It is a good enough story to make a screenplay. Maybe not a good screenply, but still…
In a cliche’ story from a Hollywood that subsists on tired tropes, the CEO of Warner Brothers Studios, Kevin Tsujihara, will step down amid a sex scandal that sees the end to his 25 year career with the company. Although being touted as another #MeToo storyline affecting a major Hollywood player, this may differ in that the female involved was hardly a preyed-upon shrinking blossom, and in fact appeared a more-than-willing participant.
At issue in the story is that Tsujihara had been involved in an affair with an aspiring actress – Charlotte Kirk – and that the studio head was instrumental in getting her cast in roles. Kirk has recently appeared in the all female “Ocean’s 8”, and prior in the romantic comedy “How To Be Single”. But more than your typical casting couch scenario there were a number of other business entanglements connected, involving another fallen director, production companies, a casino magnate, and even possible blackmail plots.
It is nearly enough to qualify as its own lurid B-movie script.
An Age Old Plot In Contemporary Times
If one were to go back just a handful of years ago hearing a rumor of an actress employing sexual favors in order to get choice film roles would likely not have produced much more than a shrug for a reaction. This is a post-Weinstein era however, so what used to be considered part of the industry is now grounds to bring down the most powerful in Dreamland; from A-List actors (Kevin Spacey) to directors (Bryan Singer) to studio titans (Les Moonves) no sector seems shielded from the stark reprisal for lurid behavior.
What is different about this particular case is The Hollywood Reporter obtained hundreds of phone text messages between those involved which lays out a years-long web of interactions, with the actress Kirk appearing to be far more than a doe-eyed naif unaware of what was transpiring. While Tsujihara’s lawyer insists his client, “had no direct role in the hiring of this actress,” communications between multiple players show there was a dose of influence being leveraged by all involved.
The backstory to this scandal began back in 2012, when Kirk was friends with director Brett Ratner. The director introduced Kirk to billionaire James Packer, an Australian casino tycoon. Ratner and Packer were also business partners in a production company, RatPac-Dune Entertainment. By 2013 Kirk and Packer had developed a relationship.
Eventually Packer had agreed to help out Kirk with her career and said he would set up a meeting between her and the head of Warner Brothers. It was during this time that Ratner and Packer were also developing a financing deal with the studio, and there were signs that Kirk may have also been used as an inducement with Tsujihara. RatPac dangled Kirk, the studio boss saw a compliant nubile, and Kirk saw a way to get herself some screen credits. It was by all accounts a perfectly corrupt arrangement for everyone involved, as per Hollywood tradition.
This being Hollywood, after all, these things are both widely known, and barely acknowledged. Remeember how the Weinstein scandal had been described by many at the time — it was regarded as “an open secret”. Very little was done to take action with that studio boss, and there could be some of that same industry inertia in play with this tale as well.
Welcome the Old Boss to the New Standards
There is a possibly revealing sentence in the THR report: “The texts appear to corroborate accounts from other sources who spoke to THR, prompting queries in November 2017 about Tsujihara’s relationship with Kirk.” This seems to indicate that there was plenty of the talk-on-street type of rumors floating around about the studio head and actress. Think of the years this had played out, and when those queries began to take place.
The Hollywood entertainment media has always been loathe to dig too deeply on such matters. If you were to run a story on the head of a major studio involved in a sex scandal you would find yourself cut off from studio lots, film sets, and access to celebrities. That would basically have been a career killer — for both a reporter, and the publication.
But note the date the magazine decided to start digging. November, 2017 was just weeks after the Harvey Weinstein revelations, and the burgeoning #MeToo movement was altering the way these age old stories were covered. Suddenly the entertainment press caught a severe case of journalism, and these items which normally would have been overlooked began to actually be explored.
Charlotte Kirk began leaning heavily on the three other players, unhappy that her career had not launched in a fashion to her satisfaction. She even indicated to Brett Ratner at one point how she was “used as the icing on the cake for your finance deal with Warner Bros,” in attempting to provoke more auditions. Eventually Tsujihara did get her connected to the right people to land the bit parts she shows on her IMDB page.
But as the #MeToo scandals erupted around Hollywood Brett Ratner became one of those embroiled. Half a dozen women had come forward to claim they were victimized by the director’s sexual aggression. As he was becoming the focus of headline material Warner Brothers terminated the deal they made with RatPac, in the Spring of 2018. By last Fall anonymous letters were being sent to Warners and the media, about the alleged affair and the industry movements surrounding it.
It is not stated exactly how THR came into possession of the texts, but in a prior statement about her involvement Kirk denied being the source — but she also did not deny any of the contents contained. It would be a fair summation that she was a probably source, after leveraging the various players in this caper. At one point Packer, in one of the phone teexts, commented to Kirk after she was insistent on getting more career help, that he felt like she was “extorting” him.
There was one last indicator how career-minded the actress can be. After the text messages were made public just under two weeks ago Kirk released additional statements through her lawyer. In those the Los Angeles Times noted, “She also plugged her role in the upcoming films “Nicole & O.J.” and “The Reckoning,” a movie Kirk co-wrote that is in pre-production.”