Fame and celebrity

Warner Bros and Bret Ratner cut ties after sexual misconduct claims, while Dustin Hoffman apologises over ‘groping’

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 November, 2017, 2:44pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 November, 2017, 9:18pm

Brett Ratner, the film producer who backed a key financing deal with Warner Bros, said he will step back from dealings with studio in light of lurid allegations of sexual harassment.

Six women, including actresses Olivia Munn and Natasha Henstridge, told the Los Angeles Times that Ratner had sexually harassed or assaulted them. Through his stake in RatPac-Dune Entertainment, Ratner had a deal to finance as many as 75 of the Hollywood studio’s biggest titles, including this year’s blockbuster Wonder Woman. RatPac-Dune investors have included investor Len Blavatnik and, until earlier this year, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

“I am choosing to personally step away from all Warner Bros-related activities,” Ratner, who has denied the allegations, said in an emailed statement from the office of his lawyer Martin Singer. “I don’t want to have any possible negative impact to the studio until these personal issues are resolved.”

The filmmaker is the latest to be accused in a mushrooming scandal about sexual misconduct in Hollywood.

The reverberations also reached back 32 years as Oscar-winning actor Dustin Hoffman came forward to apologise for allegedly sexually harassing a 17-year-old intern in 1985.

Writer Anna Graham Hunter alleged in a Wednesday column in The Hollywood Reporter that the now 80-year-old actor groped her on the set of TV movie Death of a Salesman and “talked about sex to me and in front of me.”

Film director Brett Ratner accused of sexual misconduct by several actresses

Hoffman issued a statement Wednesday, apologising for “anything I might have done could have put her in an uncomfortable situation. I am sorry. It is not reflective of who I am.”

After revelations by the New York Times on October 5 that Harvey Weinstein, the Oscar-winning producer, had harassed and assaulted several women, allegations of improprieties have emerged against high-profile figures including actor Kevin Spacey and Amazon Studios chief Roy Price, who later resigned. Studios, distributors and other companies are being forced to address allegations speedily.

“We are aware of the allegations in the LA Times and are reviewing the situation,” Warner Bros, owned by Time Warner Inc, said Wednesday in a statement about Ratner.

Ratner, the director of Jackie Chan’s Rush Hour, used his clout in Hollywood to co-found RatPac Entertainment with Australian billionaire James Packer, and agreed in 2013 to co-finance the Warner Bros movies with Dune Entertainment. Mnuchin led Dune at the time and sold his stake this year. Titles backed by the venture include The Lego Batman Movie and Dunkirk.

Hollywood studios use outside financiers to reduce the risk of movie-making. In April, Packer sold his stake to Access Industries, the conglomerate owned by billionaire Blavatnik.

Earlier Wednesday, Ratner denied via his lawyer “the outrageous derogatory allegations that have been reported about him.”

“We are confident that his name will be cleared once the current media frenzy dies down and people can objectively evaluate the nature of these claims,” his attorney, Singer, said in an emailed statement. “He understands the seriousness of this issue and the importance of addressing the concerns of victims of sexual misconduct both in the entertainment industry and beyond.”

The co-financing deal with RatPac-Dune expires next spring and Ratner will have no say in what films it backed as a passive investor in the venture, a person with knowledge with the situation said. Ratner was producing potentially high-profile movies for Warner Bros, including The Goldfinch, the film adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Donna Tartt.

Ratner will be moved off the project, said the person with knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be identified because the details are private.

Henstridge told the Los Angeles 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.

“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.

Munn claims that Ratner behaved inappropriately towards her on several occasions in the 2000s, including masturbating in front of her when she went to deliver food to his trailer on the set of the film After the Sunset in 2004.

“He walked out … with his belly sticking out, no pants on, shrimp cocktail in one hand and he was furiously masturbating in the other,” Munn said.

On a television show a year later, Ratner identified himself as the director, and claimed that he had “banged” her, something he later admitted was not true.

Additional reporting by Associated Press