Director Bryan Singer became a name in Hollywood after The Usual Suspects but shot to fame after taking on the X-Men franchise. Years later, and after years of rumours of Singer allegedly sexually abusing a number of young men, a damning Atlantic report was released in which four men detailed their personal experiences with the director. Now, some involved in X-Men are telling a whole other kind of troubling story.
There was a point in time where Singer was one of the most powerful, in-demand directors in Hollywood thanks to his hand in making several of 20th Century Fox’s X-Men films box office smashes. What was always curious about his continued employment in the filmmaking industry was the fact that the numerous allegations against him were never particularly well-kept secrets. This never seemed to harm Singer’s reputation, as evidenced by the fact that he was still attached to direct Millennium Films’ Red Sonja adaptation as recently as last year before being replaced by Jill Soloway.
A new report published today by the Hollywood Reporter paints a dark picture of the director in which he made little effort to reign in his erratic behaviour during the production of the early X-Men films, something X-Men producer Lauren Shuler Donner described as being a result of the status he enjoyed at the time.
“He was very nervous and he would act out when he was insecure, as many people do,” Shuler Donner said. “But his way of acting out would be to yell and scream at everybody on the set. Or walk off the set or shut down production. You have to understand, the guy was brilliant, and that was why we all tolerated him and cajoled him. And if he wasn’t so fucked up, he would be a really great director.” And yet, Fox kept him on for X2 because of the success of the first film.
“It’s a weird business, the film business,” Shuler Donner said. “We honour creativity and talent and we forgive the brilliant ones. Unconsciously, we probably do enable them by turning a blind eye to whatever they’re doing and taking their product and putting it out to the world.”
Shuler Donner’s comments echo stories like Olivia Munn’s, in which the actor described Singer disappearing from X-Men: Apocalypse’s set for 10 days while shooting, and reports that had him wandering off from Bohemian Rhapsody before ultimately being fired. THR’s report also described how, during the filming of X2, producer Tom DeSanto attempted to stop production after allegedly discovering that Singer and a number of crew members were using an unspecific narcotic on set. Because DeSanto did not have the authority to override Singer, the director moved forward with his plans to film a stunt featuring Hugh Jackman ahead of its intended shooting date and without a stunt coordinator present. When the stunt went wrong and Jackman was injured, filming was finally stopped, and at that point, DeSanto was ready to leave the movie.
“That prompted the main castmembers, minus [Ian] McKellen and [Rebecca] Romijn — all dressed in their full X-Men costumes — to converge in Singer’s trailer and confront him, threatening to quit if DeSanto left,” THR detailed. “That’s when Berry famously said to Singer, ‘You can kiss my Black arse,’ a line that has been oft-reported in the years since but never with the correct backstory. DeSanto declined to comment about the fight. A rep for Singer says that ‘nothing like that ever happened.’”
The picture THR paints is one in which Singer’s infamy is inexorably tied to the X-films’ success, which gave him a significant degree of sway and influence in the industry over the years. There’s no telling what might become of Singer’s career in the future given his current status in Hollywood and the stories now widely associated with him. The larger question to consider now, though, is what, if any, steps studios are going to take to identify and stamp out behaviour like Singer’s before it gets anywhere close to this degree.