Eliza Dushku Says 'True Lies' Stunt Coordinator Sexually Assaulted Her When She Was 12
The 'Dollhouse' actress wrote that she was "sexually molested" by Joel Kramer after he "lured" her to his hotel room when filming the 1994 Arnold Schwarzenegger-Jamie Lee Curtis film.
Eliza Dushku has accused Blade Runner 2049 and The Conjuring 2 stunt coordinator Joel Kramer of assaulting her on the set of the 1994 film classic True Lies, when Dushku was 12 years old.
In a Facebook post on Saturday, the Dollhouse actress wrote that she was "sexually molested" by the then-36-year-old stunt coordinator after Kramer "lured" her to his hotel room when filming the Arnold Schwarzenegger- and Jamie Lee Curtis-starring action movie. Dushku said he promised her parents that he would take her swimming at the stunt crew's hotel pool and take her out for sushi.
"I remember vividly how he methodically drew the shades and turned down the lights; how he cranked up the air-conditioning to what felt like freezing levels, where exactly he placed me on one of the two hotel room beds, what movie he put on the television (Coneheads); how he disappeared in the bathroom and emerged, naked, bearing nothing but a small hand towel held flimsy at his mid-section," Dushku wrote.
Dushku said he laid down next to her on a hotel bed and rubbed her repeatedly, then suggested that she not tell anyone of the encounter. She added that on the way back to her parents, he pulled her onto his lap during a taxi ride, but grew "cold" to her in subsequent encounters.
Dushku claims that she told a "tough adult friend" on set about the encounter, who approached Kramer with the allegation. That same day, "by no small coincidence," the actress wrote, she broke ribs in what she says what a stunt that went wrong.
"To be clear, over the course of those months rehearsing and filming True Lies, it was Joel Kramer who was responsible for my safety on a film that at the time broke new ground for action films," Dushku wrote. "On a daily basis he rigged wires and harnesses on my 12 year old body. My life was literally in his hands: he hung me in the open air, from a tower crane, atop an office tower, 25+ stories high. Whereas he was supposed to be my protector, he was my abuser."
The actress added that she was prompted to come out with her story now when she saw a photo of Kramer hugging a young girl on the internet, an image that she says "haunted" her. Dushku also credited other Hollywood women who have come out with stories of abuse and assault in recent weeks for strengthening her resolve.
"Sharing these words, finally calling my abuser out publicly by name, brings the start of a new calm," she wrote.
When speaking to The Hollywood Reporter by phone on Saturday, Kramer denied the accusations, calling them "atrocious lies." He said he was "floored" and that Dushku's claims were hitting him "like a sledgehammer." Kramer added, "I'm already getting emails that people want to kill me."
Kramer said he and his team did spend time with Dushku swimming and taking her out for sushi, at her request, but claims that he was never alone with her. "We took care of her like she was our kid," he said. "I don't ever remember being alone with her. 'Luring' her up to my hotel room is just crazy." He added that the sexual assault allegation is "just untrue."
According to Kramer, an assistant on set had told him Dushku had a crush on him. "I don't know what goes through a young girl's mind, I don't know what goes through anyone's mind," he said. "Something set her off somewhere."
As for the injury Dushku wrote about, Kramer said there would be a production report. "She may have gotten bruised, I don't think she broke any ribs, I don't remember that at all," he said. "We do everything we can to make sure everybody is safe." (Twitter users resurfaced a 2009 tweet from Dushku where she posted about an injury that sounded similar to the one mentioned in her Facebook post; broken ribs and a few concussions on the set of True Lies.)
Kramer, who is very much still working, referenced his long film résumé since True Lies, which includes the recent Furious 7 and TV series Westworld and Star Trek: Discovery, and added, "We took care of her like she was our kid. It was important that Eliza trusted me and the stunt team. Especially with a minor. I've never gotten anybody hurt."
Kramer said he plans to talk to an attorney but added, "I'm not even angry, I'm just so hurt. I'm probably going to have to talk to an attorney at some point, that will cost me thousands of dollars to get to the bottom of this, but why would I want to countersue and ruin her life? It's a lose-lose for everybody."
In response to a commenter on Dushku's Facebook post who took aim at the job of being a parent of a child actress, an account appearing to belong to Dushku's mother, Judith, waded into the conversation to say that she, too, feared Kramer.
"I accept your condemnation as Eliza's mother," Judith wrote on the thread. "No, it was not her career that I feared for, as that meant nothing to me. I was afraid of Joel Kramer, too. And it was years later that I finally understood fully what really happened."
She continued, "At the time, Eliza was too scared to tell the whole story and in a way I think she protected me from knowing because she knew how frightened I was of the powerful men on set. Her [loss] was the worst, but abuse can throw a wide net. I only began to understand this many years later."
On Sunday, Sue Booth Forbes, Dushku's legal guardian on the set, said in a statement the actress was telling the truth.
"I was on the True Lies set for 3 weeks and reported Joel Kramer's inappropriate sexual behavior towards 12-year-old Eliza to a person in authority," Forbes said. "I was met with blank stares and had the sense that I wasn't telling that person anything they didn't already know."
