On Saturday January 13, Eliza Dushku wrote a Facebook post about being molested as a child actress.
The actress, who is best known for her roles on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Bring It On, says she was molested by renowned stunt coordinator Joel Kramer, who was Arnold Schwarzenneger’s personal stunt double for years. The assault happened while she was working on the movie True Lies.
“When I was 12 years old, while filming “True Lies”, I was sexually molested by Joel Kramer, one of Hollywood’s leading stunt coordinators,” Dushku begins. “At the time, I shared what happened to me with my parents, two adult friends and one of my older brothers. No one seemed ready to confront this taboo subject then, nor was I.”
Dushku says she was inspired to come forward by all the women and men who have done so in the past few months.
I am grateful to the women and men who have gone before me in recent months. The ever-growing list of sexual abuse and harassment victims who have spoken out with their truths have finally given me the ability to speak out. It has been indescribably exhausting, bottling this up inside me for all of these years.
She describes how Kramer carefully groomed her:
I remember, so clearly 25 years later, how Joel Kramer made me feel special, how he methodically built my and my parents’ trust, for months grooming me; exactly how he lured me to his Miami hotel room with a promise to my parent that he would take me for a swim at the stunt crew’s hotel pool and for my first sushi meal thereafter. I remember vividly how he methodically drew the shades and turned down the lights; how he cranked up the air-conditioning to what felt like freezing levels, where exactly he placed me on one of the two hotel room beds, what movie he put on the television (Coneheads); how he disappeared in the bathroom and emerged, naked, bearing nothing but a small hand towel held flimsy at his mid-section. I remember what I was wearing (my favorite white denim shorts, thankfully, secured enough for me to keep on). I remember how he laid me down on the bed, wrapped me with his gigantic writhing body, and rubbed all over me. He spoke these words: “You’re not going to sleep on me now sweetie, stop pretending you’re sleeping,” as he rubbed harder and faster against my catatonic body. When he was ‘finished’, he suggested, “I think we should be careful…,” [about telling anyone] he meant. I was 12, he was 36.
When Dushku’s agent Joanne Colonna went on set to confront Kramer, he lashed out at Dushku.
By no small coincidence, I was injured from a stunt-gone-wrong on the Harrier jet. With broken ribs, I spent the evening in the hospital. To be clear, over the course of those months rehearsing and filming True Lies, it was Joel Kramer who was responsible for my safety on a film that at the time broke new ground for action films. On a daily basis he rigged wires and harnesses on my 12 year old body. My life was literally in his hands: he hung me in the open air, from a tower crane, atop an office tower, 25+ stories high. Whereas he was supposed to be my protector, he was my abuser.
Several people have confirmed Dushku’s account. In fact, several people were witness to Kramer’s inappropriate behavior, which included his nickname for her “jailbait.” But no one stopped him.
Sure, I’ve come to understand the terrible power dynamics that play into whistle-blowing by “subordinates” against persons in power, how difficult it can be for someone to speak up. But I was a child. Over the years I’ve really struggled as I’ve wondered how my life might have been different if someone, any one grown-up who witnessed his sick ways, had spoken up before he lured me to that hotel room.
Colonna, Dushku’s agent at the time, said she spoke to the movie’s executive producer Rae Sanchini about the unhealthy atmosphere on set before the incident even happened.
I’d called Rae multiple times because there was such inappropriateness going on the set. 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.
Sanchini, however, denies knowledge, and so does the movie’s director, James Cameron.
Directors are historically pretty oblivious to the inter-personal things that are happening on the set, because they’re focused on what they’re doing creatively, but had I known about (it) there would have been no mercy. I have daughters. There really would be no mercy now.
Dushku’s family friend Peter Conti physically confronted Kramer at the True Lies premiere, although he says he wishes he could have handled 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 said.
In the aftermath of Dushku’s post, two more allegations have emerged. One stunt-woman, Laura Albert, says that Kramer had sex with the 16-year-old friend of her 15-year-old sister who visited the set. Kramer himself admitted to the deed.
The similarities with Dushku’s story are undeniable. He lured both girls out with the premise of a pool party, and then assaulted them when they were alone. In the case of the 16-year-old, the police were called, but nothing could be done since the girl was at the age of consent.
Another stunt woman alleges that Kramer forced her to give him oral sex about 30 years ago. The woman, who prefers to remain anonymous, says it happened when she was carpooling with Kramer to drinks with other stunt people.
“I did not tell anyone, because I was frightened, scared and ashamed,” she said. “I also knew that if I were to report this to the stunt group, the police or SAG, I would have no chance in a career as a stunt woman.”
Deadline reports Kramer has been released from his agency, Worldwide Production Agency.
“WPA has elected to part ways with Joel Kramer based on the allegations of misconduct now being reported. Such behavior is unacceptable and entirely at odds with the the standards of conduct we demand of ourselves, and expect from our clients,” the agency’s president and general counsel Richard Caleel said in a statement to Deadline.