Welcome!
2017-11-01 22:30:03
Brent Ratner, Prominent Producer, Faces Allegations of Harassment

Brett Ratner, a top producer and director whose films include “Rush Hour’’ and “The Revenant,’’ is facing allegations from women who said he had sexually harassed or assaulted them over the course of two decades, making him the latest prominent Hollywood figure to be accused of sexual misconduct.

In an article published Wednesday in The Los Angeles Times, six women described encounters with Mr. Ratner that ranged from lewd comments to assault.

One actress, Natasha Henstridge, who has appeared in films including the “Species” series and “The Whole Nine Yards,” said that Mr. Ratner forced her to perform oral sex more than 20 years ago. Another, Olivia Munn, said Mr. Ratner had masturbated in front of her when, as an aspiring actress, she delivered food to his trailer.

Late Wednesday, Mr. Ratner issued a statement saying that “in light of the allegations being made’’ he was stepping away from all activities related to Warner Bros., the movie studio with which he has a $450 million agreement to cofinance films.

“I don’t want to have any possible negative impact to the studio until these personal issues are resolved,’’ he said.

A spokesman for Warner Bros. declined to comment. In addition to the cofinancing arrangement, Mr. Ratner will also remove himself from work on the studio’s adaptation of “The Goldfinch,” which he was set to produce.

The New York Times spoke to several of the women interviewed by The Los Angeles Times, including Ms. Henstridge. Separately, The Times spoke to a former fashion stylist who said that Mr. Ratner had assaulted her in 2003.

A lawyer for Mr. Ratner, Marty Singer, disputed the women’s accusations to The Los Angeles Times. He also denied there had been any misconduct by Mr. Ratner in a statement to The New York Times, asserting that “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.”

Ms. Henstridge, in a phone interview with The Times on Wednesday, said she had fallen asleep while watching a movie with Mr. Ratner and a group of friends in an apartment in New York, and awoke to find herself alone with him.

She said that when she got up to leave, Mr. Ratner tried to coax her into staying. When she declined, she said, he blocked the door, pushed her down and forced himself on her.

In the wake of allegations against the producer Harvey Weinstein, whom dozens of women have come forward to accuse of misdeeds ranging from harassment to assault, Ms. Henstridge said she had struggled with whether to speak out.

“Every single day I woke up and realized, I can’t let this go,” she told The Times. “This was not a confused lover’s ‘Oops, I made a mistake,’ this was a true attack.”

A friend of Ms. Henstridge, Lilith Berdischewsky, told The Times that the actress had confided in her about the episode about a decade ago.

The New York Times also spoke to a former fashion stylist who said that Mr. Ratner had cornered her more than a decade ago in the home of the producer Robert Evans and masturbated.

“The whole thing was so shocking and it all happened so fast,” the woman, Leah Forester, said in a telephone interview. “I just remember shaking and being in the bathroom and trying mentally to figure out what to do with this experience that just happened.”

She said she struggled for years to make sense of the episode, and even attended a party for Mr. Ratner at the home the next day.

In a letter, lawyers for Mr. Ratner disputed Ms. Forester’s account, and said that Mr. Ratner’s recollection was “substantially different.” The letter asserted that the two were friendly at the time and remained so afterward.

Attending the party the next day “is completely inconsistent with the notion that something objectionable had occurred with my client the day before,” the letter said.

Mr. Ratner, who got his start making music videos, wields considerable influence in Hollywood as a successful producer of big-budget action movies. He directed all three “Rush Hour” films, a franchise that cumulatively grossed about $850 million worldwide and cemented Mr. Ratner’s status among the industry’s elite.

That success fueled increasingly brash behavior — Mr. Ratner has become known for his bad-boy image and lavish lifestyle.

“As he became more successful, there was a feeling of increased entitlement with everything — money, cars, perks, women,” Emily Glatter, a production executive who worked with Mr. Ratner on the “Rush Hour” films, told The Times.

Eri Sasaki, an extra in “Rush Hour 2,” said that Mr. Ratner had touched her bare midriff while on the set of the 2001 movie, then asked her to join him in the bathroom. Ms. Sasaki said he had told her he could arrange for her to have a line of dialogue in the movie.

“He said, ‘Do you want to come bathroom with me? Do you want to be popular?’” she told The Times in an interview. “He said those things together. Naturally you get the hint, if I go bathroom with him, I could get a line.”

Her account was backed up by Kent Richards, a production assistant Ms. Sasaki was dating at the time.

Ms. Sasaki also provided her account to The Los Angeles Times, which reported that Mr. Singer said his client had no recollection of the episode.

Another actress, Jaime Ray Newman, who appeared in the television series “Supernatural,’’ said she had once sat next to Mr. Ratner on an airplane and that he had made lewd comments to her and graphically described the sex acts he would like to perform with her.

A friend of Ms. Newman’s, Dennis Staroselsky, said she had told him about the encounter shortly after it happened in 2005. Ms. Newman also recounted the episode to The Los Angeles Times.

Mr. Ratner could be generous and complimentary, according to several people who worked with him. He thanked every crew member by name during a screening of “Rush Hour 2,” Ms. Glatter said. Other women who appeared in the film told The New York Times that they had had positive experiences on set, and that Mr. Ratner had treated them professionally.

But Mr. Ratner’s penchant for inappropriate behavior has gotten him into trouble. In 2011, he lost a coveted position as producer of the Oscars telecast after he used an anti-gay slur at a public event.

In The Los Angeles Times article, Ms. Munn, whose film credits include “Magic Mike” and “X-Men: Apocalypse,” elaborated on an episode she had written about in her 2010 book, “Suck It, Wonder Woman! The Misadventures of a Hollywood Geek.” In the book, she did not name Mr. Ratner, but in the article she said that he had masturbated in front of her in his trailer on the set of the 2004 film “After the Sunset.’’

Mr. Ratner had previously identified himself as the producer Ms. Munn had referred to, and said that he had “banged her a few times” and then “forgot her.” Days later, he reversed that statement, telling the radio host Howard Stern that he had never slept with Ms. Munn.

Mr. Singer, his attorney, told The Los Angeles Times that Mr. Ratner and Ms. Munn had had an intimate relationship, something Ms. Munn denied in the article. Her sister corroborated her account in the report.

A spokesman for Ms. Munn declined to comment to The New York Times.

Ms. Forester, the former fashion stylist, said that she was assaulted during a visit to the home of Mr. Evans, a friend of Mr. Ratner’s and once the chief of production at Paramount Pictures. Ms. Forester said that Mr. Ratner had told her that he wanted to show her some old film reels in the projector room.

“He basically pushes me into the room, comes in and closes the door behind him and shoves me against the wall,” Ms. Forester said. Mr. Ratner began tugging at her clothes, she said, then masturbated and ejaculated on her.

A friend of Ms. Forester’s, Jen Bush, said that Ms. Forester told her of the encounter about a year ago. A spokeswoman for Mr. Evans declined to comment.

Ms. Forester said that it took her years to come to grips with what had happened — or to even think of it as assault.

“I look back on that and I see this girl who really didn’t understand,” she said. “I don’t think the assault is blurry, but I think my psychology around it was blurry.”