Despite renewed allegations of sexual misconduct and unprofessional on-set behavior, the Bohemian Rhapsody filmmaker was slated to direct a new movie—that now appears to have fallen through.
Singer has dismissed The Atlantic’s story as a “homophobic smear piece,” calling the accusations “bogus.” Lerner backed him up in a January 24 statement, saying, “I know the difference between agenda-driven fake news and reality, and I am very comfortable with this decision. In America people are innocent until proven otherwise.” Less than three weeks later, things have changed: On Monday, Deadline reported that Red Sonja is being taken out of active development by its studio, which had been planning to start production in Europe later this year. Perhaps Singer’s reputation in Hollywood has now become too toxic even for Millennium Films. (Lerner was not immediately available for comment.)
Hence the apparent step back. Singer hasn’t been officially removed from the movie, but without any funding, cast announcements, or immediate plans to begin filming, the project essentially doesn’t exist. Lerner, for his part, has only somewhat backtracked on his original statement in defense of Singer, telling Deadline that his comments “came out the wrong way,” and that “I think victims should be heard and this allegation should be taken very, very seriously … I just don’t agree to judge by Twitter. I want [the accused] to be judged by the court.”
Lerner has his own experience with high-profile misconduct allegations. The actor Terry Crews told a Senate panel last year that Lerner had threatened to fire him from the fourth Expendables movie if Crews didn’t drop a sexual-harassment case against the Hollywood agent Adam Venit. (Lerner told The Hollywood Reporter that he was simply asking for “some kind of peace.”) In 2017, Lerner was sued by a former employee who alleged sexual harassment by the CEO and other top-level employees, gender discrimination, and the fostering of a hostile work environment. (Lerner called the suit “all lies” and “a joke.”) “Abusers protect abusers,” Crews told senators, recounting Lerner’s alleged intervention on behalf of Venit. But despite Lerner’s initial efforts to defend Singer, the shelving of Red Sonja suggests that the director’s reputation could finally be a meaningful roadblock for his career in Hollywood.