After The Atlantic published allegations that director Bryan Singer sexually abused four men when they were underage, the studio behind Singer’s next movie released a statement dismissing the report as “agenda driven fake news.” Now, Millennium Films CEO Avi Lerner is walking that statement back: Lerner told The Hollywood Reporter Wednesday that he signed off on the statement without actually reading it, and that it “came out the wrong way.” Singer will still direct Millennium Films’ Red Sonja, based on a Conan the Barbarian comic-book spinoff. “I don’t want to apologize. I just want to clarify [the statement],” Lerner told THR. “I think victims should be heard and this allegation should be taken very, very seriously. I just don’t agree to judge by the Twitter. I want [the accused] to be judged by the court.”
Though the public backlash against Millennium Films’ decision to keep Singer onboard has been swift, Lerner says people in Hollywood haven’t seemed to mind that Singer is still employed, and he doesn’t anticipate it being hard to snag top talent for the movie. “Nobody called me, not from one agency,” Lerner told THR. “I got support by the head of a studio to say, ‘Well done, Avi. You stand by what you believe, and people should be innocent until they are proven guilty.’ Nobody told me that they’re not going to work with me.”
THR asked agents and managers if they’d put a client up for a role in a movie directed by Singer, who has been publicly accused of sexually abusing boys since the 1990s, and was fired from Bohemian Rhapsody over his extended absences from the set. Many would not comment on the record, THR reports, but a few said that they wouldn’t encourage their clients to take a job in Red Sonja. “The fact that he’s making a movie so quickly after the allegations became public feels wrong,” a founder at a “top management company” told THR. “If a manager [here] came to me and told me they were doing it, I’d have a problem.”
Lerner has his own history of controversy independent of Singer and Red Sonja: Terry Crews, who is part of the Millennium–produced Expendables ensemble, said Lerner told him he could “avoid any ‘problems’ on the sequel” to The Expendables if the actor stopped pursuing sexual assault charges against WME agent Adam Venit, who Crews accused of groping him. (Following Crews’s allegation and a settlement, Venit resigned from WME and sent Crews a written apology.) Last fall, Lerner settled a lawsuit brought by an ex-employee, who said she was subjected to “discriminatory, harassing and misogynistic work environment, hostile to female employees.”
Lerner told THR that he is conducting his own inquiry into allegations against Singer: “I have got a reason why I doubt that he has done it,” he said. Singer has continued to deny all allegations of sexually abusing or having sex with underaged boys.