Director James Toback Sexually Harassed 38 Women, Joining A Long List Of Predatory Male Directors

by Amanda Brohman

 In the aftermath of the many sexual harassment and sexual abuse allegations against Harvey Weinstein, and the #MeToo campaign that followed,  powerful predatory men are being brought down daily by an increasing amount of brave, whistle-blowing women who are coming forward with various accounts of being sexually harassed and assaulted by them. 

 James Toback, the Oscar-nominated director and screenwriter of movies such as Bugsy and The Gambler, is the latest Hollywood man who’s allegedly been abusing his power for decades to sexually harass women. On Sunday, the Los Angeles Times published an article detailing 38 women’s stories of being, in various degrees, harassed and assaulted by Toback. In separate interviews, the women are recounting their disturbing, non-consensual sexual encounters with the director in everything from on-set trailers and hotel rooms to “meetings framed as interviews or auditions quickly turned sexual.”

As reported by the LA Times, in the meetings with Toback, the women recall being asked inappropriate sexual questions (“How often do you masturbate?”, “How much pubic hair do you have?”), followed by Toback masturbating in front of them or dry–humping them, “ejaculating into his pants or onto their bodies.” After that, Toback would walk away and the meeting was over. 

In what seems to be a classic way for predatory men to rationalize wrong and illegal behavior as professional, Toback told the women he harassed that it was how the business worked. “The way he presented it, it was like, ‘This is how things are done,’” actress Adrienne LaValley told the LA Times, recalling a 2008 hotel room meeting with the director, during which he tried to rub his crotch against her leg. When she managed to get away, he stood up and ejaculated in his pants — while she was still watching. Then, in the manner he was famous for, the meeting ended. “I felt like a prostitute, an utter disappointment to myself, my parents, my friends. And I deserved not to tell anyone,” LaValley said.

“He always wanted me to read for him in a hotel or come back to his apartment, like, ‘How serious are you about your craft?’” said Starr Rinaldi, who met Toback when she was an aspiring actress 20 years ago. She spoke about how she, in a twisted way, felt as if Toback framed his wrongful behavior as a “test of whether I’m a real artist and serious about acting.” Rinaldi, along with a majority of the other 38 women who have come forward so far, quit acting after her encounter with Toback. This further confirmes how violating and damaging the behavior of these men is, not only to women’s bodies, minds and self worth, but also to their future professional lives and the confidence needed to succeed in those.

Toback joins an increasingly long list of men who, in the aftermath of the Harvey Weinstein case, have been accused of sexually harassing and assaulting women. The list includes Amazon Studios’ head Roy Price, Screen Junkies creator Andy Signore,and Hollywood talent-agent Tyler Grasham (who was the agent of, amongst others, Stranger Things’ child actor Finn Wolfhard, who switched agencies after the allegations emerged).


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But the list of still unnamed predators is even longer, with an almost innumerable amount of high-profile women — actresses, models, media personalities, performers and even women Senators — who have been coming forward with tales of being sexually harassed by male co-workers and bosses in the past week. Actresses and performers Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Lawrence, Molly Ringwald, Gabrielle Union and Björk, as well as U.S. senators Elizabeth Warren and Claire MaCaskill, have joined millions of non-famous women sharing stories of sexual harassment over the past week. And you know what they say: behind every woman who has been harassed, is a man who has been harassing her.

These men, and the thick layer of other men who safeguard them, have long been protected by a culture of silence surrounding sexual harassment and sexual assault. The silence culture is still very much noticeable, as proven by the many unnamed predators behind all the women participating in the #MeToo campaign. But with every new story, and every new name dropped, a crack is brought to that once seemingly unbreakable ice–thick silence. And as one crack becomes several, these men soon have nothing to hide behind anymore. Ultimately proving, once again, that women’s voices and women’s stories might be the most effective way to bring down the patriarchy and it’s abusive, harassing culture.

Top photo from Film Independent/screenshot via YouTube

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