UPDATED with Rae Sanchini’s statement: Two more people close to Eliza Dushku, her agent at the time JoAnne Colonna and longtime friend Peter Conti, have come forward to support the actress’ account of sexual assault at the hands of top stunt coordinator Joel Kramer during the filming of the 1994 hit True Lies when she was 12. Kramer, who was 36 at the time, has denied the allegations.
Colonna, now a manager, had represented Dushku for three years at the time the young actress got True Lies as part of a 15-year stint as her representative. Colonna was the “tough adult female friend in whom I had confided my terrible secret” that Dushku referred to in her Facebook post.
Colonna said she had contacted True Lies executive producer Rae Sanchini to raise concerns of misconduct even before the incident occurred, while the movie was filming in Miami.
“I’d called Rae multiple times because there was such inappropriateness going on the set,” Colonna told Deadline. “There was sexual talk to and at her at various occasions. She was a very feisty, precocious 12-year-old, a tomboy, they may have felt she was one of the boys but it was really inappropriate from the top.”
The account is consistent with the picture Sue Booth-Forbes, Dushku’s legal guardian on the set of the movie, painted to Deadline yesterday, speaking of “misogyny, sexual language and attitudes of the crowd of immature white men who made up the vast majority of the crew. She was treated like one of the boys, not a 12-year-old girl.”
Colonna said she chose Sanchini as the person to contact because she was True Lies‘ director/producer James Cameron’s producer at the time and she was a woman. Sanchini’s response, according to Colonna? “I will look into it.”
Then when production on the movie, in which Dushku played Arnold Schwarzenegger’s daughter, came to Los Angeles, she shared her “secret” with Colonna.
“She told me. I couldn’t believe it. I said ‘I’m coming to the set tomorrow’,” Colonna said. Dushku pleaded with her not to tell anyone for fear of retribution but Colonna went to the set anyway.
She said she spoke with Sanchini and she also pulled Kramer aside and told him,” You are going to stay the f*uck away from her.”
As for what happened after — “Nobody really did anything,” Colonna said. She recalled Sanchini’s reaction being, “what was a 12-year-old girl doing hanging out with a crew late at night.”
Booth-Forbes also believes it was Sanchini whom she told about the assault, referring to her in her statement yesterday, “I did the only thing I knew to do then — report his behavior to someone with some clout, and that went nowhere. ”
In a statement to Deadline, Sanchini denied any prior knowledge of the assault.
“I was shocked and saddened to read Eliza’s story about the sexual assault she suffered during the filming of True Lies. She has my full support and sympathy,” Sanchini said, “I want to state for the record that, until yesterday, I was unaware of any instances or claims of sexual harassment or assault against Eliza. Had I known, I would have taken immediate and forceful action. My thoughts are with Eliza and I hope that by coming forward it will help her heal, as well as empower others to do the same.”
Speaking at TCA yesterday, Cameron also said that he had just learned about Dushku’s claims, which he had not been aware of. “Had I known about it, there would have been no mercy,” Cameron said.
Colonna recalls asking her, “What do I do, who do I call?.” She told me, ‘just be careful.'”
That warning illustrates the stigma speaking out about sexual harassment and sexual assault in Hollywood had carried for decades.
“I’ve read all the stories about Mira Sorvino, Ashley Judd. There is a reason why nobody come forward; everyone was so afraid that they would get blacklisted and fired.”
Colonna jumped to the defense of Dushku’s mom and her legal guardian, who had faced online accusations for not preventing the assault, noting that they could not be”right there every second, constantly on set” because of the way movie production works.
Colonna said she is glad that Dushku has found the courage to come forward with her story. “To carry this for so long, I’m sure it’s devastating how it affect the rest of your life.”
Conti, a college professor and writer, is a close friend of Dushku’s and Colonna’s, who has known Dushku since she was 11. He told Deadline that she confided in him about the alleged incident, in which Kramer, under the pretext of a crew pool party, lured Dusku to his hotel room. Conti, who first heard the story from Dushku shortly after the attack had happened while she still was filming True Lies, said that he hadn’t read Dushku’s Facebook post in which she details the assault but his account of it as told to him by the actress 25 years ago was consistent with the story she shared.
“She was really, really upset, she said it was a bad situation,” Conti said.
He said that he wanted to go and confront Kramer but Dushku told him to let it go. “She said she was afraid because he was in charge of her stunts,” Conti said. (In her post, Dushku talks about being fearful for her life after a serious stunt accident she suffered under Kramer’s supervision shortly after the alleged assault sent her to the hospital with broken ribs.)
“She said it’s her word against his and no one would believe her,” Conti said. He admits, “I regret not handling it differently. What clouded my judgment is that JoAnne repeatedly went to the producer and nothing happened. How the hell were they going to listen to me.”
Conti still tried to confront Kramer at the True Lies premiere in Westwood.
“I thought he was going to beat him up, we had to hold him back,” Colonna recalls of the incident, noting that she got help from security to avoid physical confrontation.
Conti that said 9-10 years had passed by before Dushku brought up the incident again in a conversation. They last discussed it a couple of years ago. “This time, I got the magnitude of it, how much it had affected her as child, and more so when she got older, as a teenager. We talked about her coming out (with the story) but she said, ‘what can I do, there is no proof”.”
In her FB post, Dushku talks about how she found strength to go public with her allegation.
“With every person that speaks out, every banner that drops down onto my iphone screen disclosing similar stories/truths, my resolve strengthens. Sharing these words, finally calling my abuser out publicly by name, brings the start of a new calm.”