Embroiled in Multiple Hollywood Sex Scandals, Charlotte Kirk Breaks Her Silence

She toppled two of Hollywood’s most powerful moguls, but who is Charlotte Kirk? The 28-year-old actress who set off the town’s latest scandal opens up for the first time
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Photographs by Elisabeth Caren

Charlotte Kirk wants to talk. She’s dying to talk. She leans forward in her chair, her blue eyes opening wide. She slowly begins to form some words, then stops herself, and bites her lip. She is clearly agonizing over what to say next. The question she’s been asked is, “How are you feeling?”

The answer isn’t hard to guess. For the past 20 months, the 28-year-old, little-known British actress has been at the center of multiple Hollywood scandals that have taken down not just one but two of the industry’s mightiest players—Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara, ousted in March 2019 after his 2013 affair with Kirk was exposed by The Hollywood Reporter, and vice chair of NBC-Universal Ron Meyer, who lost his job in August when it was revealed that he, too, had been sexually involved with Kirk back in 2012—and thrust her into a role she could never have imagined and certainly never asked to play. She has, in fact, become an entirely new type of Hollywood archetype. In a town famous for attracting and then chewing up pretty young things, here was a pretty young thing who chewed up the town—the mogul slayer. And she did it all without uttering a single line of dialogue—at least not in public.

Over the ensuing months—through thickets of international headlines, lawsuits, accusations of extortion, counter-accusations of sexual harassment and even of sex-trafficking—Kirk hasn’t said a word. She’s been forced to remain silent or else risk breaking a nondisclosure agreement that she signed in 2017 (for which she received $3.3 million) and that she has so far been unsuccessful in unwinding in court, despite a new California law that’s supposed to make NDAs in cases of sexual harassment (if that’s indeed what happened to her) unenforceable.

Today, however, on this warm October afternoon, sitting at a table in the backyard of her cozy rental in Studio City, Kirk is finally speaking out—sort of—in an exclusive interview with Los Angeles. Her NDA still prohibits her from discussing anything involving Tsujihara or Meyer, as well as a slew of other colorful characters ensnared in the scandals—like director Brett Ratner and Australian billionaire James Packer, to name two—and one of her many attorneys is sitting in on the conversation to make certain her words don’t wander into legally dangerous territory. The lawyer has brought along backup of his own—an enormous German shepherd named Boomer, who sits obediently beside the table throughout the two-hour interview, glaring. Nevertheless, Kirk has much to say, about Hollywood, her journey here from England, and where she hopes to someday end up.

“Hindsight is a wonderful thing, isn’t it?” she notes as Boomer licks his chops. “You’re talking to me now, at 28. If you spoke to me when I was 19, when I first arrived in L.A., I was another person. I was socially awkward. It was hard for me to look people in the eye. And I was really trusting. Gullible and all of that. Unfortunately, I had to learn the hard way. And I made a few mistakes. I got hurt and betrayed. I’m skeptical now,” she adds coolly. “Very skeptical.”

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There are, as always, two sides to every story. In this case, maybe even three or four. Everybody, it seems, has a different Rashomon-like view of who Kirk is supposed to be. To many, she’s an ambitious temptress who used her feminine wiles to seduce some of Hollywood’s wealthiest, smartest, and most powerful men, then sank her fangs into them to extract auditions, film roles, and money.

Frankly, when the scandal first broke, her publicist at the time didn’t do much to counter that image when he asked inquiring journalists from The New York Times and Variety how much they’d pay for an interview. (Their answer was “Nothing,” and that publicist turned out to have never been on Kirk’s payroll; Los Angeles did not pay for this interview.) There’s other evidence helping to paint that less-than-flattering portrait, like the series of text messages between Kirk and Tsujihara printed in THR that suggested the casting couch was still very much a functioning piece of furniture in Hollywood. “You’re very busy I know,” she wrote the married studio chief in 2015, “but when we were in that motel having sex u said u would help me and when u just ignore me like you’re doing now it makes me feel used. Are u going to help me like u said u would?”

