Film

The Movie Hollywood Doesn’t Want You To See

Several months ago while scanning through Youtube I encountered an interesting, if not upsetting, interview with ’80s child star Corey Feldman in which he claimed that the “number one problem in Hollywood was, and is, and always will be, paedophilia”.

“The casting couch even applies to children?” asks the interviewer. “Oh, yeah,” replies Feldman. “Not in the same way – it’s all done under the radar.”

corey.jpg

“The number one problem in Hollywood was, and always will be, paedophilia.” [ABC]

I was reminded of the subject of child sexual exploitation in Hollywood this week after comments by Elijah Wood caused an international shitstorm.

Wood, who had evidently just watched ‘An Open Secret’, told a journalist that the sexual abuse conducted by Jimmy Saville in the UK had parallels in Hollywood.

“Clearly something major was going on in Hollywood. It was all organised. There are a lot of vipers in this industry – people who only have their own interests in mind.”

“There is darkness in the underbelly,” he added. “If you can imagine it, it’s probably happened.”

Woods later clarified that he had not experienced abuse first hand – citing his mother’s constant presence on set and her refusal to let him attend Hollywood parties – but said many of his peers had been victimised.

feldman-haim_6506534-original-lightbox.jpg

Little House on the Prairie’s Alison Arngrim once told a reporter that “everyone knew that the two Coreys were just being passed around.”

Speaking to the Hollywood Reporter in the wake of Wood’s comments this week, Feldman revealed that best friend and fellow ’80s child star Corey Haim was subjected to “more direct abuse” than he was.

“With me, there were some molestations, and it did come from several hands, so to speak, but with Corey, his was direct rape, whereas mine was not actual rape. And his also occurred when he was 11.”

He cited this abuse as the primary cause of Haim’s drug-fuelled death last year. “There is one person to blame in the death of Corey Haim, and that person happens to be a Hollywood mogul — and that person needs to be exposed but unfortunately I can’t be the one to do it.”

Despite the claims, Feldman refuses name his abuser(s) or the “mogul” he claimed abused Haim, telling HR that the statute of limitations on the crime has expired and if he named those responsible, he would be subject to litigation, not the alleged perpetrators.

California law allows litigation for accusers aged 26 and younger, or three years from the date they discover their trauma.

Feldman did, however, say that at least one of his alleged abusers is still “prominently in the business” to this day.

an-open-secret-poster.jpg

All of this leads us to the catalyst for the recent interest in the topic Hollywood paedophilia: 2015 documentary An Open Secret, which has recently appeared on Vimeo.

Directed by Deliver Us From Evil‘s Amy Berg, An Open Secret tells the story of 4 young men who say they were abused by men connect to a powerful network of influential Hollywood predators. Successful talent agents, directors, investors and casting agents are all named as being part of the paedophile ring.

Much of the alleged abuse catalogued in An Open Secret centres on an early web TV company called Digital Entertainment Network (DEN) and its owners Marc Collins-Rector, Chad Shackley and Brock Pierce.

An Open Secret Capture-large.JPG

DEN co-founder and convicted sex-offender, Mark Collins-Rector

Entertainment moguls David Geffen, Michael Huffington and others invested $150 million into the company which aimed to create content target at the “global youth audience”. Collins-Rector had made millions with early internet ventures in the ’90s.

Collins-Rector lived with DEN co-founder and boyfriend Shackley, whom he met as a 15 year-old, together with former child star Pierce, in a sprawling mansion – called the M&C Ranch (Marc and Chad) in Encino, California. This is where the paedophile parties, where DEN’s teenage stars were passed between older men, are alleged to have take place.

Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 14.23.17.png

Brock Pierce, DEN co-founder and housemate of Collins-Rector and Shackley

DEN, it appears, was little more than a front for the procurement and abuse of boys.

Described in the documentary as a proto-Netflix, DEN intended to generate unique programming for dispersal on its site. However, it was doomed to fail since the early internet did not have the capability to fulfil streaming requirements for such an admittedly forward-thinking project.

One such programme mentioned in the documentary was 1998’s ‘Chad’s World’. Co-written by Collins-Rector, produced by Pierce, and loosely based on Shackley’s life, the show followed a sexually confused boy who goes to live with his wealthy older brother and his rich boyfriend.

enhanced-18146-1398100241-1.jpg

Chad’s World (which features American Pie’s Seann Williams Scott as the character apparently based on Collins-Rector) which was also filmed at the M&C mansion, is described as “art imitating life”.

Three men speak out about their abuse on camera, while the story of another who was allegedly abused is discussed by his parents.

