The women’s stories detail meetings taken under the pretext of interviews or auditions segueing into explicit questions, and sometimes ending with Toback dry-humping them or having them watch him masturbate. His behavior was notorious to the degree that it took on its own term. In an interview with the LA Times, Karen Sklaire said, “After someone mentions they were sexually abused by a creepy writer-director, the response is, ‘Oh, no. You got Toback-ed.’”
Many Hollywood figures, including Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn, have condemned Toback since, but Alec Baldwin, who collaborated with Toback on several features films—as well as a documentary titled Seduced and Abandoned—has notably been absent from their number.
On October 24, The Decider’s Kayla Cobb wrote a piece on the 2013 documentary. The film follows Baldwin and Toback as they try to sell a concept film at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, and features several pitch sessions with producers as well as interviews with directors and actors discussing the shady financial side of film production. (Notably, Toback was seen by The Daily Beast’s Marlow Stern shooting a similar documentary while at this year's Venice Film Festival, though the details of that film remain unclear.)
In her piece, Cobb wrote, “Knowing what we do now, Seduced and Abandoned’s ‘boys will be boys’ tone transforms from mildly charming to repulsive.” She also noted how unsettling it was that the documentary featured interviews with filmmakers Bernando Bertolucci and Roman Polanski, the former now infamous for not having warned actress Maria Schneider of a rape scene during the making of Last Tango in Paris, and the latter a convicted child rapist. She also pointed out how strange it was that Baldwin—who has been incredibly vocal about the alleged sexual misconduct of right-wing figures Donald Trump, Bill O’Reilly, and Roger Ailes—had thus far remained silent as to his connection to Toback, with whom he collaborated yet again on the upcoming film The Private Life of a Modern Woman, starring Sienna Miller.
Baldwin’s response to Cobb’s piece was quick. He took to Twitter that same night, writing, “I cheered when Gawker lost its case to Hulk [Hogan]. So, of course The Decider wants to tar me w the Toback brush. Kayla Cobb, ur a dreadful writer.” When Cobb responded, pointing out that she’d only written that he hadn’t yet spoken up, he continued, “I would send you an email, on any subject, if you weren’t such a dishonest, awful writer…Why don’t you let prosecutors and real journalists investigate such cases and you stick to divorces and plastic surgery.” Some of the tweets have since been deleted.
It’s telling that Baldwin still hasn’t said a word about Toback despite having worked with him again so recently. He’s also collaborated with Woody Allen multiple times, and took a defensive stance when asked about the child abuse allegations leveled against the director in tweets that have since been deleted.
More broadly speaking, it’s also not an argument that reflects well on Baldwin, not least because his attack on Cobb was unwarranted. His tweets are unquestionably misogynistic given the “divorces and plastic surgery” angle, and also disturbing given his smearing of the now-defunct Gawker (which, it should be noted, isn’t affiliated with Decider at all).
The case that Baldwin is referencing is Bollea v. Gawker, in which Hulk Hogan sued Gawker for posting portions of a sex tape he’d made with Heather Clem. The ex-professional wrestler—who was also caught on tape spouting the N-word to Clem—claimed invasion of privacy, infringement of personality rights, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Hogan was awarded $115 million in damages, effectively shuttering Gawker then and there. Its implications on freedom of the press don’t really warrant “cheering,” especially now that it’s come to the light that Hogan was backed, in part, by Peter Thiel, who had it out for the site after it outed him in 2007. The case set an alarming precedent for the obscenely wealthy shutting down news they don’t like, and it seems unfortunately relevant again given how accused sexual predators Harvey Weinstein and Roy Price employed Charles Harder, the lawyer who helped Hogan and Thiel take Gawker down.
Gawker played a crucial role in holding powerful sexual predators accountable, which feels all the more important as the metaphorical walls continue to come down. It was the first outlet to publish material against Toback as well as recently controversial figures like Terry Richardson, Louis C.K., and Bill Cosby, to the point that it’s a pity these accusations are only being taken seriously now.