There were a few solid reasons to look forward to Twentieth Century Fox’s upcoming sequel, The Predator. It’s got a killer cast, including Boyd Holbrook, Sterling K. Brown, Keegan-Michael Key, Olivia Munn, and even Alfie Allen (THEON!). It’s about, you know, alien trophy hunters. And most of all, this film is written and directed by Shane Black, the man behind Iron Man 3, The Nice Guys, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang — not to mention the fact that he was actually the first dude killed off in the original Predator. It’s all coming full circle!
So of course there’s a catch. According to the Los Angeles Times, Fox had to pull a scene from the film at the last minute, because they found out it featured an actor who is a registered sex offender. That man, Steven Wilder Striegel (on IMDb as “Steve Wilder”), pled guilty in 2010 to two felonies related to his attempt to lure a 14-year-old girl into a sexual relationship via the internet. He served 6 months in jail for the offense. Before his arrest, he was primarily known for parts on shows like Days of Our Lives, Melrose Place, and Charmed. He apparently has been friends with Shane Black for 14 years, and Black has cast him in Iron Man 3 and The Nice Guys in the years after his arrest. Here is a picture of him looking super not-creepy at the premiere for The Nice Guys:
(For what it’s worth, the LA Times says his first role after his release from jail was in Iron Man 3, but he does have one small credit before that… in Max Landis’s The Death and Return of Superman. Because OF COURSE.)
It appears that neither the cast nor the studio were aware of Striegel’s criminal record when he was hired on The Predator, in a 3-page scene playing a jogger who harasses Olivia Munn’s character. In fact, it was Munn who first became aware that he was a registered sex offender, and alerted the studio on August 15th, at which point they immediately cut the scene.
So what does Black have to say about all this?
“I personally chose to help a friend,” Black said in a written statement to The Times. “I can understand others might disapprove, as his conviction was on a sensitive charge and not to be taken lightly.”
But he said he has long believed that Striegel was “caught up in a bad situation versus something lecherous.”
Oh wait, so hitting on 14-year-olds online isn’t lecherous? Was the situation misunderstood? According to Striegel, the girl in question was a distant relative who was going through a rough time, and he was trying to boost her self-esteem when he “made the very bad judgement call of telling her in these emails that she was attractive, and sexy, and not a failure, etc.” Is that all?
No. Of course not.
But a March 2009 arrest warrant affidavit — which identifies the 14-year-old only as “Jane Doe” — alleges that physical contact included “kissing, touching Doe’s breast over her clothing, rubbing her legs and stroking her neck” on several occasions.
In one email message, Striegel told the girl that there was no one in the world he would rather have sex with. “I will be VERY honest: There’s no question that it’s you. None. Hope that doesn’t totally freak you out, and just because it’s what I want, and what you want, doesn’t mean it’s the right thing.”
In other correspondence, he described his sexual preferences in graphic detail, including his favorite intercourse position and intimate grooming practices.
“EVERY thing you say turns me on!!” he wrote to Doe. “I love that it rocked you when I pulled your hair that time.”
Striegel disputes the claims that there was any physical contact: “The only thing I was ever charged with were words in an email,” is how he put it to The Times. Still, those “words in an email” made him a registered sex offender. One that keeps getting hired thanks to his friendship with Shane Black.
Goddamnit, Shane Black.
Header Image Source: Getty Images