Inside Bryan Singer's Wild Hollywood World
Known for surrounding himself with beautiful young men, X-Men director Bryan Singer has found his private life under intense scrutiny due to a lawsuit alleging sex abuse. BuzzFeed investigates Singer's tangled network of power, money, sex, and gay Hollywood.
On June 21, 2006, a gay screenwriter in his thirties working his way through the film industry landed an invitation to the after-party for the Los Angeles premiere of director Bryan Singer’s film Superman Returns. “It started at like 1 a.m.,” he told BuzzFeed. “It was super crowded. Someone told me to stick around as late as I could because after most of the guests leave, the scene in the pool ‘gets freaky.’ There were a lot of twinks inside, just hanging out, and all of them were white. I wandered into what seemed like a screening room or TV room. There was a PlayStation set up, and a blond twink in a tank top who looked like he was 16 was sitting on the floor alone eating fried chicken straight from a KFC bucket. More white twinks showed up. I felt old and gross, so I left.”
In the wake of the lawsuit alleging Singer sexually assaulted a minor in 1999, these are the kinds of stories that keep surfacing about the filmmaker’s private world of gay Hollywood parties and the friends who scout young men to go to them. To gain a better understanding of what has actually happened at the frequent parties Singer has hosted and attended, BuzzFeed has spoken with six people who have gone to them, including one friend who said he helps introduce Singer to younger men the director would otherwise be too “shy” to meet. These sources provided a stark portrait of an entrenched system, facilitated by these scouts, who bring Singer into regular orbit with 18- to 20-year-olds at parties sustained by large amounts of alcohol and drugs — edging precariously close to the line between legality and illegality. (That said, the enormous and understandable curiosity about them can curdle quickly into a kind of homophobic shaming, fixating on the worst stereotypes of gay men as lasciviously exploiting the young and impressionable.)
To be clear: The lawsuit is just a week old, and its claims are still very much in dispute — Singer's lawyer has called them "complete fabrications," and said he has evidence that places the filmmaker in Canada when the suit alleges he was in Hawaii. Meanwhile, the lawyer for plaintiff Michael Egan told The Hollywood Reporter that he has witnesses who will place Singer in Hawaii at the time of the allegations, and on Monday filed a new suit alleging that three more Hollywood executives, Garth Ancier, David Neuman, and Gary Goddard, sexually abused Egan — including at least one other associate of Singer’s. (Ancier, Neuman, and Goddard have all denied the charges.)
When reached by BuzzFeed, a rep for Bryan Singer had no comment for this story beyond the most recent statement from the filmmaker’s lawyer regarding Egan's lawsuit. “The minute I learned of Michael Egan’s allegations I thought they were fabricated because I knew that Bryan was shooting a movie out of the country during the period of time alleged in the complaint," said attorney Martin Singer (no relation). "Based on concrete and indisputable evidence, we will prove that Egan’s claims about Bryan are entirely made up.”
What is not in dispute is that, since launching his career with 1995's The Usual Suspects and becoming a blockbuster filmmaker with 2000's X-Men, Singer has been a fixture in the gay Hollywood party scene, hosting and attending gatherings at homes in Los Angeles that have drawn anywhere between a few dozen to 1,200 revelers, most of them very young men. That is not on its face any different than the parties held by powerful heterosexual men in Hollywood frequented by very young women. (One famous example: the Playboy Mansion, a palace with its own grotto specifically for such events, where movie stars and moguls have frolicked and fornicated for decades.) But therein lies the seed of this scandal. Hollywood is populated with monumentally wealthy people living within a culture of permissiveness and working in a male-dominated business largely organized around youth and unattainable beauty (gay or straight). It makes sense that young, driven, beautiful people would want to be a part of it — and older, rich, and powerful people would be happy to let them. It’s a cycle as old as Hollywood is, when the resolutely closeted gay stars and filmmakers of the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s had few options to openly express their sexuality except within the confines of private homes, often facilitated by men like Scotty Bowers, who famously provided prostitutes and hustlers for the Hollywood elite.