But there’s another version of Kirk, one that started gaining traction around the time she went to court in the fall to ask a judge to free her from her NDA. In this telling, she’s a #MeToo victim, a silenced martyr of a brutal Hollywood system that dehumanizes young women and treats them as sexual chattel. There’s evidence to support that view, too, including accounts of Kirk being treated like a party favor by members of the “Ratner Sex Trafficking Syndicate,” as her legal team refers to her alleged abusers in some of the hundreds of pages of court documents that have recently become available to the public. “They passed Kirk around like an inanimate sex toy,” reads one complaint, “to impress and reward each other for their own perverted pleasure and male ego inflation.”

 

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Elisabeth Caren

Still, the actual, flesh-and-blood woman sitting in her backyard in Studio City, dressed casually in a black silk blouse, jeans, and brown boots, seems no more a Jezebel than she does a Joan of Arc. She’s nervous and halting at first. She fiddles with her voice recorder before placing it on the table; she wants her own account of what’s said during the interview (her lawyer tapes it as well). But as the conversation picks up steam, she starts sounding more self-possessed. She speaks with a distinct working-class dialect—not Eliza Doolittle, exactly, but not posh BBC English either (although, upon request, she’s able to launch into a near-perfect American accent). She’s tall and slender, polite and polished, attractive and charming, and sometimes a bit overanxious (setting up the interview required more negotiations than the Paris Peace Accords). In short, she seems like a completely normal Hollywood actress, in so far as such a thing actually exists.

Her birth name was Charlotte Dyke (she changed it when she started acting), and she was raised in Kent, about 30 minutes by train from London. Her dad was an electrician, her mom a home care worker. Early on, she was diagnosed with autism and Asperger’s. “I was different,” she says. “I had learning difficulties. I was always bullied in school.” Not surprisingly, she fled into fantasy, which she suspects is how she ended up becoming an actress. “I always loved to role-play,” she says. “I don’t know if it’s normal, but I always imagined I was being watched.” At the same time, the cruelty of her classmates ignited embers of ambition. “It pushed me to say, ‘I’m going to prove you motherfuckers wrong,’” she says. “From a young age, I wanted to escape from Kent. I wanted to go to London. I knew that’s where it was at.”

It didn’t take her long to get there. At 17, she enrolled in acting classes in Kent, then started landing modeling gigs, which led to commercial work (like an ad for Nintendo) and enough money to rent a flat in Kensington. During a trip to Paris, she was offered a modeling contract in France, which she turned down. “I liked modeling,” she says, “but it wasn’t where my heart was at. My heart was in acting. So it was a big decision. Paris or the U.S.? Because everybody said that if I wanted to be an actor, I should go to the U.S.”

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Kirk striking a pose at the 2018 Ocean’s 8 premiere in New York; former Universal chairman Ron Meyer reportedly met Kirk at a screening

Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage | Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images

One of those everybodys may well have been Meyer. The exact circumstances of their first encounter are fuzzy—did she approach the mogul or did he approach her?—but it’s certain that they met in London in the spring of 2012 at a Hollywood Foreign Press Association party after a screening of Snow White and the Huntsman. Kirk is prohibited from talking about Meyer, who cofounded CAA in the mid-1970s before climbing to the top of the Hollywood hierarchy at Universal. But a friend who prefers to remain anonymous describes her as being “flattered” by the mogul’s attention. “She was 19. He was 66. She thought of him as a sort of grandfather figure, a powerful man who was interested in her as an actress,” the friend says. “She didn’t think he had any sexual desires for her.” (In other words, she was “gullible and all that.”)

Either Meyer suggested that Kirk give him a call the next time she was in Los Angeles, or Kirk asked if she could call him—again, it’s fuzzy. Kirk’s first stop when she did move to America a few months later was New York, where she had contacts at a modeling agency. “I rented a flat on the Upper East Side,” she recalls. “I was there for a couple of months and thought, ‘I’m in the wrong bloody place! I need to be in L.A.’” For a while, she shuttled back and forth between the East and West coasts, auditioning for film roles and landing some bit parts, including a walk-on in James Franco’s low-budget NYU Film School production Black Dog Red Dog. (She never actually met Franco, who himself was later accused of harassing actresses.) It’s been reported that Kirk traveled in a flashy crowd at the time and even briefly dated billionaire producer Steve Tisch. But she denies it. “I’m not a party girl,” she insists. “I’m like an old person, really. My idea of fun is sitting in a nice, cozy place with a cup of tea.”

