allegations of drugging and sexually abusing a teen boy, filmmaker Bryan Singer and his team have sprung into damage control. And, while the "X-Men" director tries to salvage his name, his employers are feverishly working behind the scenes to insulate themselves from the fallout.Beset by blockbuster
Singer has bowed out of his scheduled appearance for this weekend's WonderCon in Anaheim, California, a source close to the film's studio, 20th Century Fox, confirmed with Yahoo Movies. The source added that Fox didn't want news of the recent lawsuit against the director to distract from "X-Men: Days of Future Past" at the event.
It would have been more shocking if Singer wanted to be there, after being targeted in a lawsuit filed Wednesday alleging, among other things, of plying the then-17-year-old accuser with cocaine and raping him during a series of encounters in Los Angeles and Hawaii in 1999.
"I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse," the plaintiff, Michael F. Egan III, now 31, said at a press conference Thursday. Egan had moved to Los Angeles to pursue a modeling and acting career. That's when he met Singer. "No one at a young age ever deserves to go through the horrific junk that I went through as a kid," Egan said, adding that he "developed a drinking problem to numb that pain for years."
Singer himself has gone dark. His Twitter account, usually updated on a regular basis with both personal and professional news and observations, hasn't seen any activity since Tuesday. But his attorney, powerhouse celebrity lawyer Marty Singer (no relation), is on the offensive, slamming the allegations and threatening a countersuit.
"The claims made against Bryan Singer are completely without merit," said Marty Singer. "We are very confident that Bryan will be vindicated in this absurd and defamatory lawsuit. It is obvious that this case was filed in an attempt to get publicity at the time when Bryan's new movie ["X-Men: Days of Future Past"] is about to open in a few weeks."
Will the timing of the lawsuit really impact the "X-Men" box office? Fox won't comment publicly on any potential changes to its marketing plans for "X-Men: Days of Future Past," which marks Singer's return to the series after directing the first two installments, "X-Men" (2000) and "X2" (2003). But the studio is taking deliberate steps to distance itself from the Singer mess.
"These are serious allegations, and they will be resolved in the appropriate forum," the studio said in a statement. "This is a personal matter, which Bryan Singer and his representatives are addressing separately."
In other words: Do not hold the Singer controversy against the X-Men. And chances are, audiences won't, according to industry observers.
"Because this movie is much more about the 'X-Men' franchise and the Marvel movie, that will overshadow who the director is," said Peter LaMotte, a senior vice president at strategic communications firm Levick.
Lamotte told Yahoo Movies that he believes Fox's main and only concern is the bottom line and that audiences won't be deterred from "X-Men." "The American people love what they love, meaning they continue to go to Chick-fil-A, they continue to watch 'Duck Dynasty' in spite of all the controversies."
Ultimately, it's near-impossible to predict how a real-life controversy is going to affect the box-office performance of the related film, Phil Contrino of BoxOffice.com told Yahoo Movies. "The public reacts to each scandal in unique ways. Sometimes they are quick to forgive and other times they are not."
What could be affected is Singer's involvement with the next installment in the franchise, "X-Men: Apocalypse," which already has a scheduled release date of May 27, 2016.
"It may wind up actually hurting Bryan Singer because Fox may decide it's about the Marvel family and the 'X-Men' franchise and no matter who directs it, as long as they are capable and have a track record, they could do just as good a job," said LaMotte.
His advice to Singer: Look at what Woody Allen did and do the opposite. "I think his advisers need to take a long look at what Woody Allen did and not allow this to become a public back and forth."
Box-office analyst Len Klady of Movie City News also likened Singer's situation to Allen's — when sex abuse charges were first leveled against the Oscar-winning director in the early '90s, around the time of his "Husbands and Wives" release. "That seemed to have a little bit of an affect on business initially, but that was a different audience than the one that will see an 'X-Men' movie," said Klady. "It really depends on what blows up in the next week."
Meanwhile, some of Singer's other associates aren't waiting around to see what transpires. Deadline reports that ABC has dropped his name from promos of the Singer-produced drama series, "Black Box," which premieres April 24. (ABC declined to comment on the report.) And Singer has been dropped from a scheduled appearance at the May 2 Creativity Conference in Washington, D.C., according to The Hollywood Reporter. That event, sponsored by the Motion Picture Association of America, Microsoft, and ABC News, and taking place on the eve of the White House Correspondents Dinner, would have seen the filmmaker share a bill with Vice President Joe Biden and "Scandal's" TV president, Tony Goldwyn.
To make matters worse for the "X-Men" director, Variety is reporting that Singer is the subject of an upcoming documentary about sex abuse, fueled by allegations from Egan.
—Meriah Doty, Kara Warner, and Leslie Gornstein contributed to this report.