[Warning: This article contains descriptions of sexual assault.]
Back in February, we reported on an anonymous Medium post alleging an incident of sexual abuse against Bright and American Ultra screenwriter Max Landis, the son of famed director John Landis. That allegation, of course, was just one of many; in 2017, Landis’ abusive behavior was called an “open secret.” Former collaborator Anna Akana called him “a psychopath who sexually abused and assaulted women.” The author of the Medium post wrote that an exposé on Landis had been in the works at The Hollywood Reporter, but it was axed due to the survivor refusing to offer her name. Now, a lengthy exposé has arrived via The Daily Beast, which spoke to eight women who provide detailed accounts of Landis’ patterns of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse.
Several of the stories mirror each other. Landis would first welcome young, vulnerable women into his “exclusive” circle of friends, which the story’s subjects characterize as a “lure” and, eventually, a “shield” against the blowback of his actions. He would then aggressively pursue women and, once in a relationship, shame, belittle, and abuse them, both physically and psychologically. “He just sort of wears you down. He’s that persistent. He sees something shiny and he wants it. He’s like, I have to have it,” says a former friend and ex-girlfriend using the name Samantha. “He would systematically try to have sex with all the women I knew. We’re not people to him.”
Multiple women accuse Landis of physical abuse. Ex-girlfriend Ani Baker recalls a story in which she playfully slapped his butt, only for Landis to then choke her. “He turned around and he put his hands around my throat and he got very close to my face,” Baker said. “He said, ‘I will fucking kill you. Do you understand what I’m saying? I will fucking kill you.’” Another ex-girlfriend going by the name Kerry also says that Landis “choked me and told me he wanted to kill me.”
In a statement to The Daily Beast, an ex-girlfriend going by the name Julie calls Landis a “serial rapist, gaslighter, physical and psychological abuser who tormented me for six years, long after our romantic relationship, both directly and behind my back.” She added, “He continued to violate my boundaries into even after our relationship, and if any of this still feels like a blurred lines scenario let me assure you that he did hold me down and rape me while I said ‘no’ over and over. Afterwards I punched him in the shoulder and I told him, ‘When someone says no, you’re supposed to stop. What you just did is what they call rape.’ He said he thought we were playing a game, and that I liked it. He didn’t care.”
She continued, “He showed me abuse and humiliation porn and constantly tested my boundaries—this became murkier and murkier as our relationship got more tumultuous, as I grew to view sex with him as the only way to receive love and connect. This lead to me allowing myself to become more and more abused. He claimed that seeing me cry was a turn-on—this later turned into a routine of him yelling and humiliating me until I cried, then having sex with me while I continued to cry with no regard or effort to make things right. He’d instigate fights, belittle and upset me, just so he could have sex with me, and the real, legitimate fights ended the same way. He choked me until I passed out and did humiliating, degrading things to me that I still can’t manage to write out on paper.”
Another ex-girlfriend, Dani Manning, recalls Landis “choking me to the point where my eyes were blacking out” at a party. She also detailed his emotional abuse, the likes of which are mirrored in the accounts of several other women. “The emotional abuse took control of me to the point where I got down to 115 lbs at 5’10—still not skinny enough. He’d smack food out of my hand in front of his family to stop me from eating it. He told me that if I worked out more I’d be supermodel pretty. Except I was not pretty. And I would be told why, in detail. Which body parts and facial features. I’d get insulted if the outfit I wore didn’t look sexy enough or made my body look bad.”
The psychological manipulation extends to a ranked list Landis allegedly kept of every women he slept with, one he had a habit of showing to his girlfriends. “He scrolled to the bottom and showed me my name, with his rankings next to it,” Baker said. “This list, and the way he went about showing it to the women who were on it, was one of the most telling things about the way he viewed women. He collected experiences with women for his own enjoyment and ego, and then turned those experiences into pain and devaluation, for as many women as he could.”
Another woman, Veronica, recalls a trip to Disneyland with Landis in early 2017 in which he “physically overpowered” her in their hotel room and groped her against her will as they waited in lines for rides. “I was absolutely humiliated,” Veronica said. “I told him to stop and he didn’t. Halfway through the day, it escalated into him loudly shouting at me that he ‘wanted to fuck’ so we had to go back to the room.”
The Daily Beast also investigated a sexual assault claim filed against Landis in 2008. Ashley Heffington Dionne, the then-roommate of Callie Ray, who filed the claim, says she witnessed the incident. “I jumped out of my bed and walked into our shared living room to see Max over Callie on our couch,” Dionne said. “He was on top of her and her pants were off and he was thrusting and I could hear the sound of what he was doing. I yelled, ‘You need to leave right now!’ He got up, quickly pulling his pants up, and I physically rushed him, aggressively demanding he leave.” In the aftermath, Dionne said Ray was “crying and confused and in and out of consciousness” and the pair filed a police report the following morning. Ray eventually dropped the case.
Landis relied not only on his fame and fortune to manipulate people, but, as previously mentioned, the influence of his circle of friends. “He discredited any person who criticized him and started smear campaigns on pretty much every person who has ever been his friend,” Julie said. “He trusted that we wouldn’t ever say anything, worked actively to discredit people who were saying things, and was just as consistent in the abuse as he was with covering it up and manipulating us afterwards.” Another woman compared him to a “cult leader.”
“There’s too many voices to ignore,” Akana added to the Beast. “And I felt the need to be vocal because Max is intimidating and he’s scary. And I’ve seen, being in that friend group, one of the most frustrating things is that he would lord his power and his money over people and intimidate them into friendship, or into forgiveness.”
Read the full piece here.