Max Landis, a C-list screenwriter, director, and producer best known for a string of films that truly bring to life the term “straight to video,” is making an attempted return to filmmaking and public life after a series of sexual misconduct allegations at the end of 2017. Though the accusations on social media were vociferous, Landis has never been criminally charged, and the allegations were never truly reported out. Now he’s written a movie featuring Chloe Grace Moretz as a hero fending off a “leery all-male crew,” as the Hollywood Reporter put it. They do say to write what you know.
Landis, son of celebrity filmmaker John Landis, wrote one semi-successful film in 2012, Chronicle. He was first introduced to the readers of Jezebel the following year, after he gave an interview to a sex personality named Shelby Sells in which he mused at length on the kinds of women he didn’t respect for wanting to have sex with him. There was also a sideline about dating a woman to whom he gave, as he put it, “crippling social anxiety, self-loathing, body dysmorphia” and an eating disorder. It was not well-received, and has since been deleted.
Landis’s career continued in the same horizontal line from that point on, with several flopped films (American Ultra, Victor Frankenstein) and some bizarre Twitter behavior. After director Lexi Alexander wrote that most filmmakers who were not white men from wealthy families wouldn’t keep getting lucrative gigs after making so many flops, she blocked him on the site; Landis responded by making and tweeting a bizarre video begging Alexander to talk to him and accusing her of preventing him from “defending” himself, which many people took to be an attempt to get his followers to similarly harass her. At various times, Landis also complained that the feminist media was mean to him. (“I’ve said some really obnoxious or gross things,” he said, in the video made for Alexander. “But I don’t think I’ve ever said anything sexist, regardless of what a Jezebel article said about me.”) There’s any number of other achingly stupid Landis-involved feuds that we’ll not rehash, along with a surprisingly positive Vulture profile.
Things came to a head, however, in December 2017, when Netflix was promoting the Landis-penned, very expensive fantasy film Bright, which was, by all accounts, extremely bad. In quick succession, many people in the film world began accusing Landis, either in veiled terms or directly, of sexual harassment and assault. One of the first came from Anna Akana, an actor who’d previously worked with Landis, who responded to a Netflix tweet about Bright with, “Written by a psychopath who sexually abused and assaults women, right? Cool.” Another representative one, from game developer and Gamergate survivor Zoe Quinn, read, “Sometimes men who commit sexual assault are talented screenwriters and their work comes with baggage. Other times, they’re Max Landis.” (Quinn followed up by saying she’d heard numerous stories about Landis from friends in Hollywood.)
As Pajiba pointed out at the time, though, the social media accusations did not resolve themselves into a vetted story, but stayed in the realm of Twitter, with dozens of people, including some who’d worked with him, calling Landis things like “a psychopath.” Pajiba’s Tori Preston wrote that she’d tried to get more detail on the rumors she was hearing, but found that virtually no one was ready to talk in a more public way.
I heard about behavior ranging from alleged public groping to (alleged) true horror stories, and even though they were off the record, the stories shared a lot of similarities. But the women in question often weren’t ready to talk to me directly — and they certainly weren’t ready to share their pain with the internet masses.
Still, though, they seemed to hit a nerve: Landis went radio silent for a fairly long time, deleting his Twitter account and seemingly doing very little on the professional front. Landis had reportedly been writing a remake to American Werewolf in London, a project which also seems indefinitely stalled.
Until now, that is. As the Daily Beast put it, Landis has chosen to make his “Me Too comeback,” a phrase more revealing than perhaps it is meant to be, with the Moretz-led Shadow in the Cloud, directed by Roseanne Liang. He’s also written a sci-fi Thriller, Deeper, which Idris Elba is reportedly in talks to star in.
Everything old is new again, and every man who went away for a reason is returning. Anna Akana responded with a tweet calling Landis “a serial sexual abuser,” adding, “This attempt to come back with a bullshit feminism movie is insulting.”