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Kevin Tsujihara and Brett Ratner share a laugh at the premiere of The Hobbit in 2014

Eric Charbonneau/Getty Images

Even so, she clearly had a knack for showing up at the right place at the wrong time. In June 2012, while dining at Dan Tana’s, she met Ratner, director of such blockbusters as Rush Hour and X-Men: The Last Stand. At the time, Kirk was having visa problems—she had permission to work in the U.S. as a model, not an actress—and Ratner offered to write a letter of recommendation to DHS’s immigration department. “Ms. Dyke is an outstanding actress with remarkable talent. She has the unique ability to deliver each of her lines seamlessly,” he gushed in his 2012 endorsement. “I don’t recommend just anyone, but I believe that Ms. Dyke is an outstanding actress who would make a welcomed addition to the United States entertainment industry.”

But Ratner’s interest in Kirk apparently went beyond her theatrical abilities. According to court documents, the director insisted that Kirk have sex with him as a condition of his help. “Ms. Kirk refused to sleep with Ratner, but Ratner insisted and demanded that Ms. Kirk perform oral sex,” reads one of the court filings. “Due to her difficulty in social situations as a result of her autism, Ms. Kirk, hoping to secure a movie role in order to further her longtime dream of becoming a world-renown actress, submitted to Ratner’s force and performed oral sex.” The document goes on to describe a “cycle of sexual harassment” that included “numerous vulgar text messages” (like the one Ratner allegedly sent in June 2012 asking Kirk to “send some pussy shots”). All this, of course, was years before the 2017 Los Angeles Times story in which six other actresses—Olivia Munn and Natasha Henstridge among them—accused Ratner of forcing them to perform a range of sexual misdeeds.

Nevertheless, Ratner, through his attorney Marty Singer, vehemently denies the accusations: “Mr. Ratner never had sex with Miss Kirk and never asked her to do anything for him,” Singer maintains in a statement to Los Angeles, attaching a 2017 letter Kirk sent to Ratner in which she wrote, “I have no claims or issues with you” and called rumors that she was pursuing a harassment claim against him “very crazy.”

Still, there are other horror stories alleged in the court documents from around that period. Like the time Ratner introduced Kirk to director James Toback at the Harvard Club and Toback allegedly attempted to get Kirk to perform oral sex on him. (Toback, who in the years since has been accused of harassing 38 different women, could not be reached for comment.) Or the time Ratner introduced her to his friend Patrick Demarchelier, the famed fashion photographer, and he purportedly attempted to perform oral sex on her during a photo shoot. (Demarchelier could not be reached for comment, either.) Not surprisingly, by the end of the summer of 2012, Kirk had enough of New York and decamped for Los Angeles for good, hoping to make a fresh start.

She rented a dumpy studio apartment in Beverly Hills—at the corner of Camden and Wilshire—and used her modeling savings to purchase an old Chevy. But she says she spent most of her time either attending classes at the Lee Strasberg Institute or sitting in a local coffee shop, scouring the trades for auditions and writing emails to agents. She says she had virtually no social life in L.A. in those early days. She did, however, take up that offer from Meyer.

“She called and got put right through,” recalls Kirk’s friend. “She wasn’t a celebrity, but when she phoned one of the most powerful men in the industry, he got right on the line.” Meyer invited her to visit him at his C suite on the Universal lot, where he gave her the five-star treatment. “He flattered her relentlessly. ‘You’ve got talent, you’ve got the looks, the camera would love you,’” the friend goes on. “And he picked up the phone and called [producers] Jeffrey Katzenberg, Brian Grazer, and Joel Silver—three of his close friends—and sang her praises in front of her. And, of course, they said, ‘Send her over.’”

