In mid-August, The Predator actress Olivia Munn learned that Steven Wilder Striegel, an actor she shares a brief scene with in the upcoming 20th Century Fox thriller, was a registered sex offender. After bringing it to their attention, the studio says it was not aware, but director Shane Black is defending the choice of hiring the man who he considers a friend.
Credited as simply Steve Wilder on Imdb, the actor has also had roles in Black’s films Iron Man 3 and The Nice Guys, all following a 2010 guilty plea on two felonies, risk of injury to a child and enticing a minor by computer, for which he served six months in jail and was registered as a sex offender. According to the Los Angeles Times, after learning of the situation, Fox decided to cut the brief scene containing Striegel from The Predator.
Our studio was not aware of Mr. Striegel’s background when he was hired. We were not aware of his background during the casting process due to legal limitations that impede studios from running background checks on actors.
Striegel gave a statement to the paper about the situation he pled guilty to.
In emails to The Times, Striegel described her as one of his “distant relatives” who spoke to him at “several family gatherings” 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.”
In an attempt to boost her self-esteem, Striegel said he “made the the very bad judgement call of telling her in these emails that she was attractive, and sexy, and not a failure, etc.” He said he made it clear the two could not engage in a romantic relationship because of her age and because they were related.
The LA Times points out that the arrest warrant issued for him in 2009 alleged physical contact on more than one occasion which included “kissing, touching Doe’s breast over her clothing, rubbing her legs and stroking her neck.” Striegel also sent, as the LA Times described them, graphic emails telling the girl about his sexual preferences, expressing his sexual attraction to her, and asking that she not speak about their communications. The LA Times quotes him as writing, “I know it might be hard for you to not tell someone, as it’s something on your mind I’m sure, but pleeease try to keep it between us ...”
Besides the allegations against Striegel, it’s distressing that The Predator’s director, Shane Black, was aware of them. “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,” Striegel told the LA Times. “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.”
In his own statement, Black defended and explained his decision to cast Striegel as a jogger who interacts with Munn’s character: “I personally chose to help a friend. I can understand others might disapprove, as his conviction was on a sensitive charge and not to be taken lightly.” He added that he believes his friend Striegel was “caught up in a bad situation versus something lecherous.”
While the other actors in the film—Boyd Holbrook, Sterling K. Brown, Thomas Jane, Trevante Rhodes and Keegan-Michael Key—were asked to comment, none did. Munn she says she feels as if the right decision has ultimately been made. “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.”
The Predator hits theaters September 14.
Update: 4:00 p.m.
In the wake of this morning’s reports about The Predator actor Steven Wilder Striegel whose sole scene in the movie was cut when Fox learned he is a registered sex offender, director Shane Black—who previously defended Striegel—has issued a new statement claiming Striegel misconstrued the specific details of why he was convicted:
“Having read this morning’s news reports, it has sadly become clear to me that I was misled by a friend I really wanted to believe was telling me the truth when he described the circumstances of his conviction. I believe strongly in giving people second chances - but sometimes you discover that chance is not as warranted as you may have hoped.
After learning more about the affidavit, transcripts and additional details surrounding Steve Striegel’s sentence, I am deeply disappointed in myself. I apologize to all of those, past and present, I’ve let down by having Steve around them without giving them a voice in the decision.”