In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault allegations, another dark story has emerged: filmmaker James Toback has been accused of sexual harassment by over 300 women, including actors Rachel McAdams and Selma Blair.
On Oct. 22, the Los Angeles Times published an investigation accusing Toback of sexual harassing 38 women. Since the story ran, an additional 200 (and counting) women have come forward with similar allegations. Speaking with Vanity Fair this week, 45-year-old Blair—who was included in the original Times story but asked to be unnamed—told Vanity Fair that in 1999, Toback asked her to come to his hotel room to discuss his film Harvard Man. In the room, Blair alleges Toback asked her to get naked and rubbed his penis against her leg while he talked about sex. He also threatened to kill her if she told anyone of the incident, she says.
McAdams, 38, told Vanity Fair that when she was just 21, Toback invited her to his hotel room, also to discuss Harvard Man, then told her he masturbated to her “countless times.” McAdams alleges Toback then asked her to show him her pubic hair.
As horrifying accounts continue to mount, here’s what you need to know about Toback and the allegations against him.
— Selma Blair (@SelmaBlair) October 26, 2017
Who is Toback?
Toback, 72, is an American film writer and director. His films include Tyson, Two Girls and a Guy and the Oscar-nominated Bugsy, starring Warren Beatty. He’s worked with Alec Baldwin, Sienna Miller and Sarah Michelle Gellar, and has directed Robert Downy Jr. in three movies—a statement he allegedly used to pickup women.
In an 1989 profile of the filmmaker in now-defunct Spy Magazine, Toback was described as a pickup artist. In the early 1970s, Toback published a book titled, Jim: The Author’s Self-centered Memoir on the Great Jim Brown, about the orgies he apparently had while friends with football player Jim Brown. (Spy identifies Brown as an “alleged girlfriend beater”).
Toback is married and has a son.
Who has accused Toback of sexual assault?
In the original Times report, 38 women—who range from women he worked with to women he picked up on the street—accused Toback of boasting about sexual conquests, asking humiliating personal questions and dry-humping or masturbating in front of them. Many of the women also told the Times that Toback would ejaculate in his pants or onto their bodies. On top of McAdams and Blair, the women who have accused Toback of sexual harassment include Veruca Salt musician Louise Post, NBC anchor Natalie Morales and actor Adrienne LaValley.
Glenn add one more. Exact same playbook by James Toback when I encountered him near Central Park.
— Natalie Morales (@NMoralesNBC) October 23, 2017
The Times reported that Toback would frame meetings with women as interviews or auditions before quickly turning them into sexual encounters. “During these meetings, many of the women said, Toback boasted of sexual conquests with the famous and then asked humiliating personal questions. How often do you masturbate? How much pubic hair do you have? He’d tell them, they said, that he couldn’t properly function unless he ‘jerked off’ several times a day,'” the Times wrote.
UPDATE: The number of women who have contacted me about their encounters with James Toback now stands at 310. https://t.co/7jjbIwWqih
— Glenn Whipp (@GlennWhipp) October 26, 2017
After the Times piece came out, American screenwriter James Gunn wrote a length Facebook post saying he knew about Toback’s behaviour for decades and has been warning people about him.
— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) October 22, 2017
Why did it take people so long to care about the allegations?
Unlike the Weinstein allegations, the news of Toback’s alleged sexually abusive behaviour didn’t immediately catch fire. Until Blair and McAdams put their names behind the allegations, the women who publicly shared their stories for the Times‘s piece were mostly lesser-known actors or non-celebs.
As Jane Fonda recently pointed out in an interview with MSNBC, people are interested in the Weinstein news because—with the exception of Lupita Nyong’o—his accusers are “famous and white.” In this case, the accusers—again, until recently—were not big-name Hollywood stars. And fewer people knew who Toback himself was; the filmmaker also became more newsworthy when A-listers like Blair and McAdams revealed their experiences.
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