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Studio cuts ties to director Ratner after harassment report

By The Associated Press
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NEW YORK (AP) — Hollywood's widening sexual harassment crisis has ensnared a prominent film director after six women — including actress Olivia Munn — accused Brett Ratner of sexual misconduct in a Los Angeles Times report on Wednesday.

Playboy Enterprises quickly distanced itself from Ratner as his attorney denied the allegations and late Wednesday Warner Bros. severed ties with the director, whose expired first-look deal with the studio will not be renewed, according to a person with knowledge of the decision who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

The reverberations also reached back 32 years as Oscar-winner Dustin Hoffman came forward to apologize for allegedly sexually harassing a 17-year-old intern in 1985.

Writer Anna Graham Hunter alleged in a Wednesday column in The Hollywood Reporter that the now 80-year-old actor groped her on the set of TV movie "Death of a Salesman" and "talked about sex to me and in front of me."

Hoffman issued a statement Wednesday, apologizing for "anything I might have done could have put her in an uncomfortable situation. I am sorry. It is not reflective of who I am."

Munn also complained about on-set behavior, alleging that while visiting the production of Ratner's "After the Sunset" in 2004, he masturbated in front of her in his trailer. Munn described the incident, without naming Ratner, in a 2010 collection of essays.

Ratner's lawyer issued a statement Wednesday in which he said the director "vehemently denies the outrageous derogatory allegations" and is "confident that his name will be cleared once the current media frenzy dies down and people can objectively evaluate the nature of these claims."

Ratner directed the "Rush Hour" film series, "Red Dragon," ''X-Men: The Last Stand" and "Tower Heist."

According to a person with knowledge of the situation who spoke on condition of anonymity, Ratner will no longer occupy rented office space on the company's lot in Burbank, Calif. He has also been taken off of the adaptation of Donna Tartt's novel "The Goldfinch," which he had previously been set to produce.

Ratner's production company, RatPac Entertainment does have a financing deal with the studio that will continue until March 2018. The $450-million co-financing agreement was signed in 2013 and it remains unclear whether that will be renewed or not. It has encompassed much of Warner Bros.'s output, including "Wonder Woman," ''It" and "Justice League."

A Warner Bros. representative declined comment.

Ratner had previously said he would step away from work with Warner Bros. for an unspecified amount of time. "I don't want to have any possible negative impact to the studio until these personal issues are resolved," Ratner said.

Playboy Enterprises has shelved any of its projects that involved Ratner, including working on a biopic of Hugh Hefner, which was to star Jared Leto. "We are deeply troubled to learn about the accusations against Brett Ratner. We find this kind of behavior completely unacceptable," according to a statement.

"Wonder Woman" director Patty Jenkins, who presented Ratner an award at the Jewish National Fund dinner on Saturday, wrote on Twitter on Wednesday that she was disturbed by the accusations. She added that had never witnessed or been aware of any misconduct by Ratner.

Ratner and Hoffman become the latest Hollywood figures to face allegations of misusing their power to harass actresses, a list that now includes producer Harvey Weinstein and writer-director James Toback. Harassment allegations have also been levied against actors Kevin Spacey and Jeremy Piven.

The crisis has widened to other areas of entertainment and media, including country music. Kirt Webster, a major country music publicist who has represented high profile clients like Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, Kid Rock and Hank Williams Jr., had denied accusations that he sexually assaulted an aspiring country singer.

A former singer named Austin Rice says Webster groped his genitals, kissed him, made him strip naked and sexually assaulted him in 2008.

His firm, Webster Public Relations, on Wednesday changed its name to Westby Public Relations and is being run by senior vice president Jeremy Westby. A statement from the company said Webster is "taking time away from the business to focus on the egregious and untrue allegations."

Police in Beverly Hills on Tuesday announced they have launched criminal investigations over complaints received about Weinstein and Toback. Weinstein also is being investigated for sexual assault or rape by police in Los Angeles, New York and London.

Weinstein has denied engaging in any non-consensual sexual contact. His representative, Sallie Hofmeister, had no comment on the Beverly Hills investigation. The department said late Tuesday that it was investigating Weinstein and Toback after receiving "multiple complaints," although the department did not specify the nature of the complaints.

Weinstein has been fired from the company he co-founded and is suing The Weinstein Co. in Delaware seeking access to his personnel file and his emails. The company noted in a legal filing Wednesday that Weinstein is contesting his firing in private arbitration. The company is also asking a judge to reject Weinstein's request to fast-track the case.

Dozens of women, including actresses Selma Blair and Rachel McAdams, have alleged that Toback sexually harassed or assaulted them.

Toback has denied the allegations. He does not have a representative to field inquiries about the criminal investigation.

Repercussions have been swift after allegations against Weinstein surfaced. Weinstein lost memberships in several organizations after initial reports of sexual harassment were published and Netflix suspended production on its final season of "House of Cards" on Tuesday amid allegations star Spacey made a sexual advance on actor Anthony Rapp in 1986 when he was 14.

The decision to pause production Tuesday came before a second actor leveled allegations against Spacey.

Mexican actor Roberto Cavazos wrote on his Facebook page that he encountered Spacey at the bar of London's Old Vic Theatre, where Spacey was artistic director from 2004-15, and the actor tried to fondle him against his will.

Cavazos declined an interview request. Representatives for Spacey said he's "taking the time necessary to seek evaluation and treatment. No other information is available at this time."

In a statement Tuesday, the theater expressed "deep dismay" at the allegations and said "inappropriate behavior by anyone working at The Old Vic is completely unacceptable."

___

Bahr reported from Los Angeles. AP Television Writer Lynn Elber in Los Angeles, AP Entertainment Writer Mark Kennedy in New York and Berenice Bautista in Mexico City contributed to this report.

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