EXCLUSIVE: When Bret Tyler Skopek first met director Bryan Singer at a Halloween party in 2013 shortly after the aspiring songwriter arrived from Arizona, the 18-year-old had no idea who the guy wearing the Catholic priest costume was — though he realized it obviously was someone famous, since a friend urged him to pose for a photograph.
Skopek soon became intimately involved with Singer — one of Hollywood’s top film and TV directors whose credits include The Usual Suspects and four movies in the X-Men franchise — and shares, for the first time, how he found himself pulled into the director’s orbit of on-set visits, expensive private dinners, ready access to drugs and alcohol and sexual encounters with an ever-revolving cast of multiple participants.
“It was a never-ending supply of cute young men,” Skopek recalled.
Skopek left Los Angeles two years ago. But the story he tells — documented with text message exchanges and photographs with Singer, and verified in phone and email interviews with seven others — is reminiscent of the accounts of boy-toy-fueled excess depicted in Amy Berg’s 2014 documentary film An Open Secret. As the industry grapples with an ever-widening sexual abuse scandal, Skopek’s story is a painfully familiar one in which an eager newcomer arrives in Hollywood, dazzled by the klieg lights and celebrity, only to be exploited by powerful men.
Here is the tale of a youthful-looking, barely legal-aged man who came to Hollywood with big dreams and left feeling chewed up, spat out and exploited by an older, wealthy man.
“I’ve seen wannabe YouTubers come. I’ve seen actors. I’ve seen singers. I’ve seen people like me that don’t know what they want to do,” Skopek told Deadline over several interviews. “You come (to LA) with dreams of being whatever. You’re still going to be caught up into this mess.”
In Skopek’s telling, Singer dangled the lure of a minor role in an X-Men movie, but the promised audition never happened. Disillusioned and exhausted by Singer’s sexual demands over the course of their year-long relationship, the young man eventually moved to Fort Worth, Texas, to live with his father.
“I just, I wasn’t happy with myself,” said Skopek, who’s now 22, and is going public for the first time in telling his story to Deadline, with the help of an introduction from Gabe Hoffman, one of the documentary’s producers. “I couldn’t go on anymore.”
“If Mr. Skopek had a problem with Bryan, he never mentioned it before today,” a spokesperson for the director told Deadline on Friday. “He is someone who has repeatedly asked Bryan for money over the years, and did so as recently as last month,” they added. “He also is the one who asked Bryan for a role in Apocalypse, which Bryan declined to offer to him. The timing of Mr. Skopek coming forward now with these allegations is questionable.”
With that in mind, Skopek’s tale is consistent with rumors that have long dogged the mutant franchise, Superman Returns and Valkyrie director. Singer was just fired by Fox as director of the Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody after a series of unexplained absences and clashes with the film’s star, Rami Malek, who plays Freddie Mercury. The director’s name began trending on social media in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein disclosures, as men, swept up by the #MeToo movement, recycled old allegations of sexual misconduct. New but unverified claims that circulated on Twitter and Facebook quickly disappeared.
Right after Singer’s removal from Bohemian Rhapsody — the director claimed he hadn’t returned to the London set after the Thanksgiving holiday because of a life-threatening health crisis involving a family member — a lawsuit was filed this week in which Singer was accused of raping and sodomizing Cesar Sanchez-Guzman in 2003. The man claimed Singer assaulted him on a yacht when he was 17 years old.
Representatives for Singer responded to the lawsuit by saying that the director “categorically denies these allegations and will vehemently defend this lawsuit to the very end.”
In the wake of the new allegations, USC’s School of Cinematic Arts said today it will remove Singer’s name from its Division of Cinema & Media Studies program, fueled in part by a Change.org petition from a student. It said the name would be removed at Singer’s request “until the allegations against him are resolved.”
Meanwhile, others associated with Singer are in trouble all their own. Longtime Singer friend Gary Goddard took a leave of absence from his own entertainment design company after actor Anthony Edwards claimed the former Broadway producer molested him when he was a child. Another associate, former APA talent agent Tyler Grasham, who once credited Singer with helping launch his carer, was fired amid allegations of sexual assault.
