Natasha Lyonne Says She Was Sexually Assaulted When Vying for a Role at 19

The 'Orange Is the New Black' star said she was coming off the success of 'Slums of Beverly Hills' when a Hollywood director "overpowered her."

Natasha Lyonne is one of the many women who has been empowered to share her own story in response to the sweeping "Me too" awareness campaign. Amid the cascading allegations against Harvey Weinstein — more than 40 women have claimed the disgraced Hollywood movie mogul sexually harassed or assaulted them — thousands of women with similar stories have used Twitter as an outlet to identify and connect with other survivors through the hashtag and phrase, 500,000 within the first 24 hours. Lyonne shared her story via Instagram over the weekend, later thanking her followers for the support with the hashtag.

The Orange Is the New Black star, who has been open about the highs and lows of her Hollywood journey after childhood stardom, says she was coming off the big-screen success of 1998's Slums of Beverly Hills when a director, whom she identifies only as "G—", overpowered her, despite her "saying the word 'NO' quite clearly." The director was making a Janis Joplin biopic and the alleged sexual assault caused Lyonne to drop out of the running for the part.

"I’d always felt like the oldest girl in showbiz," she began in a detailed post (below). "By the time I met G— for his Janis Joplin film I was roughly 19 and already had been at work as a kid actor for 13 years. I wanted the part so bad." Lyonne said she memorized all of Joplin's lyrics and had been readying to play her ever since she was young. She wrote, "And here it was. Slums of Beverly Hills had just come out & I was a hot commodity."

Lyonne said she and "G—," who was years older, would meet in Los Angeles when she was in town and staying at a friend's place. "I thought I was a real tough guy back then. Sometimes I still do," she wrote. "I wore baby blue corduroy bell bottoms stolen from my friend Annie P and a white wife beater. My hair was huge, curly, messy. Big platform boots. G— offered to pick me up since I had no car. That seemed fair. I’m pretty sure it was still daylight."

She said they went to a bar on Sunset Boulevard and that she drank Southern Comfort to "prove" her method acting skills. "Janis loved Southern Comfort. Being broken & freewheeling. People loved identifying with her pain & her mess," she said. "I can remember him driving me back to [my friend] Zoe’s place & me saying not to come up but really what I recall is suddenly having this huge guy overpowering me and me saying the word 'NO' quite clearly. He won I guess."

She continued, "When we woke up I vaguely remember some form of a goodbye on his part like we’d had a fun night. I was pretty devastated by the whole scene and declined flying back to LA for the screentest. In my head at the time I tried to comfort myself with some of her 'get it while you can' shtick or maybe that one about how 'freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose/nothing, I mean nothing, honey if it isn't free'; beating myself up for not being clear headed, wondering what the hell had just gone down and if I’d allowed it."

Now, Lyonne says she has been moved by everyone who has come forward and spoke directly to any woman who has been attacked: "I also think of these words of [Janis Joplin's] to the young girls unsure if to speak up, in awe of those who already have & to the teenager inside me still questioning if my truth is valid enough: 'Don't compromise yourself. You are all you've got.'"

Actress Alyssa Milano first sent out the #MeToo call on Twitter Sunday, receiving quick replies from actresses including Debra Messing, Anna Paquin and Rosario Dawson. Of the overwhelming response, the actress wrote, "While I am sickened and angered over the disturbing accusations of Weinstein's sexual predation and abuse of power, I'm happy — ecstatic even — that it has opened up a dialogue around the continued sexual harassment, objectification and degradation of women."

She later clarified that the credit for the now-internet phenomenon belongs to Tarana Burke, who started the movement more than a decade ago in an attempt to help other women and girls, especially women and girls of color, who had survived any sexual violence. "It made my heart swell to see women using this idea — one that we call 'empowerment through empathy,'" Burke tweeted with the hashtag as it grew. “It’s beyond a hashtag. It’s the start of a larger conversation and a movement for radical community healing. Join us."

When Lyonne posted her story, she shared along with it this quote from Joplin: "To be true to myself, to be the person that was on the inside of me, and not play games. That's what I'm trying to do mostly in the whole world, is to not bullshit myself and not bullshit anyone else." The '60s rock icon died in 1970 at age 27 from a heroin overdose after releasing only three albums. A Joplin biopic has long been in the works in Hollywood, with reports of such projects dating back decades.

 

I’d always felt like the oldest girl in showbiz. By the time I met G—for his Janis Joplin film I was roughly 19 and already had been at work as a kid actor for 13 years. I wanted the part so bad. No one knew Janis like I did from the inside out. I’d known her that way since I’d memorized all her lyrics as a little girl actress readying myself for the day I got to play her. And here it was. Slums of Beverly Hills had just come out & I was a hot commodity. We would meet in LA while I was in town to discuss the project. He was 35-40. I was staying at my friend Zoe’s apt in West Hollywood. I didn’t have a car cuz I lived in New York City. I thought I was a real tough guy back then. Sometimes I still do. I wore baby blue corduroy bell bottoms stolen from my friend Annie P and a white wife beater. My hair was huge, curly, messy. Big platform boots. G— offered to pick me up since I had no car. That seemed fair. I’m pretty sure it was still daylight. We went to a bar on Sunset & I started drinking Southern Comfort figuring, hey- this’ll prove how Method I am. Janis loved Southern Comfort. Being broken & freewheeling. People loved identifying with her pain & her mess. I can remember him driving me back to Zoe’s place & me saying not to come up but really what I recall is suddenly having this huge guy overpowering me and me saying the word “NO” quite clearly. He won I guess. When we woke up I vaguely remember some form of a goodbye on his part like we’d had a fun night. I was pretty devastated by the whole scene and declined flying back to LA for the screentest. In my head at the time I tried to comfort myself with some of her “get it while you can” shtick or maybe that one about how “freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose/nothing, I mean nothing, honey if it isn't free”; beating myself up for not being clear headed, wondering what the hell had just gone down and if I’d allowed it. But now, I also think of these words of hers to the young girls unsure if to speak up, in awe of those who already have & to the teenager inside me still questioning if my truth is valid enough: “Don't compromise yourself. You are all you've got”.

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