Kirk did indeed meet with Grazer and Silver, according to court documents, both of whom offered encouraging words, although Grazer clunkily admitted to Kirk that he was only taking the meeting as a favor to Meyer. Meanwhile, Meyer and Kirk continued communicating by phone—up to three times a week, according to Kirk’s friend—until late one night Meyer purportedly popped up at Kirk’s Beverly Hills studio with a bottle of wine and a gift, a necklace in a box labeled, awkwardly, “Jennifer Meyer”—the name of Meyer’s daughter’s jewelry company.

What happened next is hotly disputed. Meyer, through his lawyer Howard Weitzman, adamantly denies any nonconsensual contact, calling the claims “false, frivolous, and fabricated.” But according to papers filed by Kirk’s lawyer, the studio chief demanded that Kirk sleep with him as a condition of his continued career assistance. “Driven by extreme pressure and intimidation,” the lawyer wrote, “Ms. Kirk slept with Mr. Meyer, believing that she had no choice but to submit to his demands.” Over the next couple of days, feeling bad about what happened, Meyer supposedly apologized on the phone and allegedly attempted to make amends by helping Kirk land a part in a picture Silver was producing—a Liam Neeson hijacking thriller called Nonstop. About a week after he turned up at her apartment, Meyer invited Kirk to a hotel to discuss the role—a lead as a stewardess—promising Kirk that he’d “behave.” He didn’t, at least according to another document filed by Kirk’s lawyers, which claims Meyer “again forced himself” on Kirk.

“Completely untrue,” counters a source close to Meyer, who reiterates that the studio chief never had nonconsensual sex with Kirk and adds that Meyer never once promised her a role in anything. He goes on to argue that Kirk’s claims against Meyer conveniently didn’t come up until years after the alleged incidents, when Kirk and her “gang” threatened a lawsuit to “extort” him for hundreds of millions of dollars.

Whoever is telling the truth, Kirk never did get that lead role in Nonstop. Instead, she was demoted to a smaller part as a passenger. But she did get flown first-class from L.A. to New York, where the film was being shot. She was picked up at the airport by a limo and delivered to the set to shoot a scene that took all of ten minutes to complete. Then the limo drove her back to the airport for her return flight to L.A. “It seemed like a fake scene,” says Kirk’s friend. “Just a charade, part of the seduction.” Fake or not, Kirk’s turn in Nonstop ended up getting cut from the film.

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Not all of Kirk’s adventures in Hollywood ended badly. When Polish filmmaker Tomasz Szafranski came to L.A. to cast No Panic, with a Hint of Hysteria, an English-language comedy that he was about to shoot in Warsaw, he hired Kirk as one of the leads, alongside Stephen Baldwin. The film was barely noticed in the U.S., but Kirk proved, if only to herself, that she could handle a starring role. There were smaller gigs, as well, including a don’t-blink appearance in a low-budget thriller called Fractured—”I was just a dead person, really, laying naked with blood all over me,” she says—and a few scenes in a Bruce Willis direct-to-video sci-fi drama called Vice.

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Kirk’s ex, Aussie billionaire James Packer, with then-girlfriend Mariah Carey in Italy in 2015; Kirk with her BFF, Hollywood Sex Wars star Jenae Altschwager, at a private screening in early 2017

But in 2013, Kirk met a man who promised to make everything right: Australian billionaire James Packer. The strapping six-foot-six Aussie, then in his midforties, was partners with Ratner in their film production company, RatPac, and he clearly made a big impression on Kirk when Ratner introduced them over drinks at his suite at the Hotel Bel-Air. The next day, Packer took Kirk shopping on Rodeo Drive, bought her a $65,000 Rolex, and promised to make her a star. “Charlotte believed she’d met her Prince Charming,” says Kirk’s friend. “She fell in love.”

The affair went on for months. But there was a hitch: Packer had a wife and family back in Australia. Also, Packer was apparently a lot less in love than Kirk was, which became crystal clear in September of 2013, during another encounter at the Hotel Bel-Air that, if accurately described in Kirk’s declaration, can safely be described as the nadir of her Hollywood experience. It started with a text message from the billionaire: “What r u doing now? I have the opportunity of a lifetime for u.” A few minutes later, another text arrived: “Come to Bel-Air now. U will never be able to re pay me.” Still another: “The most important man u can meet.”