London-based director Duncan Roy, who said he has known Singer for more than 20 years, described the director’s “boy obsessions and sex tourism,” his use of prescription drugs, and his drinking in a 2014 blog post. Some twentysomethings viewed a trip to Singer’s hot tub as a short-cut to the red carpet, he said.
“In Hollywood, the question you get asked a million times is, ‘What wouldn’t you do to succeed?’ And your hunger is part of the deal with the devil,” said Roy in an interview with Deadline. “The horrible thing is that there’s an unwritten rule, an unspoken agreement, between anybody who arrives. Every single high school king and queen that arrives in L.A. knows what to expect. You do anything to get on because the riches, when they’re delivered to you, are profound.”
Skopek didn’t necessarily have stars in his eyes when he arrived in Southern California in September 2013. He was looking to escape small-town America, and Los Angeles seemed an inviting destination for a young bisexual man experimenting with his first taste of freedom.
After the Halloween party, Skopek began receiving text messages from a middle-aged computer technician inviting the newcomer to lunch in downtown L.A. The man seemed friendly enough, and interested in Skopek. At the time, Skopek was unaware the man had been arrested in 2000 on charges of sexual exploitation of a child in Georgia, though never prosecuted.
The man invited Skopek back to his Flower Street apartment — a place with an arcade-like setting, with a pool table, Xbox game console and boxes of unopened iPhone accessories, Skopek said. Other young men begin arriving, music started playing, a neighbor dropped by, and the man began furnishing Skopek with the party drug Molly.
At some point, Skopek says, he found himself passed out on a bed and awakened to the man raping him. “I felt so dirty,” Skopek recalled. “I just wanted to go home and take a shower.”
Skopek never went to the police, he said, because he feels investigators don’t take male-on-male sex crimes seriously. But his alleged assailant provided entree to prominent entertainment figures. Within weeks, Skopek said he found himself chatting via FaceTime with one prominent comedic actor, and soaking in a hot tub in the Hollywood Hills home of an award-winning director. Eventually, he would find himself at a birthday party for the computer technician that Singer hosted on Dec. 7, 2013, at the Nobu Restaurant on La Cienega Boulevard.
In a recording shared with Deadline, the man seeks to coach Skopek in how to curry favor with these powerful men, saying, “There are things that you could do to make them nuts.”
Skopek recalls Singer boasting about the amount of the dinner tab — it approached $1,000 — and inviting him and two other young men to his house above the Sunset Strip. The director offered a grand tour of the theater room, the garage filled with sports cars and the basement with its leather couches, Skopek said. Then, the party started.
“We’re in the basement, me and the other two kids, we’re kind of chilling. Bryan takes us up, one by one, and gives us all a Molly,” Skopek said. “He’s splitting it with us. ‘I’ll do half if you do half.’ In the meantime, [the computer specialist] has another [young man] come over. He’s very dirty. He’s off the streets.”
Skopek says he and two others wound up in the bedroom, having sex with Singer. A 23-year-old who requested anonymity because he is still pursuing an acting career corroborated Skopek’s account of the evening of dinner, drug use and group sex — and the computer technician’s role in introducing him and Skopek to Singer.
The following morning, everyone was gone except Skopek.
“Bryan offers to take me to breakfast and the X-Men special effects floor where they’re doing all the editing,” Skopek recalls of his December 2013 visit to the Bad Hat Harry Productions studio then on the Fox lot in Century City. “We maybe spend almost the whole day together at the studio until I take a Snapchat … Bryan gets mad at me and says he’ll have his assistant drive me home.”
Skopek said he’d go on dinner dates with Singer, and get invited to participate in libidinous encounters, sometimes involving as many as 10 people having sex in a night.
“Watching the amount of people come in through the night,” Skopek said of the orchestrated sexual encounters. “The sad fact is this is how they think they have to live their lives. This is the only way to make it out there.”
Skopek said the director had the power to lure almost anyone into his bedroom. Singer would watch a television show, see a hot guy, and ask his friends to contact the actor — as if casting the lead for his next big-budget film production.
