Hollywood director accused of sexual assault

Director James Toback is said to have used his stature as a Hollywood player to convince aspiring actors to visit him in his hotel room, where he would harass them sexually. He has denied the allegations.
Director James Toback is said to have used his stature as a Hollywood player to convince aspiring actors to visit him in his hotel room, where he would harass them sexually. He has denied the allegations.

WASHINGTON • Director James Toback is the latest powerful man in Hollywood to be accused of sexual harassment.

Thirty-eight women told the Los Angeles Times that Toback - best known for directing Two Girls And A Guy and writing the Oscar-winning screenplay for Bugsy - sexually harassed them, using his stature as a Hollywood player to convince the aspiring actors to go to his hotel room.

The paper detailed the claims in a 2,700-word piece in Sunday's editions. Many of the women allowed the use of their names.

The allegations differ from those levelled against disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein. Toback, who is not as well known as Weinstein, approached women on the streets. He had to explain to them who he was.

"My name's James Toback. I'm a movie director. Have you ever seen Black And White or Two Girls And A Guy?" he said, according to the Times.

He then often told these women they could potentially be in his next movie, and invited them up to his hotel room, where he would ask them personal questions about their sex lives.

Some of his accusers said he then began rubbing his groin against their legs, while others said he masturbated in front of them.

Toback denied the allegations, telling the newspaper that he had never met any of these women, or if he had, he did not recall it because it "was for five minutes".

He also said it was "biologically impossible" for him to engage in the described behaviour due to medication he was taking.

The claims come just weeks after articles in The New York Times and The New Yorker alleged that Weinstein, one of Hollywood's most powerful producers, used his position to sexually harass and assault women he met through his work, at least since the 1980s.

"It's a common thread among many women I know... after someone mentions they were sexually abused by a creepy writer-director, the response is, 'Oh, no. You got Toback-ed'," Karen Sklaire, a New York drama teacher, actor and playwright who said a 1997 meeting with Toback ended with him grinding against her leg, told the Los Angeles Times.

"The numbers are staggering."

In 2008, Toback allegedly tried to rub his crotch against the leg of actress Adrienne LaValley. She pulled away, and he stood up and ejaculated in his pants.

LaValley told the newspaper: "I felt like a prostitute, an utter disappointment to myself, my parents, my friends. And I deserved not to tell anyone."

Others who have also spoken out against the director included Guardians Of The Galaxy director James Gunn. "When I lived in New York, in the 'nineties, this dude was EVERYWHERE. I have personally met at least FIFTEEN WOMEN, probably more, who say that he's accosted them in NYC," Gunn wrote in a Facebook post.

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2017, with the headline 'Hollywood director accused of sexual assault'. Print Edition | Subscribe