Actresses Selma Blair and Rachel McAdams have added their names to the growing list of women who have come forward to allege that writer and director James Toback sexually harassed or assaulted them following a report Sunday in The Los Angeles Times detailing the accounts of 38 accusers.
Since Sunday, the number of accusers has ballooned to over 200 alleging inappropriate encounters with Toback, an Oscar-nominee for his Bugsy screenplay. Speaking to Vanity Fair in an article published Thursday, Blair and McAdams describe encounters similar to those detailed in the L.A. Times report — many of which assert that Toback, now 72, would talk up his accomplishments and promise stardom, often referencing his friendship with Robert Downey Jr., before masturbating or simulating sex acts on the women.
Blair had already filmed Cruel Intentions when her representative arranged for her to meet Toback for a possible role in his film Harvard Man. The meeting was set at a hotel restaurant, but Blair said when she arrived the hostess said that Toback wanted her to meet him in his room.
There, she described a long meeting in which Toback asked her to perform a monologue naked, propositioned her for sex, and said he would not let her leave until he “had release.” Blair said he then simulated sexual intercourse on her leg.
“I felt disgust and shame, and like nobody would ever think of me as being clean again after being this close to the devil,” Blair said. “His energy was so sinister.”
Afterward, Toback implied that if she told anyone, he could have her killed.
“I didn’t want to speak up because, it sounds crazy but, even until now, I have been scared for my life,” Blair said.
McAdams, an Oscar nominee for her supporting role in Spotlight, also met Toback to audition for Harvard Man. She was 21 and just starting out in the business. After her audition he told her he wanted to workshop with her. They met that night in his hotel room where, she said, the conversation quickly turned sexual.
A growing list of women have come forward to allege that James Toback sexually harassed or assaulted them. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/Associated Press)
“He said, ‘You know, I just have to tell you. I have masturbated countless times today thinking about you since we met at your audition,”‘ McAdams said.
He later asked if she would show him her pubic hair. McAdams said she eventually excused herself and left.
“I was very lucky that I left and he didn’t actually physically assault me in any way,” she said, adding that she has felt shame ever since that she didn’t leave earlier. When she told her agent about the encounter the next day, she said the agent said Toback had done this to another one of her actress clients.
‘The inexcusable behaviour stops now’
The accounts come as sexual harassment in the workplace, and, specifically Hollywood, has been under increased scrutiny after dozens of women accused movie mogul Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment and assault going back decades.
Blair said in the case of Toback she was emboldened by the “brave women” who spoke out in the Times and the rage she felt when Toback dismissed the accounts. Toback denied the allegations to the paper, and declined to comment on the new allegations to Vanity Fair. He has not responded to requests for comment from The Associated Press.
She also said she hoped that “someone bigger” than her would “call him out.”
Weinstein accusers, who now total over 50, have ranged from assistants to aspiring actresses to some of the industry’s most famous, including Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie. Filmmaker Ava DuVernay tweeted that Blair and the others are “big enough.”
“You’ve helped someone out there. You have,” DuVernay wrote to Blair.
Like Weinstein, reports of Toback’s alleged behaviour toward women have been around for decades. Spy magazine wrote about him in 1989, and the now-defunct website Gawker also published accounts from women in New York who had had run-ins with Toback on the street. Julianne Moore said on Twitter Tuesday that Toback approached her on the street in New York in the 80s, asking her to come to his apartment to audition.
But exactly what might happen to Toback is still a question. As Blair pointed out, unlike Weinstein and Amazon executive Roy Price, Toback is not an employee of a company from which he can be fired. He is also not currently a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
“Toback was an Academy member but stopped renewing his annual membership nearly a decade ago. He is no longer a member of the Academy,” a film academy spokesperson said Thursday.
He does, however, currently has a completed film, The Private Life of a Modern Woman, starring Sienna Miller and Alec Baldwin that debuted at the Venice Film Festival earlier this year. It does not yet have a distributor.
Some see a silver lining in the dominoes falling like this.
“For years, many in power tried to divide & conquer women in order to dominate, control, & victimize them,” said actress Jessica Chastain on Twitter on Thursday with a link to the Vanity Fair article. “The inexcusable behavior stops now.”
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