Six women have stepped forward and accused “Rush Hour” filmmaker Brett Ratner of sexual harassment and misconduct, the latest scandal following in the wake of Harvey Weinstein, James Toback, Kevin Spacey and others in Hollywood.
Speaking with The Los Angeles Times as part of a major feature, actresses Natasha Henstridge, Olivia Munn, Jaime Ray Newman, and Katharine Towne are among those who have gone on the record with the paper and shared their experiences of uncomfortable and inappropriate encounters with the director who reportedly persisted in his attentions to uncomfortable degrees – ultimately leaving some of his victims shaken for years.
“Species” star Henstridge, when she was a 19-year-old fashion model, says she fell asleep watching a film on Ratner’s couch when he was an up-and-coming music video director in his early 20s. When she woke up, she and him were alone and she got up to leave, but he blocked the doorway with his body and then forced her to perform oral sex on him: “He strong-armed me in a real way. He physically forced himself on me. At some point, I gave in and he did his thing.”
Munn was asked to drop off some food for Ratner in his trailer on the “After the Sunset” set and was told he wouldn’t be present. She arrived, only to find him there and he told her not to leave: “He walked out … with his belly sticking out, no pants on, shrimp cocktail in one hand and he was furiously masturbating in the other. And before I literally could even figure out where to escape or where to look, he ejaculated.” She consulted a lawyer but was advised that her career as fledgling actress might be in jeopardy if she went after a well know director.
Newman said she encountered Ratner in 2005 when they were both in first class on an Air Canada flight. The filmmaker swapped seats with his assistant before departure so he could be next to her. Within five minutes of the plane taking off, she said, Ratner began loudly describing sex acts he wanted to perform on her in explicit detail. He also showed her nude photos of his then-girlfriend. Newman said she was so shaken by the encounter that she immediately told a handful of people about it.
Ratner’s attorney Martin Singer has disputed their accounts saying in a statement: “I have represented Mr. Ratner for two decades, and no woman has ever made a claim against him for sexual misconduct or sexual harassment. Furthermore, no woman has ever requested or received any financial settlement from my client.”
48-year-old Ratner has long flaunted a palyboy style persona, bragging of success with women and sexual appetites. He was famously criticised in 2011 for saying “rehearsal is for fags” at a screening of his comedy “Tower Heist” in 2011 – a quip that cost him a shot at producing the Oscars.
Though critics have never been big fan of Ratner movies, he holds a lot of power due to being one of the co-founders of RatPac-Dune Entertainment which co-finances many of the big films at Warner Bros. Pictures including “Dunkirk,” “It” and “The LEGO Batman Movie” this year alone.
Over the years, Ratner has also received several honors for his philanthropic and humanitarian endeavors. On Sunday, the Jewish National Fund presented Ratner with its annual Tree of Life Award at a gala in Hollywood. “Wonder Woman” star Gal Gadot had been slated to give the award to Ratner but last week her publicist announced she would not appear at the event because of a scheduling conflict. “Wonder Woman” director Patty Jenkins ultimately presented him with the award.
The story arises in the wake of “Entourage” actor Jeremy Piven, who previously worked with Ratner on “Rush Hour 2,” being subject to allegations by actress and former reality star Ariane Bellamar who said “on two occasions, cornered me & forcefully fondled my breasts & bum. Once at the [Playboy] mansion & once on set.” Piven has since released a statement to EW flat out denying the claim: “I unequivocally deny the appalling allegations being peddled about me. It did not happen. It takes a great deal of courage for victims to come forward with their histories, and my hope is that the allegations about me that didn’t happen, do not detract from stories that should be heard.”