Where's Bryan Singer? As 'X-Men' turns 20, we track down disgraced filmmaker haunted by sex assault allegations
He has been accused of sexual misconduct, drug abuse, unprofessionalism and feuds during the two-decade run of the series
The X-Men series turn 20 this month. The franchise set almost a template for blockbuster superhero films, spawning 8 films and 5 spin-offs that earned $6 billion worldwide. However, at the same time, Marvel’s franchise in all its glory has camouflaged the notoriety of filmmaker Bryan Singer. The 54-year-old has been accused of sexual misconduct, drug Abuse, unprofessionalism and feuds during the two-decade run of the superhit mutant series.
A detailed report in The Hollywood Reporter reveals the toxic behavior of Singer behind the scenes of 'X-Men'. Here is a look at all his past allegations that have mostly been subsided but made him vulnerable in wake of #MeToo movement. As an executive involved with the film notes, "his behavior was poor on the movie. We accommodated him on the first movie, and therefore we can accommodate him on the second movie. And on and on. And it created a monster," reports Hollywood Reporter.
Stardom of Singer
Bryan Singer’s career took a flight back in 1994 when Shuler Donner began developing X- Men property with Fox. At that time Singer had already made his work noticeable with 'Public Access' that won the Sundance Grand Jury Prize. Hollywood Reporter writes, in 1997, when Singer was shooting the $14 million drama 'Apt Pupil', a case of sexual harassment surfaced. Two boys, aged 14 and 17 years, filed a lawsuit claiming they were ordered to strip naked for a scene. At Least two other actors made similar allegations in separate civil lawsuits with one claiming that he would be fired if he refused to perform nude. Singer was one of the several defendants named in the suits, which were reportedly settled with an undisclosed sum, with plaintiffs bound by confidentiality agreements.
Several sources told the Hollywood Reporter that story meetings used to be unprofessional and vague, even by eccentric auteur standards. "Bryan would bring people to story meetings who weren't involved in the movies. Young guys. A different person every time," says one source. Despite a line up of A- list writers, David Hayter who served as Singer’s assistant got the sole credit for being involved in scripting. “Singer started taking me to script meetings with Peter Rice and Tom Rothman, and he would say, ‘Just sit there, take notes, don't say anything and don't tell anyone you are writing the script',” says Hayter.
Finally, the creation of the film was so troubled with controversies that scriptwriters Christopher McQuarrie and Ed Solomon had their names removed from the credits. David Hayter said, "It wound up being an expensive decision. Chris gave up at least $1 million the first year in residuals and credit bonuses. Same with Ed. It's unheard-of."
Sex for roles
A number of young men, including minors, have claimed in published interviews that Singer gave away roles in for sex. For instance, the character of Pyro, played by Alex Burton, an 18-year-old. Eight days after X-Men's Ellis Island premiere on July 12, 2000, Burton filed a civil suit against three of Singer's friends — Collins-Rector, Chad Shackley and Brock Pierce (Pierce was later dropped as a defendant). Burton claimed that, he was given drugs, sexually assaulted by the trio in Encino, held against his will and threatened with physical harm between July 1999 and May 2000, a period that encompasses X-Men's six-month production.
The suit, which did not name Singer, also declares that Collins-Rector "threatened to use his power and influence in the entertainment industry to prevent Burton from gaining employment in the field of entertainment."
Many smaller roles went to handsome young men. For instance, when Singer was dating Adam Robitel, he cast him in a cameo role — a move that was common in the '90s but would be frowned upon today. One on-set source, however, disputed the idea that Robitel casting was anything but professional, while noting that the two had been dating for three years at that point.
Singer was also called a drug abuser. Hollywood Reporter mentions that he had conceded that he was taking pain medication for a bad back. His drugged behavior made him highly unprofessional. He would arrive late and there would be mood swings and explosive tantrums. Gradually, Singer’s behavior grew erratic and he was embroiled in a feud that shut down production.
Sources said that Tom DeSanto attempted to halt shooting when he learned that Singer was incapacitated after taking a narcotic but Singer was defiant, resulting in an injury to Hugh Jackman. However, the studio supported Singer and told DeSanto to return to Los Angeles. Following this, Halle Berry famously told Singer, "You can kiss my Black ass".
Producer Shuler Donner said, "He was very nervous and he would act out when he was insecure, as many people do. But his way of acting out would be to yell and scream at everybody on the set. Or walk off the set or shut down production.” Hollywood Reporter mentions that the producer declined to attend the X-Men premiere out of frustration. "You have to understand, the guy was brilliant, and that was why we all tolerated him and cajoled him. And if he wasn't so fucked up, he would be a really great director" she said.
Where is he now?
Did the allegations really lead to the professional downfall of the director? The one big question in all minds right now is: Where is Bryan Singer?
At the end of January 2017, Singer signed on to direct an action-adventure pilot in the X-Men Universe titled 'The Gifted'. The show was broadcast on Fox and was canceled after two seasons. The director last directed the 'Bohemian Rhapsody' (2018), but was fired from the film shortly before its completion. He was subsequently hired to direct 'Red Sonja' at Millennium Films but was replaced in the wake of a 2019 Atlantic exposé that detailed the claims of four Singer accusers.
BAFTA too took cognizance of the sexual harassment allegations made by several young boys in 1997 and removed his name from the 2019 nomination for Best British Film. Hollywood Reporter reports that the #MeToo movement, which toppled the careers of Harvey Weinstein and others, also made Singer vulnerable. WME quietly dropped him as a client.