Terry Crews won't be in Expendables 4, citing threat over groping claim

Last year, Terry Crews (pictured) accused Adam Venit, the former head of the motion picture department at the William Morris Endeavor talent agency, of groping him twice at a party. PHOTO: AFP

NYTIMES - The actor Terry Crews told a group of senators Tuesday (June 26) that he would not appear in the movie The Expendables 4 after one of its producers tried to intimidate him into dropping a lawsuit against a Hollywood executive who Crews says groped him at a party.

"The producer of that film called my manager and asked him to drop my case in order for me to be in the fourth instalment of the movie - and, if I didn't, there'd be trouble," Crews said. The actor added that after the call, he decided to "take a stand" because the producer, whom he did not name Tuesday but had previously identified as Avi Lerner, is facing his own allegations of harassment.

Crews, who has lent a prominent male voice to the #MeToo movement, was speaking before the Senate Judiciary Committee during a hearing on the fulfilment of a bill of rights for sexual assault survivors. That law, passed in 2016, grants victims the rights to have evidence preserved for a specified period, to be notified when it is destroyed, and to receive forensic exam results.

Last year, Crews accused Adam Venit, the former head of the motion picture department at the William Morris Endeavor talent agency, of groping him twice at a party in 2016. He sued the agency and Venit, who was demoted after Crews aired the allegations in public but before he identified Venit.

Crews' decision to speak out about the alleged assault was welcomed by many who said it showed that even a famous actor and former professional football player could be attacked and experience the same dizzying range of emotions that other victims face.

"I know how hard it is to come forward," he said Tuesday. "I know the shame associated with assault." During the sometimes emotional testimony, Crews said he had suppressed an initial impulse to respond to the groping by fighting back. "You're a big, powerful man" Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California said. "Why didn't you?"

"Senator, as a black man in America, you only have a few shots at success," Crews answered, his voice wavering. "You only have a few chances to make yourself a viable member of the community."

Crews said he and his wife left the party, he complained to the agency the next day and Venit apologised soon after. After Crews described the alleged phone call from Lerner on Tuesday, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota followed up, asking whether he would ultimately be appearing in the film, the fourth in a series of action movies featuring all-star casts. Crews said he would not, citing the allegations against Lerner.

"Abusers protect abusers, and this is one thing that I had to decide whether I was going to draw the line on - am I going to be a part of this or am I going to take a stand," Crews said. "And there are projects that I had to turn down."

In May 2017, a former employee sued Lerner, accusing him of creating a workplace that was hostile to the women who worked there and the actresses they hired, according to Deadline Hollywood. The suit claimed that Lerner hired women with whom he was romantically involved, giving them preferential treatment. He denied the allegations, calling them "a joke." In a filing earlier this year, Venit generally denied all of Crews' allegations, according to People magazine. Neither Lerner nor Venit immediately responded to requests for comment.

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