After wrapping up a scene on the set of Apple TV’s World War II miniseries Masters of the Air, most of the cast and crew decamped. Director Cary Fukunaga, though, hung back and began to take photos of two actresses.
According to two production sources, the celebrated director’s focus was not on the scene’s main players, but rather on two of the background actresses — one of whom had recently turned 18 — dressed as prostitutes from the 1940s. Taking pictures of the young women, he egged them on while they posed suggestively, bent against a wall and kneeling on the ground.
One of the sources claims Fukunaga acted under the guise of needing the photos for continuity purposes — a task normally expected to fall on a production’s wardrobe department and not the man at the helm of a 600-plus cast and crew. To the two production sources who watched the 10-minute interaction unfold, Fukunaga crossed a professional line, using his position in ways that felt uncomfortable to those looking on.
It was the first red flag, one of the sources claims to Rolling Stone, that they observed during Fukunaga’s time directing a handful of episodes of the miniseries, which is being executive-produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg. “That was my first gut check,” the source recalls. “It was way past the line. There’s no sort of argument … that it is OK in any way. It’s an absolute, clear-cut abuse of power.” (In a statement provided through his lawyer to Rolling Stone, Fukunaga notes that he “takes pictures of actors – men and women, young and old – on his sets all of the time” and, acknowledging he took pictures of these actresses, says that “[t]o imply anything improper about doing so is false and defamatory.”)
The incident was part of a pattern of Fukunaga’s behavior that concerned nearly a dozen production sources who spoke to Rolling Stone after the acclaimed 44-year-old director was accused of misconduct earlier this month by three women: one who met Fukunaga on the set of a commercial and two sisters who met him on a TV set. (Each of these sources requested anonymity, citing fear of harming their careers and breaching NDAs.)
The filmmaker is one of Hollywood’s youngest major directors, versatile across both film and television. After helming his critically acclaimed 2009 feature Sin Nombre, he was only 32 when he directed his second feature-length film, Jane Eyre, and went on to win an Emmy in 2014 for directing the haunting first season of HBO’s True Detective. Following the success of Netflix’s Beasts of No Nation in 2015, starring Idris Elba, Fukunaga became the first American to direct a James Bond film with last year’s No Time To Die.
Sources who worked with the director on various films, TV series, and commercials over the past six years describe Fukunaga as using his sets as an opportunity to meet younger women and openly pursue multiple female cast and crew members at once during production.
One crew member alleges Fukunaga’s persistence bordered on workplace harassment, voicing concern that her career could have been put in jeopardy when she tried to turn him down and he wouldn’t take the hint. Another source alleges he sidelined her for a job opportunity, asking her out instead. (Fukunaga denies the claim.)
Those who did end up having a romantic relationship or even a friendship with Fukunaga claim they ultimately walked away feeling confused, gaslighted, or manipulated. (According to Fukunaga’s response through his attorney, Mr. Fukunaga “has befriended men and women, young and old” on set.)
Actress Rachelle Vinberg claimed earlier this month in a lengthy Instagram story that she was diagnosed with PTSD from her friendship that eventually turned sexual with Fukunaga, whom she met in 2016 on a Samsung-commercial set the day after she turned 18. “I spent years being scared of him,” Vinberg wrote on Instagram. “Mans is a groomer and has been doing this shit for years. Beware women.”
“When I thought about him, I just wanted to vomit,” one young woman who dated Fukunaga for a few months after meeting him on the set of one of his productions tells Rolling Stone. “I remember feeling so good to be away from him, like this heavy weight on my shoulder was lifted and [I could] breathe again. He made me feel so claustrophobic and suffocating.”
“I just thought I was really crazy, because he treated me like trash towards the end,” says a second young woman who tells Rolling Stone she began seeing Fukunaga after they met on one of his sets. “I just became a really small, passive, quiet person, and I’m not usually like that.”
