Following new allegations that Bryan Singer molested and raped a number of underage teen boys, Millennium Films CEO Avi Lerner came to the director’s defense with a bafflingly-bad public statement citing Bohemian Rhapsody’s box office success as one of the reasons why Singer is still attached to the studio’s upcoming Red Sonja movie.
On its face, the statement wasn’t just factually incorrect (Titanic is still the most successful drama in Hollywood history), it was callous in its dismissal of the reports about Singer’s behavior and the people claiming that he hurt them. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the statement read in part:
“The over $800 million Bohemian Rhapsody has grossed, making it the highest grossing drama in film history, is testament to his remarkable vision and acumen. I know the difference between agenda driven fake news and reality, and I am very comfortable with this decision. In America people are innocent until proven otherwise.”
In a new statement provided to the Hollywood Reporter, Lerner now says that he never actually wrote or read the initial statement (which was crafted by his PR team), but did sign off on it. While Lerner regrets some of his choice of words, he went on to say that he stands by his core sentiment defending Singer, and claims that he hasn’t actually received any blowback from anyone within the industry for his position:
“Nobody called me, not from one agency. I got support by the head of a studio to say, ‘Well done, Avi. You stand by what you believe, and people should be innocent until they are proven guilty.’ Nobody told me that they’re not going to work with me.”
Gather ‘round, folks; it’s time for a little game theory.
There’s no way of knowing whether Lerner actually got this alleged pat on the back for standing by Singer, or if literally none of his peers have expressed how his position casts Millennium Films in an incredibly bad light. But it’s impossible to imagine that potential producers, writers, and actors aren’t watching the development of Red Sonja from afar and asking themselves whether working with Singer could ruin their careers. THR wasn’t able to get anyone to go on the record in their story but did share some more background:
THR reached out to a wide swath of representatives, producers and talent to gauge if Millennium would suffer any consequences for keeping Singer in the Red Sonja fold. No one wanted to be quoted. But even with the veil of anonymity, no one said he or she would stop working with Lerner. A few agents and managers said they would balk at putting a client in Red Sonja. “The fact that he’s making a movie so quickly after the allegations became public feels wrong,” says a founder at a top management company. “If a manager [here] came to me and told me they were doing it, I’d have a problem.”
It’s quite true that Bohemian Rhapsody made an absurd amount of money. It’s also true that, after Singer repeatedly failed to show up on set, Fox had to fire him two weeks out from the production’s end and bring in a new director to replace him. Singer’s involvement in the film isn’t so much a testament to its success, but rather an conspicuous smudge on it that makes for an odd snapshot of Hollywood’s current landscape.
Like all studios, Millennium Films is chiefly concerned with its bottom line, and it wants the movies it puts out to be successful. What Lerner’s doing here, though, is insisting that the public’s going to be perfectly fine with the Millennium brand being associated with a director who’s been dogged by allegations of being a child rapist for the bulk of his career.
Seems like a bad business move.
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