That man was Tsujihara, then Warner Bros. CEO, who was in the middle of negotiating a $450 million production deal with Packer and Ratner. “Mr. Packer met me at the entrance to his grand suite and led me to the living room where a man in a shirt and suit trousers was sitting on a sofa snorting cocaine from a coffee table” is how Kirk’s declarations describes her first encounter with the then 49-year-old studio head. After some small talk, Tsujihara left for one of the suite’s bedrooms and Packer directed her to follow him. “When I entered, I was shocked to find Mr. Tsujihara on the bed, naked, on his back,” Kirk’s declaration continues. Kirk fled into the nearest bathroom and texted Packer, still in the living room. “He’s not very nice,” she wrote. “He just wants to fuck.” Packer replied, “U OK?” followed by “Be cool.” Kirk took that as instructions from Packer to have sex with Tsujihara and decided to leave. But she found Packer blocking her way. “I felt trapped, overwhelmed, and very afraid of what Mr. Packer might do,” she wrote. “I felt powerless to say no.”

Packer and Tsujihara, who are also represented by Singer, maintain that none of the above ever happened. “My clients categorically and vehemently deny engaging in any wrongful or unlawful conduct whatsoever with respect to Charlotte Kirk,” Singer says in a statement to Los Angeles, claiming that Kirk has changed her story about her relationship with Packer and Tsujihara “even more frequently than . . . her lawyers.” (In a footnote, he calculates that she has hired “eight or more different attorneys to represent her to look for new ways to continue pursuing my clients.”) “The accusations now being made by Miss Kirk are completely contradicted by . . . interviews she chose to do on television and other media,” Singer goes on, citing Kirk’s statement to THR, in which she “emphatically” denied any “inappropriate behavior on the part of Brett Ratner, James Packer, and Kevin Tsujihara.” Another of Tsujihara’s lawyer’s, Bert Deixler, also insists that Kirk’s claims are “legally and factually baseless” and were “manufactured” to “unjustly seek the payment of money.”

Skeptics of Kirk’s story could—and do—point to the fact that her relationship with Tsujihara continued for years after she found him splayed naked on that hotel bed. The two met multiple times at other hotels and motels, leaving a trail of text messages like bread crumbs. At times, Kirk’s attitude toward Tsujihara was playful and flirtatious (“Mmmm. You’re a giver,” she all but purred in one text, punctuating the message with a smiley face). At other times, not so much (“Kevin? A two-liner? U have got to be kidding me!!” she complained after getting cast in a tiny role in Warner Bros.’s How to Be Single). Whatever the tone, though, it raises an obvious question: Why, after the incident at Hotel Bel-Air, would Kirk text with Tsujihara, let alone sleep with him again? For that matter, why continue communicating with Packer, Meyer, or Ratner, all of whom had, if her declarations were true, committed sexual harassment, if not sexual assault?

Rose McGowan, the actress-turned-activist who helped take down Harvey Weinstein and launched the #MeToo movement—and who has tweeted support for Kirk—offers one possible explanation: “It’s very scary to stand up to power,” she says. “It was scary for me, and I had a microphone. Imagine what it was like for Charlotte, for somebody who doesn’t have a microphone. Because these powerful men can destroy you. You get punished for standing up.

As it turned out, Kirk got punished, anyway, with Ratner, Tsujihara, and Meyer allegedly stringing her along for years by dangling career breakthroughs that never seemed to materialize. She was, for instance, promised the female lead in Nicole and O.J., a dark comedy about the O.J. Simpson murder trial that was going to be shot around 2017 by British director Joshua Newton, who also happened to be Kirk’s boyfriend at the time. (The two started dating in 2014 and were together for four years.) Meyer, according to court declarations, had helped set that film up at RatPac—although Meyer’s attorney denies it—with Ratner putting up $1 million dollars to get the production rolling (playing Nicole was how Kirk learned that killer American accent). But to this day, that picture hasn’t been completed, and Newton, most famous for shooting Roy Scheider’s final film, 2009’s Iron Cross, ended up threatening to sue Meyer over the stalled project for what Meyer claims was as much as $300 million.

