In a new bombshell expose, the Los Angeles Times reports that over 30 women, almost all of them young, aspiring actresses at the time of the incidents alleged, have shared stories of screenwriter and director James Toback sexually harassing them, using the promise of an audition to lure them into compromising situations, some of which ended in an assault. Toback denied the allegations, telling the Times he had no recollection of meeting the women and that "for the past 22 years, it had been 'biologically impossible' for him to engage in the behavior described by the women in this story, saying he had diabetes and a heart condition that required medication."
No police reports exist on the many incidents alleged. Sexual misconduct is one of the most under-reported crimes, Toback's manner of assault left little to no material evidence, and he reportedly told multiple women that he had ties with the mob and could bring physical harm to anyone who spoke out against him. But almost every story corroborates the others, at least in terms of Toback's modus operandi. He'd find a woman of legal age but still young enough to be naive, usually an actress at the start of her career, or just someone he found on the streets of New York City. Since he wasn't famous to anyone outside of the business, he might show the woman a DVD of one of his films, like Bugsy, for which he was nominated for an Oscar, or an article written about him. He'd brag about how he'd helped Robert Downey, Jr. establish a career. Then, once he had her alone, he'd find a pretext for making the woman take her clothes off. He would say it was to establish intimacy, or to make sure she was comfortable showing her body in front of others, as she might have to in a movie. Then he'd hump or rub against her, and on multiple occasions, he asked women to pinch his nipples and look into his eyes while he came in his pants, according to the report.
There are other versions and other stories, other gross behaviors. Often, experiences with Toback left women too rattled, disgusted and humiliated to tell anyone, but enough people knew to give him a reputation as a notorious lothario or creep, depending on whose side of the story you heard. Spy and Gawker both wrote about James Toback, and after the #MeToo campaign blew up in the aftermath of the Harvey Weinstein allegations, more women came forward and were willing to go on record with the LA Times.
Karen Sklaire, an actress and drama teacher in New York whose own experience with Toback in 1997 ended with him grinding against her leg, told the Times, “It’s a common thread among many women I know… after someone mentions they were sexually abused by a creepy writer-director, the response is, ‘Oh, no. You got Toback-ed.’”
See below for more accounts of his behavior and reputation: