72-year-old director James Toback, who helmed the films 'Black and White' (1999) and 'Two Girls and a Guy' (1998) and was nominated for an Oscar for writing the Warren Beatty film 'Bugsy' (1991), has been accused of sexual harassment in an explosive set of accusations by 38 women, 31 of them interviewed by the Los Angeles Times on Sunday.
Many of the women’s accounts describe similar circumstances, in which Toback lured a young or aspiring actress into a meeting, introduced very graphic sexual language under the guise of describing a role or film, and then engaging in some sort of masturbation.
Toback initially pushed back on accusations of sexual harassment, citing medical conditions that made the claims against him impossible in reality. But masturbation entered the sexual harassment -- or sexual assault narrative, much as Harvey Weinstein is alleged to have a fondness for masturbating into potted plants.
“The way he presented it, it was like, ‘This is how things are done,’” actress Adrienne LaValley told the LA Times. Her 2008 hotel room encounter ended with Toback trying to rub his crotch against her leg, and when she recoiled, he stood up and ejaculated in his pants. “I felt like a prostitute, an utter disappointment to myself, my parents, my friends. And I deserved not to tell anyone.”
“It’s a common thread among many women I know … after someone mentions they were sexually abused by a creepy writer-director, the response is, ‘Oh, no. You got Toback-ed,’” New York drama teacher, actor and playwright Karen Sklaire told the Times. Sklaire said her 1997 meeting with Toback ended with him grinding against her leg in an office. “The numbers are staggering.”
Toback’s first notable film was 1987's 'The Pick-up Artist', starring Robert Downey Jr., who would go on to star in two other films written and directed by Toback. His most recent film, 'The Private Life of a Modern Woman', starring Sienna Miller, premiered at the Venice Film Festival in September.
Related: Read the 1989 Spy magazine story that detailed James Toback's attempts to pick up women Los Angeles Times