The studio confirmed the decision after a report surfaced in the Los Angeles Times on Thursday morning that the film’s co-star Olivia Munn, who shared the scene with convicted sex offender Steven Wilder Striegel, notified Fox in mid-August 15 about Streigel’s criminal past. He served six months in jail in 2010 after pleading guilty to risk of injury to a child and enticing a minor by computer.
“Our studio was not aware of Mr. Striegel’s background when he was hired,” a Fox spokesman said today. “Several weeks ago, when the studio learned the details, his one scene in the film was removed within 24 hours. We were not aware of his background during the casting process due to legal limitations that impede studios from running background checks on actors.”
The Times said Striegel was arrested in 2009 amid allegations “he attempted to lure a 14-year-old female into a sexual relationship via the internet.” The actor’s credits before then included roles on Melrose Place and Days of Our Lives, as well as The Predator director Shane Black’s Iron Man 3, when they became friends.
Black, who also cast Streigel after his release in 2006’s The Nice Guys, told the Times in a statement that he “chose to help a friend” in casting Striegel in The Predator, which is prepping for its world premiere tonight as the opening film of the Midnight Madness section at the Toronto Film Festival. The film hits theaters nationwide September 14.
“I personally chose to help a friend,” Black told the Times. “I can understand others might disapprove, as his conviction was on a sensitive charge and not to be taken lightly.”
Later in the day, the writer-director expanded his thoughts, further apologizing and saying he was misled by Streigel’s characterization of his actions.
“Having read this morning’s news reports, it has sadly become clear to me that I was misled by a friend I really wanted to believe was telling me the truth when he described the circumstances of his conviction,” Black said in a statement. “I believe strongly in giving people second chances — but sometimes you discover that chance is not as warranted as you may have hoped.
“After learning more about the affidavit, transcripts and additional details surrounding Steve Striegel’s sentence, I am deeply disappointed in myself. I apologize to all of those, past and present, I’ve let down by having Steve around them without giving them a voice in the decision.”
Streigel, in an email interview also included in the Times‘ story, said a warrant’s allegation that he had physical contact with the girl was “groundless.” He claims she was a “distant relative” who had confided in him that she was having problems, and he was attempting to boost her self-esteem.
“This was an enormously unfortunate chapter in my life, and one that I took, and continue to take, personal responsibility for,” he told the Times. “If I had even an inkling that my involvement with ‘The Predator’ would be a point of difficulty for Shane Black, or cast any kind of shadow over a movie that I wish only great success for, I would, of course, never have been involved in any capacity.”