As a legal battle ramps up pitting director Bryan Singer against a man accusing him of sexual abuse, both 20th Century Fox and ABC find themselves caught in the crossfire as they attempt to launch new projects from the filmmaker.
An appearance Singer was to have made at a comics convention this weekend on behalf of his new film X-Men: Days of Furture Past has already been canceled, and Singer also has dropped out of an MPAA-sponsored conference in Washington, D.C., on May 2 at which Vice President Joe Biden will be the featured speaker.
The accusations aimed at the director are likely to complicate Fox’s marketing efforts on its upcoming $205 million movie. And ABC has pulled promo spots that mentioned Singer’s name as executive producer of its new series Black Box, which premieres April 24.
Fox is scheduled to release X-Men: Days of Future Past, the latest installment in its X-Men series, in the U.S. on May 23. Singer, who directed the first two X-Men movies, returns to the franchise as director and producer of the new film, which will have its world premiere in New York City on May 10.
In the wake of a lawsuit filed Tuesday by Michael F. Egan, accusing Singer of sexually abusing him during his teenage years, Fox issued a statement, saying, “These are serious allegations, and they will be resolved in the appropriate forum. This is a personal matter, which Bryan Singer and his representatives are addressing separately.” Marty Singer, Bryan Singer’s attorney, has called the allegations in the lawsuit “absurd and defamatory.”
Fox has no plans to postpone the opening of the X-Men movie, which begins a worldwide rollout on May 20. But it will probably have to revamp some of its marketing plans. Although no final decisions have been made amid ongoing discussions, it is expected that Singer will step back and assume a low profile and may avoid the movie’s scheduled premiere screenings and junkets altogether.
Instead, the studio will rely on the large cast — headed by Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence — to promote the movie and had already developed plans to divide up the stars to send them to the various events surrounding its openings around the world. While all that star power could easily compensate for Singer’s absence, even if the director doesn’t take part, the legal case could become a major distraction if the press insists on asking the actors about his situation.
The first two trailers for X-Men: Days of Future Past carried two cards that read “From Bryan Singer, the Director of The Usual Suspects and X-Men.” But the final trailer, which was released April 15, just as news of Egan’s lawsuit filed in federal court in Hawaii broke, carries just one card that reads “From Director Bryan Singer.” Instead of selling the movie based on the director’s name, the main focus of the new trailer and the surrounding key art is the large cast of mutant characters and the movie’s time-travel plot.
Singer established the template for the X-Men movies and their Wolverine spinoffs when he directed the first two films in the franchise — 2000’s X-Men and 2003’s X-Men 2 — and his return could have been used by the studio as a selling point. However, a revolving group of directors handled the two subsequent X-Men movies (2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand and 2011’s X-Men: First Class) and the Wolverine movies (2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine and 2013’s The Wolverine). So Singer’s name is not as closely associated with the series as, say, Steven Spielberg‘s is with the Indiana Jones franchise.
Singer is a recognized director among the film geeks who gather at events like Comic-Con, but he has not always received the fanboy praise lavished on filmmakers like James Cameron or Peter Jackson. His 2006 Superman Returns, for example, came in for its share of fanboy criticism. In terms of its marketing power, his name alone doesn’t necessarily attract the wider general public to his movies.
Nevertheless, Singer had been scheduled to be part of a presentation of Fox’s upcoming slate at WonderCon, the comics convention taking place this weekend in Anaheim, Calif. But that appearance has been canceled, and Simon Kinberg, who wrote the screenplay and also served as one of the producers on Days of Future Past, will be on hand instead to represent the film.
Singer had been on the guest list at the Creativity Conference at which Biden is to speak on May 2 in Washington, D.C. The conference is sponsored by the MPAA, Microsoft and ABC News. A source told THR that Singer no longer plans to attend. Reps for the MPAA and for Singer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Meanwhile, ABC is distancing itself from the controversy as it promotes the debut of Black Box, a drama about a neuroscientist, played by Kelly Reilly, struggling with mental illness. Singer, whose TV credits as executive producer include House M.D. and Dirty Sexy Money, serves as executive producer on the new series, produced by his production company Bad Hat Harry Productions, along with 3 Arts Entertainment and Bold Films.
But since news of Egan’s suit broke, ABC has removed promos for the series that carry his name. The network had no comment on its decision.
In his lawsuit, Egan, now 31, alleges Singer drugged and raped him and offered movie roles in return for sexual favors when Egan was between the ages of 15 and 17. At a news conference this week, he also alleged that his mother reported the alleged abuse to the FBI in Los Angeles in 2000. An FBI spokesman confirmed that a complaint had been made but added, “The suggestion that the FBI ignored evidence involving the victimization of a child is ludicrous.”
According to Singer’s attorney, Marty Singer, “The claims made against Bryan Singer are completely without merit. We are very confident that Bryan will be vindicated in this absurd and defamatory lawsuit. It is obvious that this case was filed in an attempt to get publicity at the time when Bryan’s new movie is about to open in a few weeks.”
Egan also filed a previous suit in 2000 with similar charges directed at men involved in a 1999 party, which is also referenced in the Singer suit, but Singer was not named in that earlier suit. Commenting on that development, Marty Singer told THR, “It’s clear that these statements are fabricated. If Bryan had done anything wrong, he would have been included in the previous lawsuit.”