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Kirk leaving the Ivy with her ex, director Joshua Newton, in 2015

Winston Burris/Wenn.com/Alamy

Kirk was also set to star in the remake of Hellboy. Meyer is alleged to have arranged that casting, as well. (Again, his lawyer denies it, claiming Kirk met the film’s producers at a Laker game and ended up getting an audition.) Hellboy director Neil Marshall—the horror auteur behind 2002’s Dog Soldiers and 2005’s The Descent—was said to be extremely impressed with Kirk. So much so that he later started dating her—they now share this cozy house in Studio City (most of its shelf space is filled with his Indiana Jones action figures and other film-geek memorabilia)—and directed her in his latest feature, a witchcraft period piece called The Reckoning, which Kirk cowrote and coproduced. At the last minute, though, a different actress was cast in Hellboy, possibly because producer Avi Lerner—another friend of Ratner’s who is also alleged in the court documents to have sexually harassed Kirk; he’s also represented by Singer and denies the accusation—supposedly told anyone who’d listen that Kirk’s autism made it impossible for her to “show emotion.”

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Kirk in The Reckoning, about a woman accused of witchcraft, directed by her fiancé, Neil Marshall. The film has been screening at festivals over the past few months.

The Reckoning. Copyright 2020. All rights reserved.

According to the court documents, all these promised film roles were more about damage control than a genuine effort to advance Kirk’s career, an attempt to “cynically” use the prospect of stardom to “contain Kirk and her story, by manipulating her into agreeing to a confidential settlement that would secure her silence.” If true, it worked. In 2017, Kirk signed an NDA covering Ratner, Packer, and Tsujihara, which guaranteed her silence for a payment of $3 million (plus up to $1.5 million more for three promised but never-shot film roles). And she signed another NDA with Meyer in 2019, which was supposed to pay $2.5 million in $500,000 increments once a year for five years. (Sources close to the matter say that Kirk has so far received $2.6 million from the first settlement and $500,000 from the second.)

But it all blew up in March 2019, when THR published its exposé. Tsujihara was fired within weeks, not so much for the affair, but because the published text messages clearly showed the studio head was trading film roles for sex. That may have once been accepted practice in Hollywood, but not in the post-Harvey era. Fifteen months later, Meyer lost his job, too. Again, not because of the affair, but because he reportedly neglected to mention to his studio that Newton (and, separately, Marshall) had been threatening lawsuits over Meyer’s promises to them to make films with Kirk, potentially exposing the studio to financial jeopardy (although there’s been speculation in the press that Meyer was on his way out anyway, and the affair was simply a handy excuse for the studio to push him through the door). In any case, Charlotte’s web had come undone.

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On Monday, October 15, a group of protesters gathered at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in downtown L.A. There were only about a dozen of them, but what they lacked in numbers they made up for in enthusiasm. They brandished colorful handmade signs—”Let Charlotte Speak!” and “Hold Hollywood Accountable!”—and marched in a circle around the courthouse steps. “No more casting couch!” they chanted. “Truth to power!”

Of all the roles Kirk has played—or been promised she would play—this may be the unlikeliest star vehicle of them all: movement leader. Inside the courthouse, Judge Christopher Lui was holding a Zoom hearing with Kirk; her boyfriend, Marshall (now her fiancé; they plan on marrying next year); and her ex-boyfriend, Newton. (The three are all now friendly, though hardly a throuple: “They hated each other for awhile,” Kirk notes.) Singer was at the hearing, as well, representing Packer, Ratner, and a bunch of others named as parties in the NDA prohibiting Kirk from speaking. While the protesters marched outside, Kirk asked Judge Lui to end her silence.

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Protestors gather at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in downtown L.A. while Kirk unsuccessfully petitions to have her NDA overturned.

