Thirty-eight women spoke to the Los Angeles Times — 31 on the record — detailing their experiences with director and screenwriter James Toback (pictured at left with Mike Tyson) and his sexual behavior, dating back decades.
Toback would allegedly approach young women, usually college-aged but occasionally younger, and introduce himself. He would then proceed to use his movie titles, actors he worked with and articles written about him to impress the girls and convince them he had the power to make them stars in Hollywood. He would say he could make them famous, but first he needed to get to know them.
According to the women interviewed, Toback would then arrange meetings as interviews or auditions. During the meetings he would brag about the famous women he’d slept with and would ask personal questions about their bodies and their sexual habits. He would then allegedly reveal he couldn’t function unless he masturbated several times a day and would then try to dry-hump them or masturbate in front of them and would walk away once he’d finished, ending the meeting.
The accounts of these women show Toback as someone who has allegedly been sexually harassing women for decades, not discriminating between those who worked for him, were trying to work as actresses and even random women he’d seen on the street.
None of these women reported their encounters with Toback to the police at the time, which is common in these types of situations. However, many of them did tell people close to them and the L.A. Times verified their accounts with those people.
When the Times contacted Toback, he denied the allegations, claiming he’d never met any of the women, and if he did, it “was for five minutes and [I] have no recollection.” Toback also claimed repeatedly that for the last two decades it was “biologically impossible” for him to engage in the behavior described due to medication for diabetes and a heart condition.
These allegations might not be surprising when it’s considered that the director’s semi-autobiographical movie was titled The Pick-up Artist and that media profiles often called him a womanizer. Public reports of his behavior also date back to a 1989 article in SPY magazine. The women who spoke with the L.A. Times say his behavior was much more serious.
“He told me he’d love nothing more than to masturbate while looking into my eyes,” said Louise Post of her encounter with him in 1987. “Going to his apartment has been the source of shame for the past 30 years, that I allowed myself to be so gullible,” Post added.
“Everyone wants to work, so they put up with it,” actress Echo Danon said. “That’s why I put up with it. Because I was hoping to get another job.”
Chantal Cousineau was 19 when she met Toback in Toronto. She was asked to meet him for an audition for Harvard Man (2001). They met in a hotel restaurant and ended up in his hotel room. Cousineau said she walked away when Toback kept talking about masturbation. As she reached the door he told her to calm down, because she had gotten the part. Shortly afterward, her agent called her to confirm she’d been cast. However, she claims he proceeded to make her feel violated during filming.
Many of the women stopped pursuing acting after meeting Toback, and moved on with their lives, repressing that past. When the Weinstein scandal broke, it brought those memories back to the surface. Undoubtedly there will be more Hollywood predators exposed in the coming months. ~Hayley Michaud.