In heartbreaking archival footage shot during the time of the abuse, the misery is plain on the face of one victim (‘Nick S’) who nonetheless tells the camera how “wonderful” an experience working with DEN is. His expression is that of a child in conflict.

open.png

Nick S, in archival footage from DEN

“It was as though they were from the industrial home for the blind…”

Lending credence to claims of a powerfully connected paedophile network is the fact that attempts to enact safeguards which would protect child actors have been met with resistance.

When a SAG (Screen Actors Guild) Young Performers committee responsible proposed circulating a memo asking if any of their members had been abused by acting coach Bob Villard (convinced of child sex offences in 2005), one member, Michael Harrah, “vehemently” opposed the move.

Harrah, a ‘child talent manager’ explains his opposition to Berg – and unwittingly articulates a singularly significant factor in the silence surround abuse – by claiming: “I don’t know that we’ve “hidden” them [abuse claims]. I would think you would want to…not hide it, but you would want to protect the child whose identity is going to come out. A situation like this never helps anybody and, yes, the sooner we can get it under control the better, but the less the child has to live with the stigma of it having happened I think it’s better for them not only career-wise, but personally.”

video-open-secret-an-facebookJumbo.jpg

In the documentary, victim Joey C confronts former Child Talent agent Harrah about his attempt to molest him as a child

In this at least, Harrah is correct: at the very least a child who speaks out about abuse can kiss their career goodbye. In prison “snitches get stitches”, in Hollywood “snitches” who speak out against their abusers get blacklisted.

Until as recently as 2012, managers, photographers, acting coaches and other professionals in the entertainment industry that represent minors were not required to prove that they were not sex offenders.

Even when victims do come forward, studios work hard to quash stories. The story of Brian Peck, an acting coach and friend of Bryan Singer, is held up as an example.

Peck, who coached on many Nickelodeon’s shows, was accused of abuse by one of the network’s major child stars. The anonymous child filed charges against Peck, to which he almost immediately pled guilty.

Clearly he, or the studio, did not want an investigation to continue. The victim remained anonymous in order to protect their career.

secret7n-3-web.jpg

Berg and Evan H, one of the few victims to have successfully prosecuted his abuser, Marty Weiss

Citing the fact that not a single child star has spoken out about their abuse and continued to work afterwards, Ann Henry, co-founder of BizParentz, a non-profit corporation providing education, advocacy, and charitable support to parents and children engaged in the entertainment industry, tells Berg: “A kid that wants to speak out and say what happened to them beyond their family, would truly have to give up their career.

“It’s very sad that that’s the case but it’s the reality.” Peck, according to the documentary, continues to work on children’s TV shows, despite having been convicted of a child sex-offence.

But Peck is just the tip of the iceberg, says Henry, the bulk of which remains hidden as so many overwhelmingly powerful forces prevail upon it.

With the exception of Collins-Rector, Shackley, who now runs a computer shop and Pierce, who is a Bit Coin investor, many of the other alleged abusers: Brian Peck, Marty Weiss, Bryan Singer continue to work in the entertainment industry.

Their victims, whose lives are littered with alcohol, mental health and substance abuse issues, do not.

————————————————————–

Michael Egan

Strangely, director Berg refused almost all requests for interviews promoting the movie, which led to her being sued last year by producers. (One rare interview Berg gave about the movie can be found here.) She was accused of not only refusing to help market the film, but also of delivering the movie late and “in poor shape.”

One reason for Berg’s refusal to participate in post-release publicity could centre around alleged changes made to the movie by producers – without Berg’s consent – after the veracity of one of the abuse victims, Michael Egan, was called into question.

Scenes in which Egan had named Bryan Singer as one of his abusers were removed after Egan’s case against Singer collapsed.

ny_screening_of_every_secret_thing.jpg

Director Amy Berg

Berg had earlier stated that she found it difficult to secure a distributer for the movie and that even small independent movie festivals weren’t willing to screen ‘An Open Secret’.

Whatever the truth, it is a sad fact that wherever there are children there will be those willing to prey on them and unfortunately Hollywood – much like the Catholic Church in Berg’s excellent Deliver Us From Evil – offers fertile ground for such abuse.

The reluctance towards acknowledging the extent of the problem, coupled with an apathy around naming and punishing perpetrators is worrying.

It is for these reasons that ‘An Open Secret’ is a worthwhile, if not troubling, piece of work.

*Update October 2017: In light of the Harvey Weinstein scandal the makers of An Open Secret have posted the movie on Vimeo for free for a limited time. Catch it while you can.

