From admissions of unwanted advances towards children to jail time for abusing them, Hollywood is haunted by tales of paedophilia.
The Weinstein scandal opened the floodgates to what is rapidly becoming an industry-wide revolt against the so-called casting couch culture in Hollywood, where film moguls use their power to take advantage of aspiring actors.
Dozens of women have shared their alleged stories of Harvey Weinstein, ranging from sexual harassment to rape, while hundreds have taken the opportunity to join the #MeToo movement – a social network insurgency against the “dirty men” of the media industry.
But while all this happens in plain sight, helped by its strength in numbers and the endorsement of several A-list celebrities, another issue seems to have been swept under the red carpet.
For years, former child stars including Elijah Wood and Alison Arngrim have tried to denounce what they call Hollywood’s systemic paedophilia problem.
“I’m saying that the people who did this to me are still working, are still out there and are some of the richest and most powerful people in Hollywood,” former teen idol Corey Feldman told ABC in 2014, four years after his best friend and co-star Corey Haim died of a drug overdose
“With me, there were some molestations, and it did come from several hands, so to speak,” Feldman told the Hollywood Reporter last year, in yet another attempt to bring the issue to light.
“But with Corey [Haim], it was direct rape. And his occurred when he was 11.”
The two Coreys starred together in The Lost Boys five years after the alleged rape took place, and in another seven films after that.
Feldman has never named his or Haim’s abusers, but used the Weinstein momentum to announce he is “working on a plan to shed light on the situation and get actual justice”.
Feldman and Haim have for years been the go-to example of child abuse rumours in Hollywood, but the accusations didn’t begin in the 1980s – nor did they end with them.
Sky News spoke to Jeff Herman, a lawyer who represented a number of former child actors who have previously accused high-profile directors and Hollywood executives of abuse.
“Kids have been exploited for decades in Hollywood but had no voice frankly,” Mr Herman said.
“You’ve got an industry where kids are working, which doesn’t really happen anywhere else,” he added.
“You have kids who want to be movie stars looking for their breaks, their parents who are pushing them into these professions – and they’re all at the mercy of these producers and of these directors.”
“So what happens is there’s an imbalance of power, these kids become particularly vulnerable to being exploited.”
Mr Herman was involved in the case of Michael Egan against X-Men director Bryan Singer, where the former teen model accused the director and other executives of sex abuse.
The defendants in those cases denied liability and the claims were subsequently dropped.
“I can’t talk about Singer,” Mr Herman told Sky.
“But I can talk about other types of claims, victims that have come forward to me and talked about what’s happening in Hollywood.”
Mr Herman says that there is a “conspiracy of abuse” in the industry where powerful men think “underage kids are available to them as a perk of Hollywood”.
Allison Arngrim, the child actress who played young Nellie Dalton in Little House On The Prairie, wrote in her autobiography about her experiences as a victim of child abuse in the 1970s.
“In Hollywood, there are parents who will practically prostitute their kids in the hope they can make money and get ahead. It is a horrible trap that the kids are in,” Arngrim wrote.
“These people aren’t seeing their kid as a kid. It’s more common than you think.”
Organisations like the Screen Actors Guild and the Association of Talent Agents helped pass a bill in 2012 which makes it illegal for sex offenders to work with children in the industry.
Mr Herman believes this is not enough.
“In most of these cases, victims are compliant,” he told us.
“Which means they might be physically participating even though they can’t consent – so they don’t come forward and talk about it.”
“If no one is convicted of a crime you can do all the checks you want and nothing is going to show up on a record.”
The bill was passed by the Governor of California 11 years after a convicted child molester was welcomed back to Hollywood.
Victor Salva was found guilty of molesting 12-year-old Nathan Forrest Winters in 1988 while shooting the film Clownhouse.
Less than a decade after his conviction, Salva was directing a Disney film called Powder and, in 2001, he got Francis Ford Coppola to produce his horror flick Jeepers Creepers, a film which stars two young actors.
He even shot a sequel to Creepers, and just last year was casting for a third instalment, looking for a young actress to play a 13-year-old who escapes her abusive grandfather.
In 2015, documentary-maker Amy Berg released An Open Secret, an investigative film looking into historical child sex abuse in Hollywood.
In the film, Berg shines a light on an “iceberg of child abuse” which includes talent managers, directors, producers and actors.
Among them is Marty Weiss, a talent manager who pleaded guilty to two accounts of child abuse; Bob Villard, who once represented Leonardo DiCaprio and who also pleaded guilty to child abuse; and Brian Peck, an actor who starred in the X-Men films and has served more than a year in prison for abusing a child star.
Berg faced the wrath of the Screen Actors Guild, who threatened to sue her if she didn’t retract every mention of the organisation. She didn’t.
The reason behind the threat of litigation was Michael Harrah, a manager of child actors and long-time member of the guild.
In Berg’s documentary, she asks Harrah if he is “attracted to young boys”, to which he responds “not particularly, no”.
But later in the documentary, Harrah is heard apparently admitting to have touched a child actor.
“Yeah, and that was something unwanted I shouldn’t have done,” he says.
He later denied all the claims and said the conversation was taken out of context.
After Weinstein, women in Hollywood have joined hands in what seems like a turning point in Hollywood’s sex culture and gender dynamics.
But a smaller movement is emerging from the industry’s dark underbelly.
Last week, Stranger Things star Finn Wolfhard parted ways with his agent Tyler Grasham after a former actor accused Grasham of sexual assault.
The agent was later fired by the firm and has since deleted his social media accounts and refused to comment.
In a post-Weinstein interview with The Guardian, director Paul Haggis questioned if there was a group of people in the industry “covering for paedophiles”.
Feldman is staging a comeback. Slowly but steadily, voices once ignored are being heard, and this could lead to studios having a tighter grip on what happens on and off set.
“It’s shocking for me to hear that there’s more than one perpetrator in the same place where there are kids,” Mr Herman said.
“Obviously everyone knows what’s going on. I hope this is a watershed moment for Hollywood.”
Source : http://news.sky.com