Singer, however, is not in the closet. And Egan's suit charges that house parties frequented by young men — hosted either by Singer, or by convicted sex offender Marc Collins-Rector — were the main location where, 15 years ago, Singer allegedly promised Egan a role in a movie, fondled him, and then raped him repeatedly. (A 2007 story in Radar named Singer as one of Collins-Rector’s “acquaintances” along with Ancier and David Geffen, who invested in his online TV venture DEN.) But the men who spoke with BuzzFeed on the condition of anonymity — including a good friend of Singer’s, and an industry insider who has been going to Singer’s parties for about a year — contended that they never witnessed such criminal behavior by Singer, nor of anyone underage attending Singer’s parties, although they do allege drug and underage alcohol use by both Singer and partygoers on a significant scale.
To scout for attractive young men to attend his parties, Singer has relied on a network of friends, according to multiple sources. First among them is Wayne Castro (44 years old, according to public records), whose Twitter biography lists his professions as a "fashion photographer, producer, [and] event promoter."
“He's been friends with Bryan for years — very much a confidant,” said another friend of Singer’s, who added that he is one of the scouts who has connected Singer with young men the director might have wanted to meet.
Castro, according to the partygoing insider, is a regular presence at the 18-and-over gay club night called TigerHeat, which happens every Thursday night at the Hollywood club Avalon. There, Castro maintains a VIP list and produces the "Heaven Lounge" at the event, as well as house parties that happen either the same night or on subsequent nights. "He's more like a personal assistant [to Singer], in a way,” said the partygoer. “He's booking Bryan's [private plane] flights and stuff like that." (Castro has not responded to repeated messages, emails, and phone calls asking for comment for this story.)
According to the partygoer, another friend of Singer’s, aspiring writer Tommy Johnson, hosts regular parties at his apartment in a historic Hollywood building before the TigerHeat nights, and “the people who usually go to Tommy’s parties usually end up going to these actual big parties and other parties that Bryan has — it’s all kind of a chain link and it all links together to get to Bryan.”
Johnson, who declined to give his age, adamantly denied those claims.
“Yeah, I throw parties,” he told BuzzFeed. “Everyone throws parties. But we're talking about 10 or 15 of my friends that meet up and park [at my apartment] and walk somewhere. That's completely unrelated to whatever someone does later on as far as an after-party. I don't even go to those after-parties. I need sleep. I can't be up [late].”
Johnson also denied any inference that he participates in any “recruiting” of young men to meet Singer. “I've heard that rumor before, and it never really bothered me, because I know the people that actually know me in L.A. know that that's something I wouldn't do,” he said. “It’s completely false.”
But the friend of Singer’s who acknowledged that he himself has connected the filmmaker with younger men contends that these interactions have not been as salacious as they may appear. “Look, Bryan is fairly insulated, right?" he said. "People don't walk up to him on the street and get to meet him. If I meet a young actor who's good-looking or somebody who I think would be, you know, either interesting to Bryan or be interested in Bryan — and most anybody who wants to be in this industry does want to meet people — then I would let [Bryan] know that I've got somebody that he might want to meet. And we would either have a dinner or maybe go to one of his parties or something like that. I think it's very not uncommon for any celebrity — your friends bring people to you.”
While Singer’s friend insists that “there's no payment involved” for his introductions to Singer, it is apparent that those who play the middleman for the filmmaker reap tangible benefits. "An average night going out to dinner with Bryan is five or six people at Spago and a several-thousand-dollar dinner,” he said. “I think that people definitely want to be around that. It's fun! Why wouldn't you want to be around somebody who takes you to big restaurants and pays for everything?"
The partygoer said he was indeed invited to his first party at Singer’s house because a friend of his had met the director during the 2013 production of X-Men: Days of Future Past. No matter with whom or how the initial connection is made, invitations to parties usually arrive via text message, explaining where and when the next event will be.