Benjamin Svetkey

One feature of that 2017 NDA was that it went beyond prohibiting Kirk from speaking; it also stipulated that should her relationships with any of the men become public, she would issue a statement claiming their encounters were consensual. And after THR published its Tsujihara story, that’s exactly what Kirk did: “There are real victims of #MeToo in our industry and my heart goes out to them,” she said in her statement. “I applaud them and support them—but I’m just not one of them.” She didn’t issue a statement when Meyer exited NBC-Universal, but then Meyer didn’t name Kirk; he simply admitted to an affair with an unnamed woman and claimed that he was being “extorted” by parties with knowledge of the affair. It took the press to piece together the identity of the woman and the alleged boyfriend extortionists. (“There was no extortion,” insists Newton. “[Marshall and I] were in mediation over legitimate claims against Meyer and NBC-Universal. The evidence speaks for itself. It’s bullshit.”)

But after Kirk’s name became public, and as the media began pillorying her as the blond honeypot who destroyed the lives of two powerful (and in Meyer’s case, well-liked by the press) movie moguls, she began to rethink the deals she had struck. In her mind, she was the victim, yet she was being portrayed as a cartoon vixen while her alleged perpetrators were being cast as the injured parties. It was destroying any hopes she had for a career. Worse, she was unable to defend herself—not without breaking the NDAs.

Then she found a possible way out. Last year, in the wake of the Weinstein scandal, state Senator Connie M. Leyva passed a bill expanding California’s existing law invalidating NDAs in cases involving sexual assault to also include cases involving sexual harassment. Kirk decided become the first to legally test Leyva’s amendment. And she brought backup with her. “We worked on the law to pass it, and now we’re here to make sure that it’s enforced,” one of the courthouse protesters, Caroline Heldman, a professor at Occidental College who works with a group called Stand with Survivors, told a reporter during a break in the marching and chanting. “Putting a gag order on a victim of sexual harassment just adds insult to injury. Literally.”

The implications of the law are staggering. If Kirk prevails and is released from her NDAs, it could open a floodgate of #MeToo revelations bottled up by NDAs all over Hollywood. But it will require a long, grueling grind through the legal system. Already one arbitrator looking at Kirk’s case has issued a preliminary ruling against her—dismissing Kirk’s allegations as mere “casting couch sex”—and a few days after the courthouse protest, Judge Lui would effectively duck the issue by deciding that he lacked jurisdiction to overturn that arbitrator’s judgment. At this writing, Kirk and her lawyers are filing an appeal, likely the first of many legal battles to come until a final verdict is pronounced. “The more setbacks I have,” she insists, “the more driven I become.”

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But for now, sitting in her backyard in Studio City, Kirk must continue biting her tongue as her lawyer (and his dog) hover over every word she utters. So instead, she steers the conversation to safer ground. She talks about The Reckoning, the film she and Marshall shot in Budapest and have been screening at film festivals these past few months. (Kirk’s parents attended a screening at October’s Frightfest in London.)

“The story is about a young widow in 1665 who gets accused of witchcraft and locked up in the dungeons during the Great Plague,” she says, excitedly describing its plot. “It’s unbelievably relevant to the world we live in today, even though, when we were making it last year, we had no idea that the world was going to be brought to its knees by another plague. It deals with topics like sexism, persecution, power, class issues, and witch hunts, both religious and political—all subjects that are still very much alive today.” Boomer suddenly pricks up his ears, as if he’s especially sensitive to subtext. “And my character,” Kirk goes on, “she’s an extraordinary woman. She fights for what she believes in. She has the utmost dignity even though men try to strip her of her dignity and pursue her for their own gratification.”

That film is just the start. Kirk is already planning future movies with Marshall, including a Guy Ritchie-style gangster flick she describes as “a female Scarface.” She and Marshall are also developing a TV show focusing on the Tower of London that she’d like to produce in England, where she expects she’ll be moving at some point. “I want to raise a family in the UK,” she says. In fact, she’s already picked where she wants to live: Kent. “Which is weird because I used to think I’d never want to go back there,” she says. “But now, after everything, I think I’d be happy to go back.”


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