Advertisements
Standard
TV

Preacher: Top 5 Moments

Preacher debuted in fine style on AMC this Sunday night and since by now the whole world’s had a chance to stream it, here’s 5 of my favourite (and one least favourite) aspects.

“Be brave, Tell her the truth, Open Your Heart”open that heart.png

When our titular Preacher, Jesse Custer, tells a needy, mother-obsessed parishioner to ‘Be brave, tell her the truth and open your heart’ to his overbearing mother, anyone familiar with the comic series knew immediately what the outcome of this command was going to be.

The Word (as Jesse’s mysterious power is referred to in the comic series) causes those who hear it to follow its commands in a literal sense. Tell someone to go fuck themselves and the next thing they’re performing a phallectomy and inserting in like a suppository (spoiler alert. Maybe. If it follows the source material!) So when Mr Needy performs manual open heart surgery it’s especially satisfying.

ArsefaceScreen Shot 2016-05-24 at 11.58.29.png

Perennially optimist Eugene Root, aka Arseface (or in his words, ‘Uhfuh)’, was always going to be a tough one. In the comics, Eugene is a bullied, Nirvana-loving loser, who attempts to copycat Kurt Cobain’s suicide by shooting himself in the face with a shotgun. He survives but is left hideously disfigured by the event.

This origin story will obviously have to be update for this modern retelling, but so far suh gud. Actor Ian Colletti accurately conveys Arseface’s vulnerability and endearing optimism. He is given his unfortunate, though fitting, moniker by Cassidy.

How’d Ya Like These Tulips?ss kicking.png

I prefer TV Tulip to comic Tulip. There I said it. I never felt that Tulip’s alleged ass-kickery ever really came across in the comic; she was only ass-kicking until she hooks up with Jesse and then becomes a shambolic wreck.

TV Tulip channels her dismay and bitterness at her failed relationship with Jesse into becoming a one-woman, moonshine-powered, bazooka-rigging A Team. Also, Ruth Negga’s performance was great. Her Tulip is self contained and a more than a little crazy. Ass kickery incarnate!

Redneck Rodeo"what did I do?".png
Jesse is very black and white, both literally and figuratively. Thus, a wife-beater who threatens his own child while dressed as Confederate general must be pummelled unmercifully before having his arm snapped. No Hail Marys required.

The beating itself was all thick, quick punches and jagged camera angles. The scene was cartoonish in its simplicity but Jesse is NOT one for nuance. There’s a reason John Wayne is his idol, after all.

ForeshadowingScreen Shot 2016-05-24 at 11.46.20.png

Lots of it here: The booze bottles all carry a logo which bears an uncanny similarity to the Saint of Killers; a reoccurring flashback appears to include Jesse’s dad as a preacher – this is quite a divergence from the source material; we catch a glimpse of Quincannon Meat and Power, run by Odin Quincannon (to be played by Jackie Earle Haley!), reportedly season one’s ‘big bad’. When will we get to see Ms Oatlash, and more importantly, the meat locker?

However, there was one thing that was notably not awesome…

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 11.25.28.png

Accents
Let’s talk about accents for a moment, shall we? Dominic Cooper is no Andrew Lincoln in the ‘convincing accent’ department. No amount of quiet talking can disguise his inconsistencies. Let’s hope he gets better with practice, but he probably won’t and since Americans never seem to notice these things, it’s unlikely to matter.

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 11.25.48.png

And while we’re on the subject, Cassidy’s accent is downright bizarre. Whereabouts in Ireland is he supposed to be from exactly? I’ve never heard an accent like his outside of ‘Travellers and Tiaras’ and I’ve lived here FOREVER. Still, Joe Gilgun is a fantastic actor capable of perfectly balancing pathos and psychosis so perhaps that will help take the edge of that awful Oirish accent, boyo.

Standard
Film, History

Elvis & Nixon/ Gods of Egypt/ The Boss

At the top of the month, Melissa McCarthy struts her sassy stuff in The Boss (June 10) in which she plays a women who looks like disgraced TV chef/racist Paula Dean (disgracist?) but acts like disgraced TV chef/ white collar criminal Martha Stewart.

The story opens on successful business tycoon Michelle Darnell (McCarthy) who’s running her empire all FTSE-loose and fancy-free until she gets busted for insider trading.

After six months in the pen’ with Crazy Eyes and the gals she’s released and as she’s newly penniless, she’s forced to move in with her long-suffering PA, Claire (Kristen Bell). While living with Claire and her adorbz daughter, Michelle hits upon her best money-making venture yet: a baking company to rival the evil Girl Scouts who surely have a merit-badge for ‘greatest market stranglehold’ with their dry-ass cookies.

