Yesterday The Atlantic published a story tracing allegations against director Bryan Singer that have been a widely known “open secret” in the industry for years. Several men detail allegations of being sexually assaulted by Singer as minors, one of whom talks about being assaulted on set during the production of Singer’s film Apt Pupil.
If that story feels like déjà vu, consider the reporting that Gawker did on similar allegations nearly five years ago. There is also coverage from the 1990s of minor actors suing Singer after being asked to remove their clothing on the set of Apt Pupil, and a 2014 lawsuit filed by child actor Michael Egan who claims Singer drugged and assaulted him, as well as a 2017 lawsuit filed for the alleged rape of a 17-year-old boy.
But Rami Malek, Oscar-nominated star of Bohemian Rhapsody, directed by Singer, was not aware of the allegations. Malek told The Los Angeles Times when asked if he regrets working with Singer, he says:
I didn’t know much about Bryan. I think that the allegations and things were, believe it or not, honestly something I was not aware of, and that is what it is. Who knows what happens with that… but I think somehow we found a way to persevere through everything that was thrown our way.
He points out that Singer was fired from the film, but given his posts from the movie set, it seems like he directed a good portion of it.
Is it really possible that Malek could not have known about the allegations against Singer, even when he was fired from the production and the lawsuits and allegations yet again became highly publicized?
The “I didn’t know” defense when it comes to dodging allegations of abuse and assault against famous men is reminiscent of actors who shrugged off the allegations against Woody Allen, despite the publicity it received at the time. “I didn’t know Woody and I don’t know anything about that family,” Kate Winslet said of working with him. “I don’t know anything about it,” Scarlett Johansson said. “It would be ridiculous for me to make any kind of assumption one way or the other. “If I had known then what I know now, I would not have acted in the film,” Greta Gerwig said.
There’s a casual way Malek and these actors roll such allegations off their back, as if this was just a rumor they heard once in a bar and not a serious accusation repeatedly outlined in testimonies, lawsuits, and news reports. Given the blinding spotlight on Singer’s reputation, one which spans decades, it’s difficult to believe Malek simply “didn’t know much about Bryan.” And if there’s one thing I hope actors take away from being asked about the behavior of their directors is that they need to, you know, at least research if their director is an alleged child abuser. Because they will become the face of their projects and their artistry and fame will be used as a tool to distract others from the fact that a person like Singer is directing these projects.
What the “I didn’t know” defense almost always means is, yes I knew of the allegations and I don’t believe them or care about them. So just say that, actors. Just say that!