Rachel McAdams, Selma Blair Say They Were Sexually Harassed by James Toback
The two actresses join other women who've spoken out about inappropriate behavior from the director.
Rachel McAdams and Selma Blair have joined over 200 women who have come forward to accuse director James Toback of sexual harassment.
Toback's years of allegedly engaging in sexually inappropriate behavior during private auditions were first reported by the Los Angeles Times in a bombshell exposé published Sunday, which detailed harassment allegations from 38 women. The number of accusers has since grown.
Speaking with Vanity Fair days later, Blair and McAdams opened up about their own experience auditioning for Toback early in their careers.
Blair, who participated in the Times' report on the condition of anonymity, admitted she was initially reluctant to make it known that she had been a victim.
"I still felt so powerless and scared. I kept thinking, 'O.K., is there a big actress who is going to come out so that she can be the face of this?" Blair said, before choosing to tell her story to Vanity Fair. "I want to bring as much awareness to this harassment as possible because I want Toback to be held accountable."
The actress had just finished filming Cruel Intentions when her reps arranged a meeting with Toback to audition for a role in 2001's Harvard Man.
The meeting took place in the director's hotel room, where he immediately began telling Blair the two had a "connection" and questioned her willingness to trust her instincts. "You could be an incredible actress, just by your eyes," he said. "But I can tell you don't have confidence."
Toback then told Blair she would need to perform her audition naked, asking, "Will you trust me? I cannot continue to work with you unless you trust me. I need you to take your clothes off. I need you to do this monologue naked."
Toback convinced Blair it was part of the training process, to see how comfortable she was with her body, so she obliged after making it clear she felt uncomfortable.
"I do remember looking down at the script and seeing my bare chest and not being able to focus on anything but the words and my face being so hot and puffy and feeling so ashamed," said the actress.
Afterwards, Toback continued to make sexual advances to Blair, pressing his crotch against her leg and insisting, "You cannot leave until I have release." He told her, "I have to come six or seven times a day or else it really doesn't work for me to get through my day.”
Blair recalled, "I tried to look away, but he would hold my face. So I was forced to look into his eyes. And I felt disgust and shame and like nobody would ever think of me as being clean again after being this close to the devil. His energy was so sinister."
The director ended their meeting with a threat about what would happen if she ever told anyone about their encounter. According to Blair, Toback told her about another woman who almost outed him: "If she ever tells anybody, no matter how much time she thinks went by, I have people who will pull up in a car, kidnap her, and throw her in the Hudson River with cement blocks on her feet. You understand what I'm talking about, right?"
McAdams recalled experiencing similar feelings of fear when she met Toback in his hotel to discuss a possible role in the same film, Harvard Man, when she was 21 years old.
The conversation turned sexual almost immediately, the actress said, when he told her, "I have masturbated countless times today thinking about you since we met at your audition."
Toback then began engaging in "manipulative talk," asking McAdams, "How brave are you? How far you are willing to go as an actress?"
At one point, the helmer left to go to the bathroom and returned to tell her, "I just jerked off in the bathroom thinking about you. Will you show me your pubic hair?" McAdams refused and excused herself from the meeting, all the while trying to "normalize" what had happened. Upon telling her rep about the incident, she learned that other actresses had also been harassed.
"That is when I got mad, because I felt like I was kind of thrown into the lion's den and given no warning that he was a predator," she told Vanity Fair. "This was something that he was known for doing already."
Blair called for Toback's numerous victims to continue speaking out and for Toback to admit to his wrongdoings. "None of us are asking for money, for jobs, or for fame," she said. "We don't want to be threatened on social media or called whistleblowers by people who don’t know what it means to be defiled and degraded and made to feel worthless."
The two actresses' stories align with similar claims brought forward by Julianne Moore and Natalie Morales. After the Times' story was released, Moore revealed on Twitter she was approached by Toback in the 1980s and asked to audition for a role at his apartment. When she refused, he approached her again one month later, not realizing he had already attempted to make an advance on her prior.
@GlennWhipp 2. I refused. One month later he did it again with the EXACT same language. I said don't u remember u did this before?— Julianne Moore (@_juliannemoore) October 24, 2017
Toback denied all allegations to the Times, claiming he had never met the accusers, and if he did, it "was for five minutes" and he had "no recollection." He also claimed the alleged behavior described was "biologically impossible," as he has had diabetes and a heart condition that requires medication for the past 22 years.
Following the flood of allegations, Toback was dropped as a client by longtime agent Jeff Berg.