LOS ANGELES, Nov 2 — Blockbuster director Brett Ratner and the head of news at American radio station NPR were drawn into Hollywood’s widening sexual misconduct scandal yesterday as more women came forward with stories of abuse.
Actresses Natasha Henstridge and Olivia Munn have accused Ratner of sexual harassment, the Los Angeles Times reported, as A-lister Kevin Spacey faced fresh accusations over his own conduct with young actors.
Henstridge told the Times she was a 19-year-old fashion model in New York in the early 1990s when Ratner, then a music video director in his early 20s, forced her to perform oral sex.
Four other women also recounted stories to the newspaper about sexually inappropriate or intimidating behavior by 48-year-old Ratner, whose movies including Rush Hour and X-Men: The Last Stand have grossed more than US$2 billion (RM8.46 billion) worldwide.
“He strong-armed me in a real way. He physically forced himself on me,” said Henstridge, who has appeared in the movies Species and The Whole Nine Yards.
“At some point, I gave in and he did his thing,” she told the newspaper.
Henstridge said she was inspired to come forward by the stories of other women who have reported sexual misconduct by powerful Miramax producer Harvey Weinstein and director James Toback.
Munn, who has appeared in the HBO show The Newsroom and the movie Magic Mike, told the Times that Ratner — who denies the allegations — had masturbated in front of her on the set of the movie After the Sunset (2004).
‘Wrong and inexcusable’
“I have represented Mr. Ratner for two decades, and no woman has ever made a claim against him for sexual misconduct or sexual harassment,” his lawyer Martin Singer told the newspaper in a 10-page letter.
“Furthermore, no woman has ever requested or received any financial settlement from my client,” Singer said.
Accounts of abuse by Weinstein that were published last month in The New York Times and The New Yorker encouraged others to speak out, unleashing a cascade of allegations of sexual harassment and assault against leading figures in Hollywood and elsewhere.
The spreading scandal reached the US media business yesterday as NPR CEO Jarl Mohn wrote in an email to staff seen by AFP that he had asked Mike Oreskes, senior vice president for news, for his resignation because of “inappropriate behavior” and the executive had obliged.
“I am deeply sorry to the people I hurt. My behavior was wrong and inexcusable, and I accept full responsibility,” Oreskes was quoted by the station as saying in a statement.
Oreskes was placed on leave late Tuesday following allegations in The Washington Post from two women who said they had been harassed in the late 1990s, when Oreskes was Washington bureau chief for The New York Times.
He also has been accused of harassment by an employee at NPR, the station reported on its website.
Cascade of allegations
Writing in the Hollywood Reporter, the author Anna Graham Hunter accused Dustin Hoffman — today aged 80 — of sexually harassing her when she was a 17-year-old interning on the set of the Death of a Salesman TV film.
Mexican actor Roberto Cavazos became the latest late Tuesday to accuse House of Cards star Spacey of sexual harassment, predicting more such claims would emerge as Netflix suspended production of the two-time Oscar winner’s hit series.
Cavazos, who acted in several plays at London’s Old Vic theater when Spacey, 58, was artistic director from 2004 to 2015, said the Hollywood star routinely preyed on young male actors.
Spacey was already facing a torrent of criticism over claims that he made a “sexual advance” on Anthony Rapp in 1986 — when the actor was just 14 — and for appearing to deflect the story by finally confirming that he is gay.
Meanwhile the Beverly Hills Police Department has said it is investigating “multiple complaints” against Weinstein and Toback, who face numerous allegations of unwanted sexual encounters but deny forcing themselves on women.
More than 50 women including stars Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie and Mira Sorvino have accused 65-year-old Weinstein of sexual abuse and harassment.
The LA Times interviewed 38 women who accused Toback of unwanted sexual encounters, and the paper said it was inundated with emails and phone calls from more than 200 additional women after the publication of its story.
Entourage actor Jeremy Piven has also been the subject of sexual assault allegations this week, brought against him by actress, reality TV star and Playboy Playmate Ariane Bellamar.
Bellamar alleged on Twitter that the 52-year-old Golden Globe and Emmy Award winner groped her on the set of the 2004-11 HBO show.
“I unequivocally deny the appalling allegations being peddled about me. It did not happen,” Piven said in a statement circulated among the US entertainment press yesterday. — AFP