What sounds like part- Troop Beverly Hills, part-Down and Out in Beverly Hills is sadly, like neither of those movies. Despite McCarthy’s comic prowess, critics have given this one a thorough mauling (“There’s nothing going on in “The Boss” except Melissa McCarthy groveling for affection from the same viewers who already bought tickets to see her,” says the RogerEbert.com review.)

We’re still hopeful for Ghostbusters though, right?

Did you know that the most requested photo of all time from the American National Photo Archives is one of a bloated Elvis shaking hands with a toothy Nixon? Tired of all the requests the ANPA have no doubt decided to release a movie about the event, Elvis & Nixon (June 17) in a bid to get people to shut the hell up about it.

I must confess that at first I misread the title as ‘Elvis Vs Nixon’ and thought it was perhaps an addition to the Predator Vs Alien, Freddy Vs Jason ‘versus’ series of movies, but alas, it is not.

Allegedly based on true events, the movie chronicles the bizarre meeting in 1970 of Elvis (Boardwalk Empire‘s Michael Shannon) and US President Richard Milhaus (haw, haw!) Nixon (Kevin Spacey). Legend has it that Elvis showed up on the White House lawn insisting on an audience with the POTUS, and being Elvis, received one. Never one to miss a photo op Nixon agreed to the meeting. Why, you may ask, did Elvis, by then in the twilight of his career and very fond of cheeseburgers and pills, request a meeting with America’s squarest president?

It was all a elaborate plan to get a Federal Agent’s badge, which Elvis secretly believe would make it easier for him to cross international boundaires with all his guns and myriad narcotics. That scamp! Anyway, Elvis & Nixon sees both Shannon and Spacey do their best impressions: though Shannon’s face is a little too Herman Munster-ish to really portray the King, while Spacey’s performance pales in comparison to that of Frost/Nixon‘s excellent Frank Langella.

Released on the same day is already much-maligned historical white face-fest, Gods of Egypt (June 17). Gerard Butler and Game of Thrones‘ golden handed sister shagger, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.

The plot is thus: vicious, but broodingly sexy Egyptian god of darkness, Set (Gerard ‘I’ll Do Whatever Accent I Want’ Butler) bests goodie-goddie god Horus (Coster-Waldau), plucking out his eyes and seizing control of the empire. Eww.

Enter brave mortal Bek, with two turn tables and a microphone, and a plan to stop Set by enlisting Horus’ help. Cue lots of OTT CGI, lots of ancient Egyptians with bizarrely Anglacised accents and, like, zero actual Egyptians, even though there’s a couple of good ones floating around the acting-sphere (looking at you, Mr Robot‘s Rami Malek).

Given the ferocious pummeling the movie’s producers received for firstly having an all white (almost– there’s one black guy) cast and later, for having released a terrible movie, perhaps they should’ve spent more time on basics like actors and scripts instead of CGI shennanigans.

However, no plot contrived by a Hollywood script writer could ever compare to the most popular legend about Set, Horus and bit of lettuce.

The story goes that Set, eternally locked in a battle for supremecy with his precoccious nephew Horus, one night decides to Bill Cosby his relative rival, plying him full of booze and attempting to rape him. However, a sober Horus manages to place his hand between his legs and catch Set’s, er, essence.

The next morning he runs to his ma, Isis (sidenote: it’s super ironic that a group so dedicated to the destruction of antiquity share a name with an Egyptian goddess, non?) who does what any good mother would do and chops off his hand off. Then she rubs some special ‘lotion’ on Horus’ phallus, causing him to ejaculate, whereupon she snatches that shit up in a pot.

Still with me? Then she goes to Set’s garden and to find out what his favourite food is. Lettuce, the gardener tells her (possibily the maddest aspect of this whole saga: who the fuck loves lettuce? Though it was considered an aphrodisiac during this period, so maybe not surprising that sex-pest Set loved it). So, Isis prompts smears Horus’ semen all over the lettuce, ’90s gross-out comedy style, and waits for Set to get munching.

So, Horus and Set appear in front of Thoth, mediator of godly disputes, and tell their respective stories. “Horus can’t be ruler of Egypt, I jizzed all over him!” says Set. “Nuh-uh! I jizzed on you!” says Horus. “Fuck this,” says Thoth before casting a nifty incantation to ‘bring forth’ the aforemention semen. And so he does and it bursts forth, appearing as a solid golden disc floatinf above Set’s head. “Well, that’s me fucked, I suppose,” says Set, who concedes defeat and accepts Horus as Egypt’s ruler. THE END. They don’t make make stories like that any more, I think you’ll agree.

Probably for the best.

Standard