UPDATE, Oct. 23: Glenn Whipp, the journalist who first reported the story for the Los Angeles Times, said on Twitter that almost 200 more women have reached out to him to discuss Toback’s alleged behavior.
PREVIOUSLY: In a new Los Angeles Times report, 38 women accuse director James Toback of sexual harassment.
The allegations against Toback somewhat resemble those against producer Harvey Weinstein, who was fired from his own company earlier this month after scores of women said the career-making mogul assaulted, harassed or intimidated them. Toback, 72, stands accused of harassing women he employed and women he approached on the street.
It’s long been said that Toback was a sexual predator. In 1989, Spy Magazine reported that he would approach women, brag about being a Hollywood director, ask whether they’d like to consider a role in one of his forthcoming films and then ask them to meet him at late hours. Gawker echoed these claims in 2008, 2010 and 2012. Now, days after the #MeToo hashtag encouraged survivors of sexual assault to speak out on social media, more than three dozen women told the Los Angeles Times that Toback ejaculated in front of them, probed their masturbation habits, demanded they disrobe and/or rubbed his groin against their bodies. These incidents allegedly occurred in hotel rooms, on movie sets and in offices.
Toback was a notorious name in Hollywood circles, even though he never achieved widespread household fame. In 1991, he received an Oscar nomination for writing the Warren Beatty gangster movie “Bugsy.” Many of his films, including “Fingers,” “The Pick-Up Artist,” “Two Girls and a Guy” and “Harvard Man,” revolve around womanizers, the mafia or both. “The idea is not to have a separation between my life and my movies,” Toback said in a 2002 Salon interview.
HuffPost contacted Toback’s agent, Jeff Berg, for comment on Sunday. “Best to speak directly to him,” Berg said in an email, providing Toback’s “mobile” number. When reached, Toback said he is “writing something” in response and declined to comment further.
Toback’s accusers include Louise Post, the guitarist and vocalist for the rock band Veruca Salt. “He told me he’d love nothing more than to masturbate while looking into my eyes,” she said.
Actress Chantal Cousineau said, while rehearsing a monologue for “Harvard Man” in 2001, she heard Toback masturbating. Another woman, whom the Times called a “well-known actress,” said Toback ignored her protestations and would not let her leave his hotel room until she pinched his nipples and stared into his eyes as he ejaculated in his pants.
Mere days before the Times’ report, onetime aspiring actress Sari Kamin recounted the harassment she suffered at the hands of Toback. “With sauce on his face and pieces of pasta dangling from his goatee, Toback told me he needed to masturbate seven times a day to feel steady in the world,” Kamin wrote in a blog post on Medium. The director allegedly accompanied her to a hotel room, where he asked her to remove her clothes to prove she could handle filming a nude scene.
Toback denied the allegations in a statement provided to Variety: “All I can tell you is I’ve never heard of this woman, and it’s totally defamatory on her part to invent them. This is totally distressing to me. I’m 72 years old, but I’m not even close to having Alzheimer’s, and I don’t have trouble remembering things in great detail. [...] I totally condemn all the behavior she depicts.”
Actress Melissa Sagemiller, who told HuffPost that Weinstein made innuendoes or harassed her on three separate occasions, said, when asked whether she’d interacted with other predatory men in the business, “Well, my first movie was a James Toback movie, and he was blackballed out of Hollywood for indecent activity, so that’s no surprise.”
Toback wasn’t fully blackballed, despite the years of reports about his behavior. In 2008, he directed a sympathetic documentary about boxer Mike Tyson. In 2013, Toback and friend Alec Baldwin made “Seduced and Abandoned,” a documentary about trying to secure financing for an updated version of the classic erotic film “Last Tango in Paris.” (A representative for Baldwin declined to comment to HuffPost.)
Toback’s most recent project, “The Private Life of a Modern Woman,” starring Sienna Miller and Baldwin, premiered at this year’s Venice Film Festival.