How long does it take for a man in Hollywood to recover professionally from online accusations of sexual misconduct? Well, if you’re screenwriter Max Landis, the answer is apparently about a year. As you may recall, in late 2017 Landis had a big movie launching on Netflix (Bright), but on Twitter, the conversation around that film hid something else in its shadow: multiple second-hand accusations of sexual assault and other abuses. This was still back in those immediate post-Weinstein days, when it seemed like all of Hollywood was waiting for a major news outlet to pick up what people were calling an “open secret” about Landis’s behavior and turn it into an exhaustively-researched exposé, fit for public consumption.
For our part, we DID do some digging and published our own non-exposé covering the online comments, Landis’s own history of admitting to emotionally abusive behavior in interviews and harassing critics online, and what first-hand accounts of his alleged behavior I could find. It was clear, based on both the allegations and publicly available information, that he’s a pretty terrible person, guilty of treating people in horrible ways, but if he had sexually assaulted anyone, it seemed they weren’t ready to come forward and talk about it on the record — to me, at least. I did hear at the time that some women were talking to The Hollywood Reporter, however.
But then… nothing. Landis himself seemed to simply fall off the radar… until now.
hey remember when max landis was accused of sexual assault by multiple women and just disappeared from twitter in hopes everyone would forget and ignore it and it wouldn’t hurt his career and it actually worked?— rachel kiley (@rachelkiley) January 30, 2019
Landis resurfaced in the trades recently, thanks to a few new scripts he’s sold: Idris Elba is reportedly circling a deep sea supernatural thriller from Landis called Deeper, while Chloe Grace Moritz has already been cast in the horror/action flick Shadow in the Cloud from director Roseanne Liang. The fact that these two projects were announced so close together prompted The Daily Beast to say that Landis is staging his “#MeToo Comeback,” which feels both accurate and like a bit of an overstatement. He disappeared of his own volition, it seems, and clearly used his time off Twitter to write and make money from that writing — just like he always had. Despite all the online chatter, there still aren’t any on-the-record accusations against Max Landis for him to “come back” from.
Or at least there weren’t, until yesterday. On Medium, a user named “Colour Society Reject” posted her own account of sexual assault, allegedly committed by Max Landis. In fact, she claims to be one of the women who was talking to The Hollywood Reporter in 2017, before the outlet chose to shelve their report:
It was meticulously researched; I handed over the raw file of my Facebook chat archive to be scrutinized for authenticity and had every aspect of my story vetted, and friends corroborated it. Max and “his people” were given ample time to craft a PR response. In truth, I appreciated that my account was so thoroughly battle-tested. The editor ultimately chose not to run the story because we were all unwilling to put our real names on the record for fear of harassment, and other accusers did not make it into the article for various reasons.
I can’t say for certain why The Hollywood Reporter chose not to publish their story, or what their story even was. But as the news of Landis’s latest projects broke, Colour Society Reject decided to put her story out her own way. Though she has chosen to remain anonymous, her handle is apparently a reference to Max’s circle of friends (she says he used to call his friend group “The Colour Society”). And her story sounds familiar. Landis was a friend who took advantage of her when she was intoxicated, crossing clearly defined boundaries.
I started feeling dizzy and decided to lie down. I accidentally caught sight of him changing out of his bathing suit, and he told me later that I had laughed flirtatiously. Taking that as an invitation, he ran over to me and grabbed me. I wormed out of his arms and ran away, thinking at first that he was just playing around. He grabbed me and pushed me down onto the bed, with his knees holding my thighs apart and his hands holding down my arms so that I couldn’t get away. I could feel his erection pressing into me through my clothes, and he was pulling up my shirt. He kept trying to kiss me as I was turning my head from side to side trying to dodge him. I kept saying no. Specifically, I stated the following: “This is a really bad idea. Stop. Please, no, this is a really bad idea. No, stop.” (Repeated a dozen or so times.)
He apologized, but reframed the incident to manipulate her:
He characterized it as “wrestling around.” He thought I was just playing hard to get, and that by “this is a bad idea,” I meant something like, “ooh, this is so naughty” — the classic “no means yes” defense. He told me he had never been turned down before, so he didn’t know what rejection sounded like, taking the opportunity to brag about the size of his penis. I eventually accepted his apology and explanation, because he seemed so sincerely regretful. I even began to feel bad, as if I had somehow victimized him and hurt his feelings. He did a masterful job of manipulating me into believing that I had simply overreacted and misinterpreted his intentions. I found every way to rationalize it and absolve him of responsibility.
And it worked — for a time.
I still question myself sometimes: What if it really was just a misunderstanding? What if I really did overreact? What if he really was confused? Maybe I just didn’t say “no” loudly enough. Maybe I wasn’t clear; surely he would have stopped if I had screamed. I’m being overly sensitive. I wasn’t even raped. I have to comb back through the memories and mentally list off the factors that made this encounter objectively non-consensual: that I had tried to run away, that he had pinned me down to the extent that it bruised my body, and most importantly, that I said no.
And while she may be protecting her identity, she did come with some receipts — specifically, screenshots of their Facebook chats after the incident, where he tries to pass it off as a simple case of getting his signals crossed after debating what making a “move” on someone really means. Though certain personal, identifiable details have been redacted, Colour Society Reject has actually shared with me the full transcript, and I can confirm that nothing else has been tampered with in their conversation. He really does characterize the incident as wrestling, and he really does apologize about his boner after pointing out that he’s even MORE physically intimidating than she’s credited him as being.
But perhaps the most chilling part of her account is this off-hand mention at the very end:
I am certain that the second-hand allegations that were shared publicly in late 2017 were not in reference to me.
Colour Society Reject was not the only woman who was speaking with The Hollywood Reporter about Max Landis in 2017, and if those Twitter mentions are true, she’s not the only woman who experienced his alleged misconduct. The “open secret” is still open, after all. And even if we take it at face value that this was a case of seriously mixed signals, it’s still worth talking about. Because not all abusers are mustache-twirling villains. Even our “friends” can manipulate us. Even our “friends” can have a hard time taking no for an answer.
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