Twentieth Century Fox received a last minute memo to delete a scene in “The Predator” that featured Steven Wilder Striegel, after learning the actor is a registered sex offender.
Striegel, a longtime friend of Predator director Shane Black, plead guilty in 2010 after being accused of attempting “to lure a 14-year-old female into a sexual relationship via the Internet,” according to the Los Angeles Times. The 47-year old did not have a large role in the reboot of the much loved sci-fi-thriller, only a three page scene with actress Olivia Munn, but it was cut after Munn shared the information she had learned about Striegel with studio executives with Fox on August 15th.
“Our studio was not aware of Mr. Striegel’s background when he was hired,” a Fox spokesperson said in a statement to the Times. “We were not aware of his background during the casting process due to legal limitations that impede studios from running background checks on actors.”
Director, Shane Black, had always known about Striegel’s sex offender status, and defended his decision to cast Striegel in the small scene in “The Predator” as an eager jogger who hits on Munn’s character repeatedly. “I personally chose to help a friend,” Black said in a written statement to the Times. “I can understand others might disapprove, as his conviction was on a sensitive charge and not to be taken lightly.” Black added that he felt his friend had simply been “caught up in a bad situation versus something lecherous.”
Whats worse is Striegel claimed that the then 14-year-old was one of his distant relatives and someone he saw often at family gatherings speaking to the young girl about “a multitude of problems she was facing, including being a truant, being pressured to do drugs and alcohol, and that she had started having sex, as well as many other things.” He then “made the the [sic] very bad judgement call of telling her in these emails that she was attractive, and sexy, and not a failure, etc.”
According to the Times, the March 2009 arrest warrant affidavit claims the physical contact between “Jane Doe,” as she’s been identified and Striegel included “kissing, touching Doe’s breast over her clothing, rubbing her legs, and stroking her neck.” It also quotes graphic emails Striegel wrote to the young girl about how he wanted to have sex with her and described in detail what his sexual preferences were. “EVERY thing you say turns me on!!” he once wrote to Doe. “I love that it rocked you when I pulled your hair that time.”
In an email to the Times, Striegel defended Black and the decision to cast him in the film saying, “The character I played was named after a mutual friend of ours, and it seemed a good fit,” he wrote.“I’ve known Shane Black 14 years, well before this incident, and I think it’s worth noting that he was aware of the facts. Shane can speak for himself, but I’m quite certain that if he felt I was a danger in any way to have around, he would not have.”
Striegel, who was an actor appearing on both “Melrose Place” and “Days of Our Lives,” was first introduced to Black when he was invited to the screenwriter’s home by a mutual friend for pizza and a private screening of “Lethal Weapon.” At the time of Striegel was arrested in 2009, he and Black had been friends a total of five years.
Striegel served six months in jail after pleading guilty to two felonies — risk of injury to a child and enticing a minor by computer, reports the the Times.
Black has seemingly always looked out for his friend, offering the newly registered sex offender his first role after his release in Black’s 2013 film “Iron Man 3.” Then three years later, Black offered him a role in “The Nice Guys.” Black told GQ in 2016 that he had been planning to produce a heist film “by my friend Steve Wilder.”
Actress Olivia Munn said she found it “both surprising and unsettling that Shane Black, our director, did not share this information to the cast, crew, or Fox Studios prior to, during, or after production.” She continued, “However, I am relieved that when Fox finally did receive the information, the studio took appropriate action by deleting the scene featuring Wilder prior to release of the film.”
Striegel told the Times that the allegations of physical contact with the young girl are “groundless.”
“Nothing supported such a claim, and no charges in that regard were even filed,” he wrote to the Times. “The only thing I was ever charged with were words in an email.”
Striegel called the situation “an enormously unfortunate chapter in my life, and one that I took, and continue to take, personal responsibility for. If I had even an inkling that my involvement with The Predator would be a point of difficulty for Shane Black, or cast any kind of shadow over a movie that I wish only great success for, I would, of course, never have been involved in any capacity.”
WATCH The Trailer for the Reboot of “The Predator”:
The film will premier Thursday evening at the Toronto International Film Festival and open in theaters nationwide on September 14th.
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