The world has called Time’s Up on one of film industry’s biggest studio executives.
Every year, hopeful actors and actresses flock to Hollywood with stars in their eyes.
Charlotte Kirk was one of them. Five years ago the 26-year-old British actress, who hails from Kent, went to Los Angeles chasing her lifelong dream of becoming an actress.
And when she was there she met Kevin Tsujihara, the then-chairman and CEO of Warner Bros through her then-boyfriend James Packer, the Australian billionaire and former fiancé to Mariah Carey, and Packer’s business partner, the director Brett Ratner.
What happened next was the subject of an explosive investigate report from The Hollywood Reporter in which leaked text messages between Kirk, Tsujihara, Packer and Ratner seemed to indicate the CEO of Warner Bros exchanging sex for roles in movies, a process known in Hollywood as the ’casting couch’. (Kirk has appeared in small roles in two Warner Bros movies: Ocean’s 8 and How To Be Single. Tsujihara’s lawyer says that he played no part in her casting in those films.)
Kirk has denied that the sex was transactional, telling the Mail on Sunday that her relationship with the studio chief “was not casting-couch sex”.
Since The Hollwood Reporter published their investigation, Tsujihara has announced he will be stepping down from the studio that he helms.
When news of Tsujihara’s resignation reached Kirk, she said in a statement: “I am deeply saddened to hear the news of Kevin Tsujihara stepping down at Warners. Our relationship ended many years ago. The release of the story by The Hollywood Reporter was nothing to do with me. In fact I tried to prevent it. Whatever differences we may have had in the past were long since forgotten. I only wish him the best of success in his future endeavours.”
What happened between Charlotte Kirk and Kevin Tsujihara?
Kirk and Tsujihara met in 2013 courtesy of a connection from Packer. “I have the opportunity of a lifetime for u,” Packer texted Kirk. “U will never be able to pay me.” He told Kirk that he was going to introduce her to “the most important man u can meet”.
That man, according to The Hollywood Reporter’s investigation, was Tsujihara, the first Asian American to be handed the reins of a major Hollywood studio. As chairman and CEO of Warner Bros, Tsujihara oversees the company behind some of the biggest movies in the world, from the Harry Potter franchise to Wonder Woman, Crazy Rich Asians, A Star Is Born and Ocean’s 8.
Tsujihara and Kirk had a sexual relationship, The Hollywood Reporter reports, one that was predicated on Tsujihara introducing the actress to key studio executives. One text message between the pair read: “You’ve very busy I know but when we were in that motel having sex u said u would help me and when u just ignore me like you’re doing now it makes me feel used. Are u going to help me like u said u would?”
“Sorry you feel that way,” Tsujihara responded. “Richard will be reaching out to u tonight.”
In other text messages, Tsujihara told Kirk that he “caused a bit of a stir” in calls about her. “I spoke to our guys – I caused a bit of a stir… I don’t usually call about casting about these types of roles. It’s fine, I just need to be careful.”
The breakdown of the relationship
The relationship eventually disintegrated on both sides by mid-2015. By then, Kirk was mostly corresponding with Ratner in a series of aggressive messages. (Ratner and Packer were the team behind Rat-Pac entertainment, and Ratner is the director of the Rush Hour movies and X-Men The Last Stand. In 2017, Olivia Munn accused Ratner of sexual harassment.)
At first, Ratner wanted Kirk to sign a settlement agreement. Then, he told her that he would send her on auditions instead. Kirk responded: “You’re the one who wanted me to sign an agreement. Sending me on auditions is a step in the right direction but until it translates into what Kevin promised me then the issues remain unresolved.”
Ultimately, no settlement was ever signed. Kirk went on to be cast as Nicole Brown Simpson in a biopic titled Nicole & OJ, slated for release this year.
Speaking to the Mail Online about the scandal, Kirk said: “Kevin might have thought I was on his casting couch, but my sense of self-worth is such that I thought I was just having sex with a man I fancied. Like any normal woman, I kept on good terms and in touch afterwards.” She reiterated to The Hollywood Reporter that Tsujihara “never promised” her anything, and that she denied that there was “any inappropriate behaviour” on anyone’s part.
What was the fallout of the scandal?
In a company-wide memo to Warner Bros staff members, Tsujihara apologised for his behaviour.
“I deeply regret that I have made mistakes in my personal life that have caused pain and embarrassment to the people I love the most,” Tsujihara wrote. “I also deeply regret that these personal actions have caused embarrassment to the company and to all of you.”
Today, Tsujihara announced that he was resigning from his position as chairman and CEO of the company, because it is “in the best interest” of the business.
“Kevin has contributed greatly to the studio’s success over the past 25 years and for that we thank him,” WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey said in a statement. “Kevin acknowledges that his mistakes are inconsistent with the Company’s leadership expectations and could impact the Company’s ability to execute going forward.”
In a separate memo, Tsujihara added: “I love this company and the people that make it so great… However, it has become clear that my continued leadership could be a distraction and an obstacle to the company’s continued success.”