Director James Toback accused by 38 women of sexual harassment

(Credit: Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters)
(Credit: Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters)

Director James Toback has been accused of sexual assault by 38 women over a period spanning decades in a report by the Los Angeles Times.

It’s claimed that 72-year-old Toback harassed and assaulted women who he had employed, and also women he would approach in the street.

Oscar-nominated for his screenplay for the Warren Beatty movie ‘Bugsie’, he also directed movies like ‘The Pick-up Artist’ and ‘Two Girls And A Guy’, both with Robert Downey Jr, and most recently ‘The Private Life of A Modern Woman’ with Sienna Miller and Alec Baldwin earlier this year.

It’s claimed that he masturbated in front of numerous women in hotel rooms and even in rehearsals for his movies.

A onetime aspiring actress Sari Kamin, who was 23 at the time, revealed her experience with Toback in a blog on Medium, saying that he strung her along with the promise of roles, and ‘told me he needed to masturbate seven times a day to feel steady in the world, as if the act of ejaculating tuned his equilibrium like strings on a guitar’.

He finally took her to a hotel room and made her undress under the pretence of auditioning, then ‘proceeded to rub his groin area up and down against my right leg’, at which point Kamin fled the room.

Toback has denied the claims, telling 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.”

However, Kamin’s experience mirrors that of others, including Adrienne LaValley and someone described in the Times article as ‘a well-known actress’, who also say he rubbed himself against them until he ejaculated.

“The way he presented it, it was like, ‘This is how things are done.’ I felt like a prostitute, an utter disappointment to myself, my parents, my friends. And I deserved not to tell anyone,” said LaValley.

Actress Terri Conn also said he did the same thing to her.

“I was shocked and frozen and didn’t know what to do. I thought if I resisted, it could get worse. He could overpower me,” she said.

While rehearsing a monologue for the movie ‘Harvard Man’ in 2001, actress Chantal Cousineau said that she could hear Toback masturbating.

According to reports, Toback has been notorious for such behaviour, with articles appearing about his conduct as far back as 1989 in Spy magazine.

More recently, the now-defunct Gawker website published three stories about him in 2008, 2010 and 2012.

Director James Gunn, helmsman of the ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ movies, said that he knew about Toback’s reputation and warned women to keep away from him, in a post on his Facebook page.

“It’s important to say, I don’t have any firsthand information about any of this,” Gunn writes.

“But the stories are so eerily similar, and I’ve heard them again and again from some of the people I trust most in the world, I know the chances of them being untrue… well, it would just be impossible.

“When I lived in New York, in the ‘nineties, this dude was EVERYWHERE. I have personally met at least FIFTEEN WOMEN, probably more, who say that he’s accosted them in NYC. He essentially goes up to women and says, ‘Hey, I’m James Toback, and I’m a famous director, and I feel like there’s a connection between us.’ Then he shows them some article on himself or some other artifact to prove he is who he is, and tries to get them to go somewhere else with him.

“I couldn’t stop him,” Gunn adds, “but I could warn people about him.”

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