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It bills itself as “the movie Hollywood doesn’t want you to see.” But strategic cuts have been made to the original version of An Open Secret, Amy Berg‘s explosive documentary about sexual abuse in Hollywood, as it courts foreign buyers in Cannes.
Specifically, the film has dropped all references to lawsuits alleging sexual abuse that Michael Egan filed in 2014 against director Bryan Singer and film and TV executives Garth Ancier, David Neuman and Gary Goddard. Egan later dropped them all, and Ancier and Neuman filed suits of their own against Egan and his attorneys for malicious prosecution.
Footage of Egan’s April 17, 2014, press conference, during which he first launched his accusations, was featured in the concluding minutes of the film when it debuted at Doc NYC on Nov. 14. At that event, the movie’s only public screening to date, Berg admitted that finding a distributor “was not very likely.”
Since then, though, producers Matthew Valentinas and Gabe Hoffman, under their Esponda banner, have excised several minutes from the film, including the Egan press conference. Valentinas — a Boston attorney who brought in Berg, who’d previously exposed sexual exploitation in the Catholic Church in Deliver Us from Evil, to direct — insists the film doesn’t pose legal risks. “There have been no lawsuits against the film, and the chances of that happening have been even more reduced since the Doc NYC screening,” he says.
“There have been very few changes. Now, there is a little more focus on some of the victims,” adds Greg H. Sims of Vesuvio Entertainment, which recently announced a deal with Randy Slaughter‘s Rocky Mountain Pictures to co-distribute the film stateside with a 20-city run that will kick off June 5 in Denver and Seattle. Vesuvio also is bringing the movie to Cannes. Although foreign buyers from countries where libel laws are stricter than in the U.S. might be wary, according to Sims a May 19 screening already is oversubscribed.
Egan still appears in the film, although his credibility took a further hit when he was arraigned earlier this year on unrelated federal charges of security and wire fraud and then pled guilty last month to conspiracy. In Open Secret, Egan is seen as one of several men who testify about drug-and-alcohol-fueled parties full of underage boys that took place at a mansion owned by Digital Entertainment Network. Founded in 1996, DEN created original web content and was headed by Marc Collins-Rector, who pleaded guilty in 2004 to charges of transporting minors across state lines for sex.
Egan “is in the film to the extent it involves his experience with DEN and multiple sex offenders like Marc Collins-Rector,” says Sims. “Everybody stands behind what he has to say as it relates to DEN. People can make their own judgments about how what he went through affected what he has done with the rest of his life.”
While Ancier and Neuman are not mentioned in the current version, Singer still appears, named as an investor in DEN — along with others such as David Geffen and former politician Michael Huffington (Goddard is seen in passing, standing beside Singer in one picture). But no specific allegations are aimed at the director.
Instead, the film devotes much of its 97 minutes to such figures as talent manager Marty Weiss, who pleaded no contest in 2012 to two counts of committing lewd acts on a child; Bob Villard, a publicist who at one time represented a young Leonardo DiCaprio and who pleaded no contest to a similar felony charge in 2005; and Michael Harrah, a talent manager who sat on SAG-AFTRA’s Young Performers Committee.
“It’s a very factual film that is really going to lay the groundwork for investigative reporters to go even further,” says Valentinas, who says any profits from the film will go to a foundation that Esponda Productions has established.
Berg herself is not at Cannes because she is prepping other projects, but the producers say she’s signed off on all the changes. Instead, Evan Henzi, one of the young men who appears in the film, will attend, and Olympic diver Greg Louganis, who encountered abuse in his own life, is lending his support to the film.
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