She continued, "I tried to keep Joel away from her as did others working on the set, but because of all the stunts she had to do, he was constantly involved with her and her body. Those who knew didn't know what to do and were far enough down the pecking order to be afraid of losing their jobs if they pressed the issue because all the power lay in the hands of those who called the shots and would stop at nothing to protect each other. That was years ago when that power structure was the norm, and the bullies were in charge. Only now does it appear that women and men know what to do and are doing it. May Eliza be believed and supported and may her courage in telling her truth make a contribution to the sea change that is in progress."
True Lies star Tom Arnold took to Twitter on Saturday afternoon to say, "Of course I believe @elizadushku." He added that Dushku was a "wonderful child and is an amazing woman. ... This makes me very angry & breaks my heart but I AM SO PROUD OF HER. #MeToo #TimesUp."
Read Dushku's full post from her Facebook page below.
When I was 12 years old, while filming “True Lies”, I was sexually molested by Joel Kramer, one of Hollywood’s leading stunt coordinators.
Ever since, I have struggled with how and when to disclose this, if ever. At the time, I shared what happened to me with my parents, two adult friends and one of my older brothers. No one seemed ready to confront this taboo subject then, nor was I.
I am grateful to the women and men who have gone before me in recent months. The ever-growing list of sexual abuse and harassment victims who have spoken out with their truths have finally given me the ability to speak out. It has been indescribably exhausting, bottling this up inside me for all of these years.
I remember, so clearly 25 years later, how Joel Kramer made me feel special, how he methodically built my and my parents’ trust, for months grooming me; exactly how he lured me to his Miami hotel room with a promise to my parent that he would take me for a swim at the stunt crew’s hotel pool and for my first sushi meal thereafter. I remember vividly how he methodically drew the shades and turned down the lights; how he cranked up the air-conditioning to what felt like freezing levels, where exactly he placed me on one of the two hotel room beds, what movie he put on the television (Coneheads); how he disappeared in the bathroom and emerged, naked, bearing nothing but a small hand towel held flimsy at his mid-section. I remember what I was wearing (my favorite white denim shorts, thankfully, secured enough for me to keep on). I remember how he laid me down on the bed, wrapped me with his gigantic writhing body, and rubbed all over me. He spoke these words: “You’re not going to sleep on me now sweetie, stop pretending you’re sleeping,” as he rubbed harder and faster against my catatonic body. When he was ‘finished’, he suggested, “I think we should be careful…,” [about telling anyone] he meant. I was 12, he was 36.
I remember how afterwards, the taxi driver stared at me in the rear view mirror when Joel Kramer put me on his lap in the backseat and clutched me and grew aroused again; and how my eyes never left the driver’s eyes during that long ride over a Miami bridge, back to my hotel and parent. I remember how Joel Kramer grew cold with me in the ensuing weeks, how everything felt different on the set.
And I remember how soon-after, when my tough adult female friend (in whom I had confided my terrible secret on the condition of a trade that she let me drive her car around the Hollywood Hills) came out to the set to visit and face him, later that very same day, by no small coincidence, I was injured from a stunt-gone-wrong on the Harrier jet. With broken ribs, I spent the evening in the hospital. To be clear, over the course of those months rehearsing and filming True Lies, it was Joel Kramer who was responsible for my safety on a film that at the time broke new ground for action films. On a daily basis he rigged wires and harnesses on my 12 year old body. My life was literally in his hands: he hung me in the open air, from a tower crane, atop an office tower, 25+ stories high. Whereas he was supposed to be my protector, he was my abuser.
Why speak out now? I was 12, he was 36. It is incomprehensible. Why didn’t an adult on the set find his predatory advances strange — that over-the-top special attention he gave me. Fairly early on he nicknamed me “Jailbait” and brazenly called me by this name in a sick flirty way in front of others (at the time, I remember asking one of my older brothers what it meant). Sure, I’ve come to understand the terrible power dynamics that play into whistle-blowing by “subordinates” against persons in power, how difficult it can be for someone to speak up. But I was a child. Over the years I’ve really struggled as I’ve wondered how my life might have been different if someone, any one grown-up who witnessed his sick ways, had spoken up before he lured me to that hotel room.
Years ago, I had heard second hand that Joel Kramer was “found out” and forced to leave the business. I learned recently that in fact he still works at the top of the industry. And a few weeks ago, I found an internet photo of Joel Kramer hugging a young girl. That image has haunted me near nonstop since. I can no longer hide what happened.
Hollywood has been very good to me in many ways. Nevertheless, Hollywood also failed to protect me, a child actress. I like to think of myself as a tough Boston chick, in many ways I suppose not unlike Faith, Missy, or Echo. Through the years, brave fans have regularly shared with me how some of my characters have given them the conviction to stand up to their abusers. Now it is you who give me strength and conviction. I hope that speaking out will help other victims and protect against future abuse.
With every person that speaks out, every banner that drops down onto my iphone screen disclosing similar stories/truths, my resolve strengthens. Sharing these words, finally calling my abuser out publicly by name, brings the start of a new calm.
Jan. 13, 12 p.m. Updated with Kramer's response.
Jan. 13, 5:50 p.m. Updated with Judith Dushku's comment.
Jan. 14, 9:30 a.m. Updated with statement from Forbes.