When asked about allegations of pursuing romantic relationships with multiple young women on his sets, Fukunaga did not respond. Through an attorney, however, he claims that he has “not acted in any manner that would or should generate” an article focusing on claims of misconduct made against him.
“There is nothing salacious about pursuing friendships or consensual romantic relationships with women,” his attorney Michael Plonsker says in a statement. “Nevertheless, because that would not fit your narrative, you conclude he has done something wrong.”
As for some young women saying that Fukunaga’s romantic advances on set made them feel uncomfortable but they didn’t feel they were in a position to ask him to stop, Fukunaga’s attorney claims that “no one ever – not once – voiced such sentiments to” him. “He creates a work environment that is creative, collaborative and welcoming to all,” Plonsker adds.
Vinberg, who starred on HBO’s Betty, said she initially wasn’t planning on naming Fukunaga when she began venting about men who masqueraded as feminists earlier this month. “Funny how there’s people out there who pose as activists [for] women,” the 23-year-old skateboarder said in an Instagram post. “Guys who are the shittiest fucking individuals in the world and all they do [is] traumatize women … But one day I’m going to expose him because fuck him.” (Vinberg declined to be interviewed for this story.)
Actress Rachelle Vinberg in 2018.
Jeff Spicer/Getty Images
A few hours later, Vinberg named Fukunaga, sharing a handful of texts and Instagram DMs on the platform that she claimed were from the director. In those messages, the director seemed to lament about “failing” to have “game” with women when he was younger and rambled on about the concept of loneliness. Other messages purported to be sent from Fukunaga’s account to Vinberg were childish, sexually suggestive memes, including one that referred to “trying to bang a vegan chick.”
The pair hung out multiple times, according to photos Vinberg posted, and when in the company of others, the actress claimed in her post that Fukunaga asked her to pretend that she was his relative. Other times, Vinberg claimed, Fukunaga would randomly slap her ass, confide in her about his “sexual situation” with romantic partners, and asked about her sexual fantasies. By the time she was 21, Vinberg claimed they had been “fully intimate.”
“It had to be a secret because it would look bad for him, because people wouldn’t understand, because it would make him look like a predator,” she said on Instagram. “He later bragged to some people that he was the second person I’d ever been with.”
In her post, Vinberg didn’t go into detail about what led to her fallout with Fukunaga, but by December 2020, things had come to a head, according to her account. “I had tried to reach out to him in the past about how he made me feel and he’s never taken accountability; he basically brushed me off, gaslit me,” she said, sharing a screenshot of their alleged text conversation.
“It just really made me look back at our history as friends,” she added. “What happened [is] unacceptable behavior, meeting this kind of person in a professional setting and then it turns into what it turned into.”
In a statement, Plonsker claims that Fukunaga “had a very brief and consensual romantic relationship with [Vinberg] that has ended. Ms. Vinberg is clearly not happy with Mr. Fukunaga, but as everyone knows, relationships end all of the time and many times one person (or both) are unhappy.” Saying “[t]hat is not news,” he further denies that Fukunaga “groomed” Vinberg.
Hours after Vinberg came forward, twins Cailin and Hannah Loesch published a lengthy statement in support of the actress, detailing what they called a “hot-and-cold” dynamic with Fukunaga after they claimed he befriended them while filming Netflix’s Maniac in 2017. (While the Loeschs declined to comment further, Rolling Stone spoke with three close friends of the sisters who say the Loeschs confided in them at the time, and corroborated the nature of the Loeschs’ relationship with Fukunaga. They recalled frequently discussing Fukunaga with the sisters and claimed they noticed red flags with his alleged behavior.)
“I believe completely that he was abusing his power. It’s really uncomfortable. It’s horrible … The only reason I allowed it to go on that long is because I’m absolutely worried about my career.”
The Loeschs, then 20, claimed in their post that they had been hoping for one of two outcomes of their friendship with Fukunaga: becoming “a simple trio of friends” or one of the sisters having a romantic relationship with him. But they claimed Fukunaga seemed only interested in pursuing something with both of them, alleging he had asked them about their openness to a threesome and “suggested incest is fine ‘if all parties are okay with it’” while they were in a hot tub. (Through his attorney, Fukunaga claims he never asked the sisters to participate in a threesome and that the incest comment “never happened.”) The alleged conversation took place after Fukunaga visited the twins’ family’s home in summer 2020.
(Fukunaga is currently searching for a new personal assistant. The position was most recently held by a young woman who the twins claimed had accompanied Fukunaga on the trip to visit the Loesch twins. She did not return Rolling Stone’s request for comment. A job description of the position, which Rolling Stone has reviewed, calls for someone who could expect on an average day “finding a beekeeper in upstate New York and figuring out how to transport Moroccan rugs to the U.S.”)
A few weeks later, when Fukunaga allegedly invited the twins over to his home, the sisters claimed to have structured a “plan” to gauge if he was interested in one of them romantically, writing they assumed it was Cailin because she seemed to be “the object of his flirty Instagram DMs.” But despite Cailin arriving at his apartment alone, it was only when Hannah arrived at the apartment that they claimed Fukunaga seemed to perk up, writing he was “no longer a man of few words.”
They claimed Fukunaga offered to show them the screener of No Time to Die, with the trio watching the film in his bed. “As we watched the film, he put his hand up underneath Cailin’s skirt and massaged gently,” they wrote. (Fukunaga denies that he made sexual advances on Cailin while Hannah was present.)
The next morning, they decided to cut off their friendship. Cailin allegedly confronted him about his behavior and flirting with both sisters simultaneously, but Fukunaga accused her of overreacting to the situation, the Loeschs claimed. “When she cried, he mocked her and asked why she was so bothered when we ‘didn’t even know each other’ … and that she was trying to find meaning that didn’t exist because she liked him,” they wrote. “He asked if she knew ‘how bad this would look’ if the story came out in the wake of the #MeToo movement, saying he ‘did not like’ the person Cailin was describing.”
“When I saw Rachelle’s posts, it was like a clicking moment of, ‘He’s done the exact same thing to all of us.’”
The twins noted they were “not raped, fired from a job, or made to do anything physical against our will.” But they asked, “So why does it sting so bad now to see this man, the one who we willingly walked away from, propped up as the honorable creator who brought a much-needed, ‘feminist twist’ to an iconic film franchise?”
“We are in the driver’s seat of our own lives,” they added. “We flirted back. We welcomed him into our family’s home, and when it came to be too much, we walked away through unlocked doors. Was it all our fault? Or is the influence of a powerful man, much older and supposedly wiser, enough to take at least part of the blame off our shoulders?”
Soon after Vinberg and the Loeschs came forward, several of their friends and industry colleagues voiced support. Actress Margaret Qualley, who was romantically linked to Fukunaga in 2017, “liked” Vinberg’s post about “gaslighting” men on Instagram. Actress Kristine Froseth, who Fukunaga was also romantically linked with, shared Vinberg’s initial statement about Fukunaga in an Instagram story alongside posts about the stages and signs of grooming. Model Lizzie Swanson and her boyfriend, actor Charlie Plummer, who co-starred with Froseth on Hulu’s Looking for Alaska, both reshared Vinberg’s post.
When contacted for comment by Rolling Stone, Swanson wrote that she “knew Cary for a time and though he never physically acted upon anything, the emotional and mental patterns and manipulative tactics” she says she experienced “are very, very much the same” as those referred to by Vinberg and other women. “It’s disgusting,” she adds in a written message. “I believe them and stand by them fully. He needs to be stopped.” (Following the publication of this article, Swanson clarified in a note to Rolling Stone, “I am not a victim in any sense but want to actively support those who have been hurt by him.”)
“We used to call it his fan club. I’d be like, ‘Why the hell are all these young girls always hanging around like puppy dogs?’”
Befriending and pursuing young women during production was a hallmark of Fukunaga’s behavior, sources claim, alleging his habit of treating his sets as a personal pickup bar was openly discussed among the cast and crew. Four women who Rolling Stone spoke with claim they were in their twenties when Fukunaga pursued them romantically on the set of various productions dating back to 2016 and as recently as last year.
One of the aforementioned production sources claims she was lined up to work with Fukunaga on another project when he suddenly killed the opportunity with a vague excuse but asked her out for drinks. “I just remember at that time I was super crushed because I wanted that job so badly, and needed it,” she says. “I felt really weird about the fact that it was, like, ‘Let me take you out for drinks instead.’” (Mr. Fukunaga denies having withdrawn a job opportunity from a young woman and asking her out for drinks instead.)
The crew member who claimed Fukunaga’s persistent advances made her uncomfortable says that her colleagues began to keep an eye on her while on set. “It was humiliating for me because I tried to fall under the radar,” she says, recalling how Fukunaga would chat her up in front of others. “I believe completely that he was abusing his power. It’s really uncomfortable. It’s horrible.… The only reason I allowed it to go on that long is because I’m absolutely worried about my career.”
Two sources also claim that Fukunaga offered to give them a stick-and-poke tattoo, something Vinberg also referenced in her account. “He likes to give girls tattoos,” Vinberg said in an Instagram video, showing off a tattoo of a small skateboard on her wrist. “He gave me this tattoo when I was 18 years old, and it’s something he likes to do to girls. It’s like his way of marking women. It’s bizarre.” Vinberg also shared an Instagram message from the Loesch twins claiming he also offered to give them a homemade “stick and poke” tattoo.
According to his attorney, “Mr. Fukunaga is a talented ‘stick and poke’ tattoo artist and, as such, has been requested by many people – again men and women – to give the tattoos.”
The young woman who briefly dated Fukunaga and said she felt “claustrophobic” during their relationship described being unsettled when she learned that despite believing she landed a role through a routine process, Fukunaga had allegedly tried to contact her months before she was hired by flirtatiously sliding into her DMs.
“That was fucking creepy,” she claims, feeling he had directly taken advantage of his position to hire her “because he wanted to get to know me and date me basically, or fuck me or whatever.” From her own experience, she feels that Fukunaga uses “his power, his fame, and his success in professional settings to attract girls and date them.” (Fukunaga’s attorney says the director “does not even make final hiring decisions. As with most directors, his hiring process is done in conjunction with many people and is based on an individual’s talent qualifications and whether they are the right fit for the project.”)
A fourth young woman who reports that she was intimate with Fukunaga after production of a recent project says their relationship was a “complicated” situation, noting she was conflicted about being romantically involved with her boss. When Vinberg and the Loesch twins came forward, she says the sisters’ account was “like reading a perfectly journaled diary of my time with him.”
“He does that masquerade. He does things to sort of hide behind … ‘Look I can’t possibly hurt women, I hire women. I do things for women.’”
“When I saw Rachelle’s posts, it was like a clicking moment of, ‘He’s done the exact same thing to all of us in such a manipulative and thought-out process,’” she adds, referring to befriending her on set, offering to give her a tattoo, and an overall hot-and-cold dynamic. “He’s not just someone who’s fucked me over; he’s got this routine for girls that look really young.”
Sources on Maniac and Masters of the Air allege Fukunaga would flirt with multiple women at the same time, paying them special attention on set. Three sources on Masters of the Air claim Fukunaga showed interest in at least three young women in the cast and crew during filming.
Crew members recall whispering amongst themselves about Fukunaga’s advances and spending so much time with the younger female members of the cast and crew. A production source who worked on the Samsung commercial with Vinberg says Fukunaga’s “centralized attention” to Vinberg was memorable six years on. It didn’t strike the source as “icky” at the time, they say, but it did stick with them, claiming they noticed Fukunaga’s “intensity” while interacting with Vinberg.
Two sources from Maniac noted Fukunaga seemed to surround himself with younger women. “We used to call it his fan club,” one says. “I’d be like, ‘Why the hell are all these young girls always hanging around like puppy dogs?’”
But people turned a blind eye toward the situation, the source explains. “If it doesn’t involve them, everybody kind of turns the other cheek. Other people would be like, ‘Oh, come on. The guy’s a good-looking, young director that has a penchant for younger girls. Big deal.’ A lot of us didn’t really think of it as a big deal; it just was like, ‘You’re creepy, my guy.’ You don’t need to be doing this, but for some reason that’s what he did.”
However, the production source says their outlook on the situation changed when Fukunaga took notice of their colleague, obtaining the young woman’s cell phone number from the crew list, and texting her to go for drinks. “Looking back at it, it felt weird,” they say. “Just a little unsettling.”
Production romances are hardly taboo in Hollywood. Spending 12-plus-hour days with colleagues for a shoot that could stretch months, it’s no surprise that multiple flings arise from the near-constant time cast and crew spend together.
But sources allege Fukunaga’s behavior crosses the line of having a casual romance during production. It wasn’t just that Fukunaga was everyone’s boss, but his status within the industry could help launch someone’s career (or at the very least ensure a gig on his next project). The woman who casually dated Fukunaga claims he had floated the idea of helping make her a “famous actress” and suggested putting her in his other projects.
“It is evident that he utilizes his influence in the film industry to pursue many young women,” says another source who dated Fukunaga. (Fukunaga denies this, saying “This is simply not true. Period.”)
Of the four women who claim to Rolling Stone that Fukunaga pursued them during productions, one says she was fearful of the career implications when she tried to rebuff his advances. “It’s a really scary thing,” she says, “when Cary is being a certain type of way with you, and you don’t feel like you can ask [him] to stop.”
Actresses Hannah Loesch (L) and Cailin Loesch in 2018.
Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images
Fukunaga’s actions seem to be a jarring and hypocritical contrast to his public statements about championing and supporting women, something sources, as well as Vinberg and the Loesch sisters, noted.
“He does that masquerade,” one Masters of the Air production source says, after witnessing Fukunaga’s interactions with the background actresses and referencing the director’s public statements. “He does things to sort of hide behind … ‘Look I can’t possibly hurt women, I hire women. I do things for women.”
During the run-up to the release of No Time to Die — the first time an American directed a James Bond film — Fukunaga spoke strongly of modernizing Bond in the wake of the #MeToo movement. “You have to be willing to lean in and do the work to make the female characters more than just contrivances,” he told The Hollywood Reporter.
But his statements rang hollow to actress Raeden Greer, who came forward to accuse Fukunaga of firing her from the first season of True Detective when she was suddenly asked to go topless for a scene, despite claiming she did not have a nudity rider in her contract. “It was degrading,” she told The Daily Beast last year. “And now, Cary is out here talking about his female characters — it’s like another slap in the face over and over and over.”
And it was Fukunaga reacting to the Supreme Court’s leaked draft opinion overruling Roe v. Wade, by saying the court just legitimized “a war against women’s rights” on Instagram, that Vinberg says made her decide to come forward.
“There’s this guy, right, he’s like, ‘Oh, women’s rights in America, we have to protect it,’” she said on Instagram, shortly before naming Fukunaga. “He fucking traumatizes women. He doesn’t give a fuck about women. He refers to women as ‘whores.’ I’ve heard that, it pisses me off … And he’s out here like I care about women. Go fuck yourself. You don’t give a fuck about women.”
It was a sentiment echoed by Fukunaga’s former writing partner Nick Cuse, who came out in support of Vinberg and the Loesch twins — the first public admonishment that came from someone that had worked closely with Fukunaga for a number of years. Cuse, who worked as a consultant on No Time to Die and was a co-producer and writer for Maniac, wrote in an Instagram story that Fukunaga is the “worst human being I have ever met in my life,” saying that the way Fukunaga treats non-celebrities “is horrible. I once saw him dump his cut fingernails in another person’s car.”
“He didn’t groom me to fuck me, but he did use a lot of the same tactics to get me to write his scripts for him,” he wrote in the Instagram story. “Which he would then put his name on. One time, after me spending three weeks on a script for him, he told me to open up the cover page and type his name under ‘Written By.’ I had to literally type in the stolen credit with my own fingers.” (Cuse did not respond to requests for further comment.)
Vinberg also referenced grooming methods when she spoke of her experience with Fukunaga, calling him a “groomer” and sharing informational posts about grooming, which were reposted by Fukunaga’s ex-girlfriend Froseth. Vinberg later explained she was also referring to manipulation tactics. “There’s so much more to it than just the intimate moments … there’s so much more behind the scenes that makes it wrong.”
“I don’t have high hopes that [Fukunaga] will ever acknowledge any of this or apologize. But if at least the industry as a whole can acknowledge that we’re not accepting this type of treatment in the workplace … that would be enough for me.”
Daniel Pollack, a professor at Yeshiva University and expert witness on child abuse, tells Rolling Stone that while grooming is often associated with the sexual abuse of minors, the term also can apply to adults. At its core, grooming involves targeting an often vulnerable person and gaining their trust, only to exploit that same trust for a perpetrator’s ulterior motive.
People tend to “minimize” the idea that adults can be groomed or coerced into certain situations simply because they are of legal age, explains Laura Palumbo, communications director for the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. “We do excuse a lot of harmful behavior, and it’s often from a very victim-blaming point of view,” she says.
“Our society also struggles with recognizing the trauma that can happen within an abusive relationship … when you believe a person is trustworthy and safe and then realize that that is not the case,” Palumbo adds. “There is that breach of trust and emotional manipulation that is not only difficult for victims in the context of that relationship, but even for them moving forward to be able to to trust other individuals.”
And it’s often not just the victim who is exposed to the groomer’s charm, Pollack says, but “a lot of other people in institutions have to be groomed along the way.
“That groomer is grooming the institution … they groom their own colleagues,” he adds. “From the groomer’s perspective, it’s as much art as it is science.”
Cuse noted his relationship with Fukunaga was not “remotely comparable” to what the women who’ve come forward claimed to have experienced, but wrote, “I wish someone had told me not to [work with him]. I deeply regret it.”
The production sources who Fukunaga allegedly pursued on set say, like Cuse, they also wish they had been cautioned about Fukunaga, which is why they made the decision to speak out now. “I really, really wish someone would have just said one thing to me: ‘Be careful with him.’ But no one said anything,” one says. “I definitely don’t see myself as a victim … but I see that I was close to something that was dangerous” she said, alluding to what other women have claimed about feeling manipulated by Fukunaga and, in Vinberg’s case, suffering from PTSD.
“I don’t know what exactly happened,” one of the production sources adds. “But if it’s him being slightly pervy and making people uncomfortable, I do think it needs to be out in the open because I think people need to learn. It actually scares me how much people get away with this in the industry.”
“I do not believe I was personally abused by Cary,” says a source who dated Fukunaga. “But many of the behaviors and actions I witnessed during the time I spent with him mirror and corroborate the events claimed by women who have spoken out so far.”
It was why Greer says she came forward with her alleged experience with Fukunaga on True Detective seven months ago, hoping for some form of accountability. “I thought that I might be the only person who ever did say anything negative about him,” she tells Rolling Stone.
Seeing Vinberg and the Loesch sisters come forward, Greer says she hopes their stories will be recognized by the wider Hollywood industry and result in change, not just on Fukunaga’s part, but for anyone in a position of power.
“I don’t have high hopes that [Fukunaga] will ever acknowledge any of this or apologize,” she says. “But if at least the industry as a whole can acknowledge that we’re not accepting this type of treatment in the workplace, and that these things happened and are not acceptable, that would be enough for me.”
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