Just days out from locking the picture, 20th Century Fox suddenly took the initiative to delete a single scene from Shane Black’s “The Predator”.
The LA Times reports that the scene deleted featured 47-year-old actor Steven Wilder Striegel (“Melrose Place,” “Days of Our Lives”) who shared it with actress Olivia Munn. Striegel plays a jogger who repeatedly hits on her character.
Last month Munn learned that Striegel is a registered sex offender who pleaded guilty and served six months in jail in 2010 after facing allegations that he attempted to lure a 14-year-old female into a sexual relationship via the internet.
When Munn shared the information with Fox, studio executives quickly decided to cut him from the movie – and from the sounds of it, it wasn’t a crucial scene making the extraction easy. In a statement, Fox said: “Our studio was not aware of Mr. Striegel’s background when he was hired. We were not aware of his background during the casting process due to legal limitations that impede studios from running background checks on actors.”
Black reportedly was aware and has defended his decision to cast Striegel in a small part saying: “I personally chose to help a friend. I can understand others might disapprove, as his conviction was on a sensitive charge and not to be taken lightly” and adds he believes that Striegel was “caught up in a bad situation versus something lecherous”.
Striegel said in an e-mail to the outlet: “The character I played was named after a mutual friend of ours, and it seemed a good fit. I’ve known Shane Black 14 years, well before this incident, and I think it’s worth noting that he was aware of the facts. Shane can speak for himself, but I’m quite certain that if he felt I was a danger in any way to have around, he would not have.”
Munn said she found it “surprising and unsettling” Black didn’t share this information during production, but was “relieved” when Fox, upon hearing the news, responded so quickly.
Update: Black has issued a new statement: “Having read this morning’s news reports, it has sadly become clear to me that I was misled by a friend I really wanted to believe was telling me the truth when he described the circumstances of his conviction. I believe strongly in giving people second chances – but sometimes you discover that chance is not as warranted as you may have hoped. After learning more about the affidavit, transcripts and additional details surrounding Steve Striegel’s sentence, I am deeply disappointed in myself. I apologize to all of those, past and present, I’ve let down by having Steve around them without giving them a voice in the decision.”
The film premieres tonight at the Toronto International Film Festival and opens in theaters nationwide September 14th.