As Bohemian Rhapsody heads to the Oscars, The Atlantic published an investigation Wednesday morning reporting new sexual-abuse and molestation accusations against director Bryan Singer. Four men accuse Singer of abuse, dating back to the 1990s: “Some of the alleged victims say they were seduced by the director while underage; others say they were raped,” the magazine reports. “The victims we interviewed told us these experiences left them psychologically damaged, with substance-abuse problems, depression, and PTSD.”
Victor Valdovinos told The Atlantic that he was in seventh grade and on the set of Singer’s 1998 movie Apt Pupil when the director molested him on set, but away from shooting. “Finally, according to Valdovinos, Singer reached through the towel flaps and ‘grabbed my genitals and started masturbating it.’ The director also ‘rubbed his front part on me,’ Valdovinos alleges. ‘He did it all with this smile,’” The Atlantic reports. The Apt Pupil set was the source of other complaints about Singer: Minors between the ages of 14 and 17 alleged that members of the crew bullied them into stripping naked for a shower scene. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office declined to press any criminal charges, and lawsuits brought by the minors families were settled out of court.
By the late 1990s, Singer would often throw infamous pool parties, described as being populated with younger men. A man named Ben said that he was “passed around among the adult men in Singer’s social circle,” and accused Singer of having oral sex with him when he was either 17 or 18. “He would stick his hands down your pants without your consent,” Ben said. “He was predatory in that he would ply people with alcohol and drugs and then have sex with them.”
Another man named Andy said he met Singer through the founders of the Digital Entertainment Network, at a party at the owners’ mansion, called the “M&C Estate.” He said he was 15 when Singer had sex with him, and that he slept with Singer a handful of times in the time after. A man named Eric, now an executive at a film-production company, alleged he met Singer at M&C Estate and had sex with him when he was 17, and Singer 31. “If you weren’t young and cute enough to be their boy, you could still ingratiate yourself by bringing boys to them,” Eric said. “That’s how I met Bryan, and that’s how I wound up at the DEN estate — people trying to ingratiate themselves.” (Marc Collins-Rector, one of the DEN founders and the M in “M&C Estate,” was indicted by a federal grand jury in 2000 on charges related to transporting a minor across state lines for the purpose of sex. After fleeing the country, he pleaded guilty to nine charges of transporting a minor across state lines for the purpose of sex.)
In 2014, Michael Egan brought lawsuits against Singer and three other men involved with DEN, claiming that he’d been sexually abused at the M&C Estate starting when he was 15. Egan’s case had numerous inconsistencies, and he later withdrew. Still, The Atlantic notes, “Egan passed a polygraph and was interviewed for nearly seven hours by a psychiatrist, who found him to be credible. At one point, Singer agreed to pay Egan a $100,000 settlement, but Egan rejected the offer.” Egan’s behavior and the minor inconsistencies in his story were consistent with trauma symptoms, according to a clinical psychologist consulted by The Atlantic.
Professionally, Singer’s movies were successful, but he had a reputation for disappearing from set. Sources told The Atlantic that two executives — Stacey Snider, the chairman and CEO of 20th Century Fox, and Emma Watts, Fox’s vice-chair and president of production — were concerned about letting Singer direct Bohemian Rhapsody, but the surviving members of Queen insisted on the director. Singer was fired midway through the shoot, after reportedly throwing electrical equipment during fights with Rami Malek on set. In September, he was hired to direct Red Sonja; a Hollywood Reporter source said the studio knew of the sexual-abuse allegations against Singer but said Millennium Films thought “none of the allegations seem to have merit.”
“After the Harvey Weinstein news came out, everyone thought Bryan Singer would be next,” one unnamed actor described as “prominent” told The Atlantic. (Bohemian Rhapsody star Rami Malek has said that he was unaware of the allegations against Singer until after the director was fired from their film.)
Singer’s attorney said that he denies having sex with or having a preference for underage men, and that he has not been arrested or charged with a crime.
Update, 11:30 a.m.: Singer has issued a response to The Atlantic story calling it a “homophobic smear piece.” You can read his full response below.
Update, 1:20 p.m.: Maximillian Potter and Alex French, the reporters behind The Atlantic’s Bryan Singer exposé, have issued a statement explaining how their piece was initially supposed to run at Esquire and then later was killed by Hearst executives. It was published Wednesday by The Atlantic.
Update 1/24, 5:42 p.m.: Bohemian Rhapsody is no longer in the running for Best Original Film at the GLAAD Media Awards. The group provided the following statement to Variety: “In light of the latest allegations against director Bryan Singer, GLAAD has made the difficult decision to remove Bohemian Rhapsody from contention for a GLAAD Media Award in the Outstanding Film — Wide Release category this year. This week’s story in The Atlantic documenting unspeakable harms endured by young men and teenage boys brought to light a reality that cannot be ignored or even tacitly rewarded. Singer’s response to The Atlantic story wrongfully used ‘homophobia’ to deflect from sexual assault allegations and GLAAD urges the media and the industry at large to not gloss over the fact that survivors of sexual assault should be put first.” GLAAD issued the statement shortly before Red Sonja producer Avi Lerner, who has previously been sued for misconduct, told THR that Singer would retain his job directing the film.