Scarcely a month before the release of the third X-Men film directed by Bryan Singer, a bombshell lawsuit dropped in federal court threatens to overshadow the film's debut. The complaint alleges — in extensive and at times stomach-turning detail — a series of brutal sexual assaults over about two years by Singer on an aspiring actor, Michael Egan, who was between 15 and 17 years old at the time.
In a press conference in Los Angeles Thursday, Egan, now 31, said he was treated like "a piece of meat." He said, "I was raped numerous times ... by numerous individuals."
Singer did not immediately speak on the allegations, but his attorney, Martin Singer, told media that the charges were "completely without merit." A call to Martin Singer's office was not returned.
The timing is lousy for 20th Century Fox, the studio behind X-Men: Days of Future Past, but attorneys for the plaintiff claim the suit was filed now in order to beat the 15-year statute of limitations in the case, which would expire before the end of the month.
But it's far worse for Singer. The lawsuit suddenly spotlights the director's long-rumored reputation for sexual adventures involving much younger males, one that has been fodder for underground bloggers for years. That proclivity was heavily implied in a 1997 lawsuit filed by several underage actors who claimed Singer obliged them to film a shower scene in the buff while shooting his film, Apt Pupil.
The new lawsuit goes far beyond unwilling nudity, however.
Over 13 pages, it alleges that the 48-year-old Singer, then in his early thirties, repeatedly raped Egan, who was at that time an underaged model and would-be actor. Plying the teenager with alcohol, cocaine, and physical force, the complaint says, Singer and a variety of other men sexually abused, terrorized, and threatened Egan in 1998 and 1999 in California and Hawaii.
The filing is not a criminal indictment, and it makes no mention of why charges were never pressed. It is a civil lawsuit seeking "an amount exceeding" $75,000 in monetary compensation from Singer, as the only named defendant. Here are the key elements of the suit.
1. Who is making the allegations?
2. What is Egan accusing Singer of doing?
Battery, assault, infliction of emotional distress, and invasion of privacy by unreasonable intrusion, according to the complaint. But this is a civil lawsuit, not a criminal case, and what Egan is seeking is monetary compensation. The cops are not involved, and there is no indication they will be.
3. How has Singer responded?
Singer's attorney, legal heavyweight Marty Singer, gave a brief comment to the press Thursday, calling the claims meritless as well as "absurd and defamatory." BuzzFeed has learned, however, that Singer will no longer be attending the WonderCon convention this weekend to promote his upcoming film.
4. What allegedly went down?
First, this is a civil complaint making allegations, not a final court decision. That said, let's get to the details:
After moving to Southern California, Egan's family put him in a private school, where he made a friend who introduced him to his older brother, Chad Shackley, in mid-1998. Shackley lived in a mansion in Encino called the M&C Estate. He lived there with his lover, Marc Collins-Rector, who ran an "online entertainment business" called the Digital Entertainment Network, or DEN.
Egan was put on DEN's payroll to act in a weekly web show called Royal Standard. He was paid another $600 a week for no apparent reason, the complaint says. But, it alleges, the whole thing was part of a plan to induce teenage boys to "have sex with the adults" who lived at or visited M&C Estate.
There were frequent "sordid" and "degenerate" parties at the mansion, the complaint claims, where older males would have sex with younger males and alcohol was freely distributed to minors. Although Egan didn't want to participate, he was allegedly physically held down by Collins-Rector and raped on several occasions, the complaint alleges. It also says Collins-Rector put a gun to Egan's head and locked him in a gun safe to get him to agree to engage in sexual acts.
Collins-Rector, whose last known address was in the Dominican Republic, could not immediately be located for comment. Chad Shackley, who lives in Michigan, did not immediately reply to messages sent to him on social media.
5. Where does Singer fit into all this?
According to the complaint, Bryan Singer was a frequent attendee at the sex parties. He allegedly witnessed Collins-Rector badgering Egan to participate in the sex acts, threatening him if he refused.
Two to three months after he was allegedly first abused, Egan was hanging out in the mansion's pool when, the complaint says, Singer summoned him and took him to the jacuzzi. There, he allegedly began fondling the teen, promising him a role in a film. Singer allegedly masturbated and fellated Egan, but when the boy refused to do the same, the complaint says, Singer forced his head underwater to do so. Then Singer, according to the complaint, "forcibly sodomized Egan."
The abuse didn't end there, the complaint alleges. Singer returned multiple more times, "coerced" Egan into oral sex, and also anally raped him, the complaint says.
6. This all happened in Encino? Where does Hawaii fit in?
The show, allegedly, also went on the road. According to Egan, he flew with Collins-Rector to Hawaii twice, on Aug. 1 and Oct. 31, 1999. While the complaint does not specify exact dates for the earlier alleged assaults by Singer, it does so with these events. According to the complaint, Egan was 17 at the time.
Egan and Collins-Rector stayed at the Paul Mitchell Estate in Kailua, on the outskirts of Honolulu, according to the complaint. The seven-bedroom estate, which currently rents for anywhere between $5,575 and $9,375 a night, would be the scene of much more sexual violence, the complaint alleges.
On both trips, Egan "was required to interact" with Singer, who allegedly provided him with cocaine, Xanax, Rohypnol, Vicodin, Percocet, alcohol, and a mysterious pill called "green triangle," which the complaint indicates may have been ecstasy.
Singer was then filming the first X-Men movie, mostly in Toronto, and the complaint says he promised Egan a role in it, as well as in commercials and other projects. In great detail, the complaint then describes six different anal rapes of Egan by Singer in Hawaii, often allegedly accompanied by forced consumption of cocaine.
7. So why is this suit filed in federal court in Hawaii?
The alleged abuses generally fall under state law. But the suit is brought under a section of federal law called "diversity jurisdiction" that involves disputes or harm caused in multiple regions and in cases where the plaintiff is demanding in excess of $75,000 in damages. Egan's complaint calls for an award "exceeding $75,000."
And in 2012, Hawaii passed a new law for matters of sexual abuse that gave victims of past sexual assaults that otherwise would have missed their window an extra two years to file claims. That law, effective April 24, 2012, extended the statute of limitations for two extra years for older cases such as Egan's; that is, April 24, 2014.
Egan's complaint was filed April 16, 2014.
8. Anything else?
Correction: It was incorrectly stated that Singer has directed four X-Men films. X-Men: Days of Future Past is the third X-Men film directed by Singer, who is currently slated to direct the next sequel, X-Men: Apocalypse.