James Cameron on "Brave" Eliza Dushku and the Sexual Harassment "Reckoning": "There's No Mercy Now"
The 'True Lies' writer-director told reporters Saturday at TCA that he didn't know about the sexual molestation claims involving the actress, then 12, and stunt coordinator Joel Kramer. Kramer has denied the allegations.
James Cameron is responding to Eliza Dushku's claims that True Lies stunt coordinator Joel Kramer "sexually molested" her during production on the 1994 feature film he wrote and directed and the country's larger sexual harassment "reckoning."
Cameron appeared Saturday before press at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour to support AMC's Visionaries: James Cameron's Story of Science Fiction. His appearance came hours after Dushku shared claims that Kramer sexually molested her when she was 12 on the set of True Lies.
"I haven't given a lot of thought to this specific situation because I just heard about. Obviously, Eliza is very brave for speaking up. I think all the women are that are speaking up and calling for a reckoning now. I think this has been endemic throughout human systems, not just Hollywood," Cameron said. "Because Hollywood deals with women who are victims 10-15-20 years ago who are famous today, so they get to have a louder voice when they come forward. Bravo for them for doing it and I'm glad Eliza did that. It's just heartbreaking that it happened to her.
"I know the other party [Joel Kramer] — not well, he hasn't worked for me since then," continued Cameron. "The fact that this was happening under our noses and we didn't know about it — I think going forward, it's important for all industries, certainly in Hollywood to create a safe avenue for people to speak up. That they feel safe. And that anybody who might be a predator or abuser knows that that mechanism is there and that it's encouraged [that victims come forward] and there's no shame around it and that there will be consequences [for the perpetrators]. I think we all collectively as a human race — I don't think this is a Hollywood.... Hollywood is in a unique position to actually shine spotlight, as Hollywood has historically done on a lot of social issues. It's one of the things that we do and do well. This is a great moment in history that's unfortunately founded on personal tragedies that have occurred for so many of these women."
He went on: "This is not a reckoning for Hollywood or America; this is reckoning for the human race. This shit has been going on since day one. So whenever there's a male in a position of power who has got a piece missing and doesn't understand the consequences of what he's doing, maybe out of this can come some education that can pull some men that would otherwise go down that path back from the brink. A lot of it has to come from a lack of empathy. That they're clearly not feeling what this is going to mean for this person further down the line. The psychological consequences have to be understood. Hopefully we'll be making films about this stuff and we'll put something in place as industry practice to do as much as we can to prevent it. Directors are historically pretty oblivious to the interpersonal things that are happening on their set because they're focused and are the worst offenders at being focused on 'what I'm doing creatively.' Had I known about it, there would have been no mercy. Now especially, I have daughters. There's really no mercy now."
Dushku, who played the daughter to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis in True Lies, detailed her account of what happened in a lengthy Facebook post Saturday on her verified page. The Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Bring It On and Dollhouse actress wrote that she was "sexually molested" by the then-36-year-old stunt coordinator after Kramer "lured" her to his hotel room, promising Dushku's 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 says he laid down next to her on a hotel bed and rubbed her repeatedly, then suggested that she not tell anyone of the encounter. The actress 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 now with her story after 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.
Kramer, whose recent credits include Star Trek: Discovery, Blade Runner 2049, Westworld and Furious 7, denied Dushku's allegations. Reached by phone Saturday, he told The Hollywood Reporter that he was "floored" by Dushku's claims, which were hitting him "like a sledgehammer."
Kramer said he and his team did spend time with Dushku swimming and taking her out for sushi, at her request, he says, but claimed 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."
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."
Kramer referenced his long film résumé since True Lies 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."