“It was like, ‘Let’s get on a roll. I want this guy in my room,'” Skopek said. “It’s shocking to me how easy it was.”
Occasionally, Skopek saw the perquisites of being associated with a Hollywood A-lister, like joining Singer on the set of the CBS show Battle Creek in Manhattan Beach — even though he felt like an object on display.
“I was looking over my shoulder while [Singer] was texting another person, ‘Hey, I have little Bret here. I want you to come over and do him,’ ” Skopek recalled.
Skopek, who worked as a host and cashier at Tender Greens in West Hollywood, and continued writing songs inspired by his life in Southern California, said his big-break had not come and he found it increasingly difficult to afford the cost of living in Los Angeles. When he broached the idea of leaving in the spring of 2014, Singer offered money — a gesture that tightened the teen’s financial dependence on the director.
“I didn’t want to go back to my parents,” Skopek said. “I wanted to make it for myself, as far as I could, until I couldn’t do it anymore.”
When Michael Egan III filed a civil suit against Singer in 2014, alleging the director had drugged him and forced him to have sex at parties at a mansion in Encino and in Hawaii, Singer talked about going to Israel to avoid the paparazzi. The director instructed an assistant to hand Skopek $10,000 in cash to find a place to live.
Egan would later admit, in a deposition, that he’d never left the mainland and withdrew his civil suits. His subsequent conviction for fraud seemingly lent credence to Singer’s claims that Egan was a lying shake-down artist.
The Egan case took a toll on Singer, though, Skopek said.
“So many times, I’d come over and Bryan would cry himself to sleep, ‘I’m so depressed. I’m spending so much money on lawyers for the Michael Egan case,’ ” Skopek said.
Over time, Skopek became disillusioned with a relationship that he saw as one-sided and emotionally vacant. He described himself as the “after-hours kid” who lived in service to director’s desires, awaiting Singer’s 2 AM text messages to come over. He lacked self-confidence, and barely recognized himself.
“I was so depressed,” Skopek said. “They would lead me on that I could get an audition. But all you’re good for is sex.”
Skopek ended the relationship with Singer in December 2014, though he would occasionally hear from the director — like when Singer received a Christmas card from one of Skopek’s favorite performers, Fergie Duhamel, and the director texted, “It made me think of you.” Skopek also was invited, by one of Singer’s current companions, to visit the set of The Gifted last summer.
While Skopek’s dreams of becoming a songwriter never materialized, despite his proximity to fame, the compositions he wrote about life in L.A. provided inspiration for his current project. He’s writing a fictionalized account of his time in Hollywood — a novel titled The Prince of Darkness, which he describes in his Kickstarter campaign as a coming-of-age story set in the City of Angels arrayed with “all kinds of colorful monsters.”
“My book’s all about redemption,” Skopeck said. “It’s about having that voice and being able to use it.”
The novel would bring Skopek back to Los Angeles in June of 2016 for one last encounter with a Hollywood power player.
Grasham contacted Skopek, expressing interest in representing the young author. The agent sent a round-trip plane ticket and treated him to dinner — where he plied the young man with alcohol, an account similar to that provided by other accusers who have come forward to allege misconduct against the former APA agent.
The two men returned to Grasham’s place, Skopek said, where Skopek locked himself in the bathroom for two hours, feeling violently ill. When the young man emerged from the locked room and passed out on the agent’s bed, he claimed the agent sexually assaulted him, despite Skopek’s efforts to fight him off.
“In the morning [Grasham] asks why there’s blood on the sheets. He said, ‘I guess I fingered you too hard. I’m sorry I was drunk.’ I was bleeding for a week,” Skopek recalled, adding. “It makes me realize these people don’t know what they’re doing sometimes. They are out to enjoy themselves. If they hurt someone in the process, they don’t even remember.”
Grasham did not respond to requests for comment. The talent agency issued a statement, saying it takes such allegations seriously.
“Our hearts go out to anyone who may have been affected,” an APA spokesperson said. “The safety and security of our clients and employees is of paramount importance to us. An independent investigation is ongoing, and we will take the appropriate action based on those findings.”