After revealing that one of her cast mates in The Predator was a convicted sex offender, Munn says she’s been treated like “I’m the one who went to jail”. The case proves that women still take a risk when they speak out about sexual misconduct.
Imagine you’ve been hired to work on a new project. You’re excited about it; you think it could be seriously successful. But one day, you learn that one of your new colleagues – a man in his 40s – once spent time in prison for grooming an underage girl.
The man in question is a friend of your boss, but you’re sure that senior management and your other co-workers are unaware of his past. You also know the project will be ruined if word gets out that a convicted sex offender is part of the team – and you don’t want to tacitly endorse the man’s behaviour by working with him. What do you do?
In all likelihood, you would take the information you’ve learned about your colleague to management, and state that you don’t want to collaborate on the project with him. You’d probably expect your other co-workers to support your decision to speak out, and to be thankful to you for blowing the whistle.
Actor Olivia Munn recently found herself in that exact situation when she discovered that one of her cast mates in upcoming film The Predator had been jailed for trying to lure a 14-year-old female relative into a sexual relationship over the internet. Steve Wilder Striegel spent six months in prison in 2010 after pleading guilty to risk of injury to a child and enticing a minor by computer, and is now a registered sex offender.
Munn had appeared in a scene in The Predator with Striegel, and was horrified to learn of his past. As soon as she found out, she reported the information to 20th Century Fox, the studio behind the film. His scene has now been cut from the movie, which premiered at Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) last week.
However, Munn says she feels she is now being punished for making a fuss about Striegel’s role in the film. Over the weekend, she and other members of The Predator’s cast were scheduled to appear in a video interview with The Hollywood Reporter. With the exception of 11-year-old child star Jacob Tremblay, all of the actors who were scheduled to take part in the interview cancelled at the last minute.
Munn explained that she felt isolated as a result of speaking out. “There are people who get very mad at you for not just helping them bury [a story like this],” she said.
“I do feel like I’ve been treated by some people that I’m the one who went to jail or I’m the one that put this guy on set… It’s a very lonely feeling to be sitting here by myself when I should be sitting here with the rest of the cast.”
Of course, Munn wasn’t the person who “put [Striegel] on set”. In fact, the actor was hired by the film’s director, Shane Black, who is one of his close friends. Since leaving prison, Striegel has appeared in two of Black’s other films, Iron Man 3 and The Nice Guys.
Initially, Black defended his decision to cast Striegel in The Predator, saying that he “personally chose to help a friend”. He also defended Striegel himself, saying that the circumstances of his conviction involved him getting “caught up in a bad situation”, as opposed to “something lecherous”.
Black has since apologised to the cast of The Predator for not informing them about Striegel’s record, saying he had been “misled” about the true nature of his friend’s crimes. However, Munn told The Hollywood Reporter that Black had not contacted her directly to apologise or discuss the issue.
“I appreciate [his] apology,” she said. “I would have appreciated it more if it was directed toward me privately before it went public and I had to see it online with everyone else.”
Several of the actress’s co-stars in The Predator, including Keegan-Michael Key and Sterling K Brown, have since come forward to state that they support her. But Munn’s sense that she was having to fight this battle alone is eerily familiar. It echoes the stories of actresses such as Rose McGowan, Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino, who were effectively blacklisted in Hollywood after speaking out about Harvey Weinstein’s alleged abusive behaviour.
Munn’s experience also highlights the fact that women are still taking a risk when they speak out about sexual predators in the workplace. Since the #MeToo movement went viral last autumn, a poisonous narrative has emerged that suggests some women might simply invent or embroider stories of sexual misconduct out of spite or a desire for attention.
But making an allegation of sexual misconduct, or flagging past convictions for sexual offences, is rarely something that women decide to do lightly – particularly in a professional setting. Speaking out becomes even riskier when the alleged or convicted perpetrator is friendly with senior figures, as Striegel was. How telling it is that Black continued to hire his friend even after he had pleaded guilty to sexual offences, choosing to believe that his friend had simply been “caught up in a bad situation”.
Whistleblowing is an even bolder move if it could potentially damage the reputation or financial success of a company (or film, in Munn’s case). In these sorts of situations, it’s sadly unsurprising that many people choose to stay silent rather than make a fuss.
In speaking out about Striegel, Munn knew that a shadow could be cast over The Predator. But as she rightly points out, some things are more important than the success of a film.
“We’re making movies. We’re not in the mafia. I haven’t spoken against the family,” she said. “I try to do the right thing and that’s all I can do, and when I see something, [I] do something.”
Images: Getty Images