Writer and director James Toback is now being called out by a few dozen women for his Weinstein-esque behavior… or as I called it a couple of weeks ago, pulling a Weinstein.
I decided to look this dude up first. The only film of his I recognized was Harvard Man, a film about an oversexed college kid who drops too much acid and basically screws his head up forever.
Still… he’s made some waves and has worked with some of Hollywood’s leading ladies.
Toback always kept his credentials handy when he introduced himself to women. He had amassed a solid body of work over four decades: His 1974 debut, “The Gambler” starring James Caan, the three movies with Downey Jr., a sympathetic documentary about boxer Mike Tyson and, of course, that Oscar-nominated screenplay for “Bugsy,” the 1991 portrait of gangster Bugsy Siegel, directed by Barry Levinson and starring Beatty and Annette Bening.
“The more time you spend with him, the weirder it gets until it’s like just like one giant red flag,” said Los Angeles radio reporter Anna Scott.
Scott was an 18-year-old senior at Manhattan’s Hunter College High School when Toback approached her at a deli across the street from her campus. He told her he was working on a movie called “Black and White,” that it starred boxer Tyson and he was casting complete unknowns. He asked if Scott was interested in acting. She was about to attend USC to study screenwriting. She thought she had made a fortuitous connection.
In his trailer on the set of “Black and White,” Toback knelt in front of actress Echo Danon and, she says, put his hands on her thighs, telling her, “If you look into my eyes and pinch my nipples, I’m going to come in my pants right now.” She resisted. She felt helpless. Eventually, he backed down.
“Everyone wants to work, so they put up with it,” Danon said. “That’s why I put up with it. Because I was hoping to get another job.”
Toback approached Sari Kamin at a Kinko’s in Manhattan’s Upper West Side in 2003. He pulled out a DVD copy of “Two Girls and a Guy” and told her he’d like to cast her in his next movie. He said he felt an instant connection to her.
After several dinners over the course of a few months, Kamin says, Toback convinced her to accompany him to a hotel room, telling her that he needed to experience a “real connection” with her. Alarms went off, she says. She knew she wouldn’t sleep with him, but she felt like if she could make it through the evening, maybe she’d finally land a part.
Not all of the incidents in the women’s accounts occurred in private. Terri Conn was 23 and acting on the soap opera “As the World Turns” when, she says, Toback approached her on the street. She was intrigued by his credentials and dreamed of being in an edgy independent film. Toback asked her to meet him in Central Park to discuss his process. He took her to a somewhat secluded area — there were people yards away — and told her the best way to get to know someone is to see their soul. And the way you can see someone’s soul is to look into their eyes when they’re experiencing orgasm. And he knelt before her and began humping her leg, telling Conn to look into his eyes.
This woman asked to remain anonymous; she still feared for her safety 23 years after Toback humped her leg in his office until he ejaculated in his pants. Others interviewed for this story requested anonymity as well, fearing retaliation. One woman recounted the time when she met Toback at his New York home and he wouldn’t let her leave until she grabbed his nipples and looked into his eyes while he masturbated.