Most of the people receiving those texts, according to every source BuzzFeed spoke to, match Singer's reported interest in men between the ages of 18 and 20. "There’s a lot of 19-year-olds," said the partygoer. "I would say it’s a majority [of] 19- and 18-year-olds more so than 20 and up."
Part of the job of Singer’s network of friends is to make sure those young men are in fact over 18, but sometimes, that process appears to be rather lax. "Most of the time, when Wayne [is] bringing people to these clubs, it’s usually just skirting them in [past security]," said the partygoer. "No IDs are being checked. Wayne will be like, 'They’re with us.'" A gay man now in his twenties who often went to TigerHeat while attending college at USC said that it was a common understanding that “boys under 18 with fake IDs have slipped past security” there, noting that TigerHeat and other 18-plus gay clubs like it are “a sort of rite of passage for young, recently out teenagers who just hit their 18th birthday.” However, no one BuzzFeed spoke with has firsthand knowledge of anyone under 18 attending either a public club like TigerHeat or a private party.
Ray Rhodes, the main DJ and promoter for TigerHeat, said that Castro "has not been present at Avalon for TigerHeat or Heaven Lounge on Thursdays for approximately the past six months." He also told BuzzFeed that the event “does not have anything to do with the ID checking at the venue,” which is “100% controlled by the venue itself.” Avalon manager Barney Holm said that the venue works with the LAPD’s vice squad to verify the ages of everyone who enters TigerHeat, including sending undercover officers into the club to arrest anyone in the event who is underage. (Although the LAPD did not respond to a request for comment on its involvement with policing ages at TigerHeat, a public information officer did tell BuzzFeed they have been declining comment on all matters related to Singer while the FBI conducts an investigation. While the FBI would not comment specifically on anything related to Singer, in a statement, they told BuzzFeed, "The FBI takes seriously allegations involving the sexual abuse of minors.")
Yet the TigerHeat alum says the weekly event is "notorious for attracting the type of young gay twink who looks young enough to be in high school. Any man over 30 in attendance is immediately pegged as an individual with a taste for the barely legal.”
Singer’s scout friend understands how this all comes off. “I'm trying to figure a way to phrase it where it doesn't sound horrible, but we all love good-looking young people,” he said. “We all do feel protectiveness for young people and fear that any kind of hero worship could be abused. It's abused every day in Hollywood. But certainly not by Bryan in any way that I've ever observed.” On this score, at least, Johnson agreed. “This is the god's honest truth, on my father's grave,” he said. “I have never seen Bryan pursue an underage boy, or be with an underage boy, or even talk about being with an underage boy.”
Indeed, Singer’s friend who freely admits he has connected Singer with young men was adamant that the director, who is 48, is “incredibly cautious” about making sure those men are of age. He recalled a time he brought "a young actor who had just moved to Los Angeles" to the set of a TV project Singer was filming. "Good-looking kid. The kind that Bryan might be interested in meeting or who knows what. We went where guests sit on set, and we had lunch with him. And afterwards, Bryan came to me and said, 'Are you sure this guy's 18?' And I said, 'Well, he said he's 18. I really have no reason to doubt him. But I didn't check his ID.' And Bryan goes, 'Check.' And guess what, the kid was lying about his age. He was 17. He was going to be 18 in a month."
Within a certain segment of gay Hollywood, Singer has developed a reputation — deserved or not — for casting some of the people he meets and sleeps with at these parties in his movies. "Everyone’s known that he would sometimes give jobs out and sometimes not," said the partygoer. "It’s like a game of telephone. People have heard past stories, so they automatically jump in thinking, Oh, this could happen to me."
But according to the scout, it is far from being that cut-and-dried. “[Singer] outwardly tries to avoid any association like that at all because of the complete nightmare that it creates,” he said. “I've never heard him talk about roles, particularly in X-Men or something like that. That's just ridiculous.”
