When The Predator opens on Sept. 14, it will be a tad shorter than planned, due to the last-minute deletion of a scene featuring an actor who’s a registered sex offender.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the film’s director, Shane Black, cast his longtime friend Steve Wilder (real name: Steven Wilder Striegel), in a bit role working opposite one of its stars, Olivia Munn, in the sci-fi reboot. However, Munn — a fixture in the Me Too movement — learned in August, long after the film wrapped, that Wilder is a registered sex offender who pleaded guilty in 2010 to two felonies: risk of injury to a child and enticing a minor by computer. Wilder was 38 at the time when he engaged in an online relationship with a 14-year-old female victim, and he served six months in jail.
Munn, who came forward last year to accuse disgraced director Brett Ratner of sexual misconduct, told 20th Century Fox execs about Wilder’s history, and the studio brass decided to delete him from the movie at the last minute. She told the Times she found it “both surprising and unsettling that Shane Black, our director, did not share this information to the cast, crew, or Fox Studios prior to, during, or after production.” However she said she was “relieved” that when Fox was alerted, they “took appropriate action by deleting the scene.”
“Our studio was not aware of Mr. Striegel’s background when he was hired. We were not aware of his background during the casting process due to legal limitations that impede studios from running background checks on actors,” the studio said in a statement. (Either way, California laws don’t restrict the employment of sex offenders, nor do employer have to disclose that they employ a sex offender.)
Black, however, did know. He has been friends with Wilder — an actor on Days of Our Lives, Melrose Place, and, more recently, Iron Man 3 — since 2004, five years before the actor’s arrest. Black had worked with Wilder in three films and defended casting him in Predator (as a jogger who repeatedly hits on Munn’s character), telling the Times, “I personally chose to help a friend. I can understand others might disapprove, as his conviction was on a sensitive charge and not to be taken lightly.” However, he thought Wilder was “caught up in a bad situation versus something lecherous.”
Wilder also spoke to the newspaper, saying, “I’ve known Shane Black 14 years, well before this incident, and I think it’s worth noting that he was aware of the facts. Shane can speak for himself, but I’m quite certain that if he felt I was a danger in any way to have around, he would not have.”
He also spoke about the girl with whom he had the illegal relationship, saying she was a “distant relative” with problems and that he talked to her to boost her self-esteem. However, the Times obtained Wilder’s 2009 arrest warrant affidavit in which the girl claimed they had had physical contact, including “kissing,” “touching” her “breast over her clothing,” “rubbing her legs, “and “stroking her neck” on several occasions. In one email, he told her 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,” the message read.
The Predator‘s Shane Black, Sterling K. Brown, Olivia Munn, and Thomas Jane at Comic-Con in San Diego on July 19. (Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
“The only thing I was ever charged with were words in an email,” Wilder told the Times, before calling the incident “an enormously unfortunate chapter in my life, and one that I took, and continue to take, personal responsibility for.” He added that he feels bad about the bad press that Predator is sure to get from this.
As the star of the film, Munn is standing by her decision to go to the top. On Thursday, as this all unfolded, she posted a quote to social media that read, “Wrong is wrong, even if everyone is doing it. Right is right, even if no one is doing it.”
She added a message saying that she’s been inspired to speak out by her mother — and urged followers to also use their voices when they see a perceived injustice — even if it’s the unpopular thing to do.
Read more from Yahoo Entertainment: