Actor Johnathon Schaech has accused Franco Zeffirelli of sexual assault, alleging the famed Italian director snuck into his hotel room, molested him and tried to perform oral sex while filming “Sparrow” in 1992.
Schaech told People in a lengthy first-person account that the assault — which Zeffirelli’s son Pippo disputed in a statement — led to long-term alcohol and drug abuse, as well as sex addictions.
The “Ray Donovan” actor was 22 when he was cast in the film by Zeffirelli, who by then already had a storied career under his belt, having helmed films like “The Champ” and the Oscar-nominated “Romeo and Juliet.”
Shaech said he was initially excited by the prospect of working with Zeffirelli, but that the optimism quickly soured as the director, then in his late sixties, “almost immediately” tried to seduce him with heaps of compliments.
“Almost every day, Franco would say, ‘I need to be with you,'” Schaech said, adding that Zeffirelli frequently drank and become aggressive and verbally abusive.
The actor, now 48, said things escalated one night in Sicily when Zeffirelli announced he’d be heading to Schaech’s hotel room.
After he somehow managed to obtain a key, Zeffirelli allegedly entered the room, where Schaech was sleeping, and attempted to perform oral sex.
Schaech said the assault happened when he was 22 and filming “Sparrow” in 1992.
(Willy Sanjuan/Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP)
“There was a moment where I was telling him ‘No,’ and he told me, ‘We have to’… He molested me in my bed. He put his hands in places that I couldn’t even imagine and he did things that I am not proud of. But it’s not my fault,” Schaech said.
“His pants never came off but I can (still) see him fumbling with his belt. He attempted to give me oral sex. I just remember being like, ‘God, please no. I’m OK, I’m OK.’ I did nothing. I just lay there in bed. It felt like four hours but it was probably like 30 seconds.”
Schaech said that the next morning felt as though he’d begrudgingly completed some sort of rite of passage, though the entire encounter felt like an out-of-body experience.
“When it was obvious Franco wasn’t getting what he wanted that night, he just left. He never tried to touch me again. I told him not to come near me again. He never said anything about it,” he said.
It was Rose McGowan, his co-star in “The Doom Generation,” that eventually inspired Schaech to come forward with the “traumatic” experience.
“I buried it for 20-something years of my life and not until (Rose) did I realize all these people have had these experiences. What he did to me was evil. When he crossed that boundary, I went from being a very vibrant young charming person who faced evil to someone who didn’t know himself,” he said.
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“The shame manifested itself in so many different ways. I medicated myself so I wouldn’t feel so bad about myself and to try and handle my low self-esteem.”
All of Schaech’s allegations against Zeffirelli, now 94, were denied by the director’s son Pippo.
“All these allegations are not credible. At the time Johnathon suffered from a throat type of obstruction which made his speaking difficult. Directors have different styles and some times they could be much more demanding on inexperienced actors,” he told People, likely addressing Schaech’s claims of verbal abuse in the form of criticism.
Pippo also said that his father is in poor health and is unable to fully understand or respond to Schaech’s allegations.
“This would be an attack to a great director, an artist and to a man at the end of his life that he is not able, nor he will be in the future able to respond. This will be an incredible damage to his image and reputation on the basis of allegations which are not credible and cannot be proved,” he said.
Source: Ny Daily News