratner at a party thrown by Creative Artists Agency and he boasted of ejaculating on magazine covers featuring her image, she told The Times.
She 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.”
Other women have stepped up and gone on the record. Jaime Ray Newman got accosted on a flight by Ratner, who loudly proposed having sex and talking about how he was addicted to oral sex. Katherine Towne, daugher of Chinatown screenwriter Robert Towne, got trapped in a bathroom with Ratner at a 2005 party. Two actresses from Rush Hour 2 describe predatory behavior that was confirmed by two others on the set, all of whom went on the record. Kaufman and Miller followed up with others who were told the same stories contemporaneously. Munn had actually contacted an attorney, who advised her to keep her mouth shut.
Ratner denies all of the allegations through his reps, although some of those denials fall into “no recollection” category. This response about Townsend’s testimony, captured by New York Times reporter Niraj Chokshi, is not exactly a denial or a “no recollection”:
— Niraj Chokshi (@NirajC) November 1, 2017
Oh, I don’t know … doing all of those after coming into the bathroom uninvited might seem a little “wrongful,” if perhaps not actionable.
Ratner is no James Toback, who had to recite his resumé to women in order for him to be recognized as an entertainment industry power. As a director, Ratner has 46 credits on IMDB, including big studio films such as X-Men: The Last Stand, the Rush Hour films, and the 2014 Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson version of Hercules. He’s currently listed as the director of an upcoming biopic on Hugh Hefner, which is ironic in itself.
His power as a producer, however, overshadows that record. He has 72 credits, many of which did a lot of box office. Ratner’s Ratpac Films recently cut a $450 million deal with now-Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s production company Dune, of which the most recent product was the new adaptation of Stephen King’s It. Ratner has a development deal with Brad Pitt’s Plan B production company as well. His former business partner James Packer (the “Pac” in Ratpac) just built a $3.2 billion casino-hotel in Macau called “Studio City,” for which Ratner and their friends Robert DeNiro, Martin Scorcese, and Leonardo DiCaprio attended the opening. He has eight projects in motion which Ratner is producing or exec-producing, plus the projects his partnerships are working otherwise.
Unlike Toback and even Weinstein, Ratner is much closer to his zenith of power. This has the potential to disrupt a lot of business in Hollywood, especially if more women come forward after these six. And we’ll see just how much the entertainment media will be willing to press with someone whose tentacles reach this deep in Hollywood.
Update: Variety reports further on the Ratner accusations, with one important note. James Packer sold his interest in Ratpac in April, so he should properly be called Ratner’s former business partner, which I have corrected above. The scandal may impact Warner Brothers, Variety points out:
The allegations against Ratner, at a moment of extreme sensitivity to sexual harassment issues in the entertainment industry, will put pressure on the filmmaker and his business partners, notably Warner Bros. Ratner’s RatPac Entertainment banner has a $450 million film co-financing pact with Warner Bros. through the RatPac-Dune Entertainment vehicle that Ratner founded with Australian media mogul James Packer. In April, Len Blavatnik’s Access Entertainment acquired Packer’s stake in RatPac. RatPac Entertainment rents production space on the Warner Bros. lot.
“We are aware of the allegations in the LA Times and are reviewing the situation,” said Jack Horner, a spokesman for Warner Bros.
We’ll see just how long Warner holds out for Ratner, or whether Ratner will choose to take this moment to cash out his chips and get out of town for a while.