He continues: “If I were to introduce [Singer] to a good-looking young guy who might be interested, if that guy is gay or bi or has inclinations and he's open to it, then I would tell him, 'You know, whatever happens, it could be a lot of fun!' But never in the context of, 'You're going to walk out of this with a deal; you should ask for something like that.' I would tell them, 'If that's your only agenda, then don't even bother.' Because that's not the way it works, you know?” He pauses. “[Singer] is not beyond giving somebody money. He has been known to do that. He would give a kid 500 bucks before he would ever promise them a role in X-Men, I'll tell you that.”
Still, entering Singer’s orbit does bring the very real potential of launching into a Hollywood career behind the scenes. Blake Stuerman, a former boyfriend of Singer’s, was his assistant from 2012–2013 and worked on X-Men: Days of Future Past. Stuerman’s résumé on LinkedIn said he “provided extensive notes on the script during both pre-production and principal photography and played a key role in casting several actors,” and that he facilitated “communication between [the] director and 20th Century Fox executives.” A source close to the production told BuzzFeed that Stuerman, who is 23 according to public records, was fired from the film and “sent home.” (Stuerman did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)
That trajectory can also lead into the executive ranks. When the scout visited Singer on the set of the recent CBS television pilot Battle Creek, Singer told him the following story: “About 15 years ago, [Singer] was dating this guy, he was like 20, 21, and Singer was like thirtysomething. He really wanted to be an actor, and he tried to help him, connect him with stuff, and he couldn't do it.” Fifteen years later, he said, that man is now an executive at Sony Pictures Television working on Battle Creek. Also, said the scout, “The president of his [production] company [Bad Hat Harry] — a guy named Jason [Taylor] — he knew Bryan 15 years ago sort of in that context, and that's where he's ended up. That's sort of the nature of the beast. People do actually gain from the association, but it's never so laid out. You get to meet people, and you kind of make your own way with it.”
Singer also has invited certain friends to join him on a private plane flight to Hawaii, the state where Egan's suit alleges the bulk of Singer's assaults occurred. "I know every year around Christmas, Bryan does book a private jet and they go," said the partygoer. "They were there for like two weeks this past year." Last December, Singer tweeted a photo of him with multiple friends at Christmas Day dinner at Nobu Honolulu, including Castro, who retweeted the shot.
Having a good time with the chance to get drunk and high for free is as much a reason to seek out these parties as any, especially for those under 21 who so often frequent them. "Most of the people I swear that go to these, just go for alcohol and drugs," said the partygoer. "I wouldn’t even say it’s sex. [At one party] there were two people fighting just because they wanted to find the cocaine, and one person wanted it more than the other.”
As for Singer, the scout said that the director “likes to drink a lot” at parties. “If you were to ask him why that is, what he would tell you is that he is really shy, and the only time he feels comfortable even talking to people is when he's drinking.”
At times, however, that seems to be a counterproductive pursuit for Singer. “I’ve known him a year,” said the partygoer, “and I feel like he still doesn’t know who I am because he’s always drinking.” Still, this source said the parties are less wanton than their reputations suggested. “I always heard there was a lot of sex and a lot of drugs, and I thought it would be more like an orgy. So I was kind of surprised and kind of appreciative of the fact that when you walk in, it’s not like everyone’s naked on the couches and stuff like that. If they’re naked, they’re in the bedroom … they’re in the pool. It’s not a free-for-all. From what I’ve seen, [sex] is happening behind closed doors."
If one of those closed doors leads to a bathroom, tough luck: “I remember Wayne saying, ‘If people are in there having sex, you are not to disturb, even if you have to go to the bathroom. You have to hold [it].’”
The larger parties often take place at the homes of others, including Goddard, owner of a live entertainment company and one of the individuals named on Monday in Michael Egan’s second sexual assault lawsuit. “His house is sort of indestructible,” said the scout.
