One would think that, after Bryan Singer was accused of raping a teenager less than a year ago—and accused of multiple similar assaults dating back to the 1990s in an explosive, year-in-the-making exposé just this week from The Atlantic—the distributor Millennium Films would reconsider its choice of director for its upcoming film Red Sonja. That is not, however, the case, as the company’s CEO made clear on Thursday, more than 24 hours after the latest (and most incriminating) allegations against Singer were published.
Lest their lack of promptness raise questions about whether there were, in fact, doubts, CEO Avi Lerner seems to have done his best to erase them with complete, emphatic confidence in Singer, which he expressed in a statement given to the Hollywood Reporter: “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,” Lerner said of Singer, who’s also directed The Usual Suspects, several X-Men films, and Bohemian Rhapsody. (For the record, Titanic far and away remains the actual highest-grossing drama in film history).
“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,” he continued. In other words: no, he’s not going to let more than a year and 50 sources’ worth of evidence that his employee might be a predator get in the way of the plans that they made back in September for Singer to direct a remake of the 1985 spin-off of Conan the Barbarian. (According to the Reporter, it’s also “female-empowered.”)
There’s no denying that Bohemian Rhapsody has indeed been a box office success. How much credit Singer can take for that is, however, up for debate—particularly as the film has primarily been praised for Rami Malek’s performance in the starring role as Freddie Mercury, which has already seen him win a Golden Globe and a nomination for an Academy Award. But by all accounts, while he was still attached to the film, Singer only complicated things for Malek: Singer himself has said that they had “creative differences,” though Malek also allegedly took issue with Singer’s lack of professionalism—like that time he reportedly threw a piece of electrical equipment during an altercation on set.
Fox halted production of the film shortly after that mishap, citing Singer’s “unexpected unavailability” after he reportedly failed to return to set after Thanksgiving 2017. (He later denied that his departure from the film was a result of conflicts with Malek, citing a need to “deal with pressing health matters concerning one of my parents” as the reason for his absence.)
Even though Singer was fired midway through filming of Bohemian Rhapsody, his name remains attached to the film, which was nominated for five Academy Awards, including best picture, earlier this week. (No doubt much to his delight: Earlier this month, when Bohemian Rhapsody won best drama at the Golden Globes, Singer apparently attempted to make up for the fact that his name was never mentioned at the awards by reminding the world that he’s still credited as the film’s director via a since-deleted Instagram captioned “What an honor. Thank you #HollywoodForeignPress.”)
It’s no wonder that Malek and Co. didn’t dare utter his name: Just three days after Fox confirmed that Singer was “no longer the director of Bohemian Rhapsody, news broke that Singer had been named in a lawsuit that accused him of sexually assaulting a boy who was, at the time, 17. (He was also accused of drugging and raping a minor in 2014, though that lawsuit was later dropped.)
That was all, apparently, news to Malek, who told the Los Angeles Times this week that, “believe it or not,” he “was not aware” of what he referred to as “the allegations and things.” To be clear, Malek made those comments a day before The Atlantic published its exposé, in which four additional men alleged, in gruesome detail, that Singer had raped or seduced them while they were underage, leaving them “psychologically damaged.”
Singer has since denounced the article, describing it as a “homophobic smear piece” that “rehashes claims from bogus lawsuits filed by a disreputable cast of individuals willing to lie for money or attention.” That also seems to be the opinion of Millennium Films, as it apparently doesn’t see a conflict with proceeding with its reported plan of paying Singer “top dollar” to take “a step toward rehabilitating [his] image.”
It’s a journey, after all, that they can endeavor to embark on together: Lerner and Millennium Films, after all, faced a harassment lawsuit of their own in 2017 following allegations that his company regularly demeaned women. That lawsuit was subsequently settled out of court.