Playboy has placed its planned Hugh Hefner biopic on hold after sexual harassment allegations were leveled against the film's director, Brett Ratner. The film had reportedly nabbed Jared Leto to play Hefner, but Leto has now distanced himself from the project, with his reps saying the actor was never officially attached.
Producing a film about famed Playboy founder and latter-day reality star Hefner has long been a dream-project for Ratner, who in 2007 had a biopic set up at Universal with Robert Downey Jr. set to star. Ratner once again got a chance to put his Hefner biopic in motion after the death of producer Jerry Weintraub, who had secured the rights after they lapsed at Warner Bros.
With multiple women now leveling sexual harassment allegations against Ratner, Playboy has elected to place the director's Hefner biopic on hold while they review the situation, as reported by Deadline. The Los Angeles Times reported the harassment allegations by six women, including actresses Olivia Munn, Natasha Henstridge, Katherine Towne, Jaime Ray Newman, Jorina King and Eri Sasaki. Ratner's attorneys have denied the allegations, as have former assistants who worked with the Rush Hour and Red Dragon director.
Playboy said in a statement that they are "deeply troubled" by the allegations against Ratner and find the alleged behavior "completely unacceptable." Though it was widely reported that Jared Leto had signed on to star as Hefner in the Ratner film, the Suicide Squad actor's reps now deny he ever had any involvement in the project, and furthermore state that Leto has no plans to work with Ratner at any time in the future.
Hefner himself was a controversial figure, who often came under fire for misogynistic and exploitative attitudes toward women. The Playboy founder passed away in September, which relaunched discussions about his sexist behavior in addition to many applauding him for his cultural contributions and stature as a groundbreaking figure in the publishing industry.
The accusations against Ratner come amid a deluge of similar stories sweeping through Hollywood involving multiple prominent industry figures, including producer Harvey Weinstein, actor Kevin Spacey, director James Toback and actor Andy Dick. Due to allegations against Spacey, Netflix has suspended production on the actor's Emmy-winning series House of Cards, though the network is reportedly going ahead with development of spinoffs. Allegations against Weinstein have led to the producer being expelled from the Motion Picture Academy, and have caused major shake-ups with the movie release schedule at The Weinstein Company.