Hollywood producer and director Brett Ratner has been accused of sexual harassment or misconduct by six women, including actresses Natasha Henstridge??? and Olivia Munn, in an explosive report.
Ratner is best known as the director of the Rush Hour film series, but he is also a prolific producer of film and television content. Until recently, Ratner was the business partner of Australian businessman James Packer in the joint venture RatPac.
The Los Angeles Times has published accounts by Henstridge, Munn and four other women, detailing encounters with the 48-year-old producer in which he either forced himself on them, performed lewd acts or spoke crudely about his sexual activities.
The claims have become public in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein??? sexual harassment scandal, in which Weinstein has been accused by more than 50 women of either sexually harassing or sexually assaulting them.
The Weinstein scandal has prompted other victims to come forward, causing a ripple effect which has so far engulfed other powerful men in Hollywood, including Amazon executive Roy Price, film director James Toback, producer Chris Savino and House of Cards actor Kevin Spacey.
Henstridge, who starred in Species and The Whole Nine Yards, told the newspaper that Ratner had "strong-armed" her into performing oral sex on him during an encounter at his apartment in New York.
"He physically forced himself on me," she said. "At some point I gave in and he did his thing."
The actress Olivia Munn, who starred in the television series The Newsroom, alleged that during a visit to the set of the film After The Sunset, which Ratner directed, he masturbated in front of her in his trailer.
Munn wrote about the incident in an essay published in 2010, though it did not name Ratner.
Ratner later admitted it was him and claimed in a television interview that he had "banged" her but he subsequently recanted that claim during a radio interview.
Munn told the Los Angeles Times that Ratner had later boasted to her of "ejaculating on magazine covers" which featured her image.
"I've made specific, conscientious choices not to work with Brett Ratner," Munn said. "It feels as if I keep going up against the same bully at school who just won't quit."
Among his other accusers are actress Jaime Ray Newman, who said he used graphic sexual language to her while making a pass at her on an airplane, and actress Katharine Towne, who said Ratner had, during an incident in 2008, "started to come on to me in a way that was so extreme".
Ratner's lawyer, Martin Singer, denied the claims in a statement sent to the Los Angeles Times.
Singer said he had represented Ratner for two decades and in that time "no woman has ever made a claim against him for sexual misconduct or sexual harassment [and] no woman has ever requested or received any financial settlement" from him.
Singer called Newman's allegation "ridiculous" and Towne's allegation "absurd"; other accounts were dismissed as "second hand" or Singer said that Ratner simply had no recollection of them.
The Los Angeles Times also sought comment from five of Ratner's former assistants, David Steiman, Hopi Dobuler, Drew Sherman, Brett Gursky and Izak Rappaport; the paper reported that all praised Ratner and said they did not witness any behaviour consistent with the claims.
Reaction in Hollywood was swift. The studio Warner Bros, which co-finances films with Ratner's RatPac, said in a statement: "We are aware of the allegations in the LA Times and are reviewing the situation."
A biopic on Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, which Ratner was set to produce and direct, has been put "on hold". "We find this kind of behaviour completely unacceptable," a Playboy spokesperson said.
The actress Asia Argento, who is among Weinstein's many accusers, reacted to the Ratner story by posting on her social media account the song lyric: "bad boy, bad boy, whatcha gonna do when they come for you?"
"This article is what we've all been waiting for Brett Ratner," Argento said. "You've been f---ing busted."
Argento also noted that Ratner is friends with director James Toback, who stands accused by more than 300 women of sexual harassing them.
The Los Angeles Times report noted the connection between Ratner and Toback, also noting Ratner was friends with Robert Evans, the former Paramount Pictures boss who was convicted on cocaine charges, and controversial director Roman Polanski, who was convicted of having unlawful sex with a minor in 1977.
In an interview with the trade publication Variety published in January, Ratner said Evans, Toback and Polanski were among his "closest friends".
The celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, who is Argento's partner, called Ratner a "sebaceous bag of farts".
In a separate report today, the industry trade publication The Hollywood Reporterpublished a guest column by Anna Graham Hunter, which detailed sexual harassment by the actor Dustin Hoffman during her time as a production assistant.
Though the scale of the accusation is smaller than the Ratner story, Hunter's recollections illuminate the all-pervasive nature of sexual harassment and the extent to which it occurs in more everyday situations.
"He was openly flirtatious, he grabbed my ass, he talked about sex to me and in front of me," Hunter recalled.
Hunter also noted the complexity of her reaction to the harassment: "I loved the attention from Dustin Hoffman," she wrote. "Until I didn't."
In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, Hoffman said he had "the utmost respect for women and feel terrible that anything I might have done could have put her in an uncomfortable situation. I am sorry. It is not reflective of who I am."