Director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, 2012) used to co-host a party with Singer over Pride weekend at Emmerich's Los Angeles home. “That got out of hand,” the filmmaker told The Advocate in 2011. “Four or five years ago I kind of proposed to Bryan that it should be no more than 400 [people]. You know what Bryan said? ‘You want to make it that exclusive?’ I said, ‘Are you kidding me?’ But then I kind of realized when [Singer] makes a New Year’s party, there’s like 600, 700 twinks running around and he’s hiding in his room. That’s quite typical.” Emmerich also told The Advocate he stopped hosting the party after the 2009 event drew 1,200 people, by his estimate.
But the parties can also either start or end up at Singer's homes in Malibu and the West Hollywood Hills. The latter is decorated with X-Men props and comics, and features a glass garage displaying exotic sports cars basked in glowing light. Singer has photos of nude men in his bathroom — a not-uncommon choice for a gay man's decor — including, said the partygoer, one of himself from behind. Castro also currently lives in a multimillion-dollar home in the West Hollywood Hills that rents for nearly $25,000 per month (though according to the partygoer, Castro will only be living there for another month), where he hosted a party as recently as Sunday evening. The mentality that a 400-person party could be too exclusive also exposes Singer to partygoers whose interest is not just in having a good time.
Singer's celebrity has drawn the attention of blogs like WeHo Confidential that traffic in tracking whoever happens to be in Singer's orbit, whether because they're dating, partying together, or merely meeting for a brief moment at a public event. So it’s understandable that Singer and especially those closest to him would be wary of prying eyes.
At some parties, Castro appears to be the one in charge of maintaining security, ranging from protecting Singer’s reputation to his belongings. "The rule, Wayne [has said]: 'If I find any of these photos on fucking WeHo Confidential, I’m going after you.' So there’s a kind of secrecy to it all that’s not so secret," said the partygoer.
"Wayne has an iPad. … There’s security footage, and Wayne has it connected, so he’s always looking to see what’s going on, and what’s going on where," he adds. "There are very mob-y, large, stocky guys that do security — even at these private parties, there’s always security."
That said, we live in the Instagram age, and a quick scan of even Castro's public account reveals that taking photos and video at Hollywood pool parties happens all the time.
And yet what happens at these parties remains a topic of tremendous secrecy — multiple people approached for this story with knowledge of Singer’s parties declined to go on the record. Some expressed friendship and affection for Singer, and frustration that a double standard is at work here. “When I moved out here, I was an assistant at a casting office,” Johnson said. “And this very famous director who was straight would have the head casting person send over headshots of the girls that she thought would probably sleep with him and then the girls who were actually serious actresses that wouldn't. They would be in separate envelopes. Those kinds of things have been going on for ages.”
Other defenders of Singer felt the power dynamic at these parties is actually reversed. “I have witnessed people preying on him,” said a source who has known Singer for a decade. “I feel like the crowd is really working the party more than the hosts. People go to these parties hoping to get preyed upon. Everyone there has an agenda.”
In Hollywood — as with Wall Street, Washington, and any other nexus of fame, wealth, and sex — that kind of vast, shifting power imbalance can and does lead to all kinds of potentially hazardous behavior. At the very least, Singer is apparently accustomed to weathering the risks that come with inviting scores of very young strangers into his home on a regular basis — just as those strangers clearly seem happy to enter the home of a powerful man they don’t really know. Michael Egan claims he deeply regrets making that choice. After this week, no matter the truth of Egan’s charges, Bryan Singer may come to harbor similar regrets himself.
Kate Aurthur, Ken Bensinger, Ellie Hall, and Hunter Schwarz contributed to this report.
Editor's note: This story has been updated with an additional comment from Ray Rhodes, who emailed BuzzFeed to say that Wayne Castro has "not been present at Avalon for TigerHeat or Heaven Lounge on Thursdays for approximately the past six months. Heaven Lounge is an event that occurs only on Thursday nights and only at Avalon, however, TigerHeat does produce other events on different days of the week at other venues that Wayne Castro may have been a patron at."