After decades of rumors, accusations, and lawsuits, The Atlantic published a righteous investigation into Bryan Singer’s decades of alleged abuse suffered by multiple men at the Bohemian Rhapsody director’s hands, many of whom were underage at the time they say he assaulted them. “The portrait of Singer that emerges is of a troubled man who surrounded himself with vulnerable teenage boys,” write Alex French and Maximillian Potter.
The first of those teenage boys is Victor Valdovinos, who said Singer molested him while he was working as an extra on the director’s second film, Apt Pupil. The encounter irrevocably changed Valdovinos’s life. “What if he never did this to me—would I be a different person,” he asks. “Would I be more successful? Would I be married?” He says that as he watched the accusations against Harvey Weinstein mount, he though, “Me too—only I was a kid,” and that he decided not to go public and risk not being believed.
Singer became notorious in gay Hollywood for his raucous pool parties filled with young men who looked like they were in high school. A man given the pseudonym Ben says he met Singer when he was 17 or 18 and was “passed around among the adult men in Singer’s social circle.”
“He would stick his hands down your pants without your consent,” Ben tells The Atlantic. “He was predatory in that he would ply people with alcohol and drugs and then have sex with them.” But, at least in Ben’s experience, “it wasn’t a hold-you-down-and-rape-you situation.”
Much of the article centers on Digital Entertainment Network, a company Singer contributed to, which produced entertainment largely for gay teens (Chad’s World, Tales from the Eastside, Fear of a Punk Planet). Instead, however, the company allegedly functioned as a way for Hollywood executives to prey on teenage boys. Singer, alongside Marc Collins-Rector and Chad Shackley, purchased a mansion in Encino, a Los Angeles suburb, that became a notorious party house — known as the M&C estate — where they allegedly plied young boys with alcohol and drugs, making them easier targets for assault. DEN reportedly rented out a movie theater to screen porn for teenage boys, telling a DEN employee that he couldn’t enter because the screening was “kids only.”
A man identified as Andy met Collins-Rector when he was 14 and began a sexual relationship with him. Andy says that at age 15, Singer had sex with him in front of actor Brad Renfro. At the time, Singer told Andy and others that Renfro, who starred in Apt Pupil, was his boyfriend.
It seems that this is largely how Singer’s alleged predation worked: seducing teenagers with access to fame, fortune, and fun and then exploiting them sexually before reminding them that they were powerless against such powerful men.
Another man, Eric, said he “was passed around like a party favor” between Singer and his associates. He said he was 17 when Singer had sex with him, and that he later leveraged his relationship with the director into an internship that jump-started his career in Hollywood. “I never want people to think of me as a victim, so I always put up the front of ‘I’m good. I was in charge,’” says Eric. “But I spent a decade in therapy trying to figure out if what happened was bad or not bad. And if it was bad, was it my fault? What I’ve decided is that adults are supposed to look out for kids.”
Michael Egan said he was assaulted at the M&C estate beginning when he was 15 and later raped by Singer during a trip to Hawaii. He filed suit against the director and his associates, but his case unraveled due to the inconsistencies in what he could remember and his own later legal trouble. As The Atlantic puts it, “Exploiting the symptoms that flow from trauma in order to undermine a victim’s credibility—whether substance abuse, a subsequent criminal offense, or holes in a victim’s memory—has become a common defense and PR strategy.”
While filming Bohemian Rhapsody, Singer was sued by Cesar Sanchez-Guzman, who said he was raped by the director in 2003. After the alleged assault, Sanchez-Guzman said Singer approached him “wearing this grotesque smile. Like he was laughing.”
“Nobody is going to believe you,” the director allegedly insisted.
Rami Malek, the Oscar nominated star of Bohemian Rhapsody (which is up for Best Picture at next month’s ceremony), told the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday that the allegations against Singer were “honestly something I was not aware of” and that he hopes audiences — and likely, Oscar voters — can still enjoy the film knowing how the director has allegedly spent decades preying on young men. “And as far as I’m concerned, I never want to take away from Freddie’s story. I think that puts a button on it in a number of ways."
But what about the stories of these men, who were either seduced and discarded or manipulated and brutalized? What is their pain worth in the face of a few golden trophies?
Update: Deadline has shared a message from Singer sent through a representative in which the director claims that The Atlantic's story "rehashes claims from bogus lawsuits filed by a disreputable cast of individuals willing to lie for money or attention. And it is no surprise that, with Bohemian Rhapsody being an award-winning hit, this homophobic smear piece has been conveniently timed to take advantage of its success.”