She toppled two of Hollywood’s most powerful moguls, but who is Charlotte Kirk? The 28-year-old actress who set off the town’s latest scandal opens up for the first time
Charlotte Kirk wants to talk. She’s dying to talk. She leans forward in her chair, her blue eyes opening wide. She slowly begins to form some words, then stops herself, and bites her lip. She is clearly agonizing over what to say next. The question she’s been asked is, “How are you feeling?”
The answer isn’t hard to guess. For the past 20 months, the 28-year-old, little-known British actress has been at the center of multiple Hollywood scandals that have taken down not just one but two of the industry’s mightiest players—Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara, ousted in March 2019 after his 2013 affair with Kirk was exposed by The Hollywood Reporter, and vice chair of NBC-Universal Ron Meyer, who lost his job in August when it was revealed that he, too, had been sexually involved with Kirk back in 2012—and thrust her into a role she could never have imagined and certainly never asked to play. She has, in fact, become an entirely new type of Hollywood archetype. In a town famous for attracting and then chewing up pretty young things, here was a pretty young thing who chewed up the town—the mogul slayer. And she did it all without uttering a single line of dialogue—at least not in public.
Over the ensuing months—through thickets of international headlines, lawsuits, accusations of extortion, counter-accusations of sexual harassment and even of sex-trafficking—Kirk hasn’t said a word. She’s been forced to remain silent or else risk breaking a nondisclosure agreement that she signed in 2017 (for which she received $3.3 million) and that she has so far been unsuccessful in unwinding in court, despite a new California law that’s supposed to make NDAs in cases of sexual harassment (if that’s indeed what happened to her) unenforceable.
Today, however, on this warm October afternoon, sitting at a table in the backyard of her cozy rental in Studio City, Kirk is finally speaking out—sort of—in an exclusive interview with Los Angeles. Her NDA still prohibits her from discussing anything involving Tsujihara or Meyer, as well as a slew of other colorful characters ensnared in the scandals—like director Brett Ratner and Australian billionaire James Packer, to name two—and one of her many attorneys is sitting in on the conversation to make certain her words don’t wander into legally dangerous territory. The lawyer has brought along backup of his own—an enormous German shepherd named Boomer, who sits obediently beside the table throughout the two-hour interview, glaring. Nevertheless, Kirk has much to say, about Hollywood, her journey here from England, and where she hopes to someday end up.
“Hindsight is a wonderful thing, isn’t it?” she notes as Boomer licks his chops. “You’re talking to me now, at 28. If you spoke to me when I was 19, when I first arrived in L.A., I was another person. I was socially awkward. It was hard for me to look people in the eye. And I was really trusting. Gullible and all of that. Unfortunately, I had to learn the hard way. And I made a few mistakes. I got hurt and betrayed. I’m skeptical now,” she adds coolly. “Very skeptical.”
There are, as always, two sides to every story. In this case, maybe even three or four. Everybody, it seems, has a different Rashomon-like view of who Kirk is supposed to be. To many, she’s an ambitious temptress who used her feminine wiles to seduce some of Hollywood’s wealthiest, smartest, and most powerful men, then sank her fangs into them to extract auditions, film roles, and money.
Frankly, when the scandal first broke, her publicist at the time didn’t do much to counter that image when he asked inquiring journalists from The New York Times and Variety how much they’d pay for an interview. (Their answer was “Nothing,” and that publicist turned out to have never been on Kirk’s payroll; Los Angeles did not pay for this interview.) There’s other evidence helping to paint that less-than-flattering portrait, like the series of text messages between Kirk and Tsujihara printed in THR that suggested the casting couch was still very much a functioning piece of furniture in Hollywood. “You’re very busy I know,” she wrote the married studio chief in 2015, “but when we were in that motel having sex u said u would help me and when u just ignore me like you’re doing now it makes me feel used. Are u going to help me like u said u would?”
But there’s another version of Kirk, one that started gaining traction around the time she went to court in the fall to ask a judge to free her from her NDA. In this telling, she’s a #MeToo victim, a silenced martyr of a brutal Hollywood system that dehumanizes young women and treats them as sexual chattel. There’s evidence to support that view, too, including accounts of Kirk being treated like a party favor by members of the “Ratner Sex Trafficking Syndicate,” as her legal team refers to her alleged abusers in some of the hundreds of pages of court documents that have recently become available to the public. “They passed Kirk around like an inanimate sex toy,” reads one complaint, “to impress and reward each other for their own perverted pleasure and male ego inflation.”
Still, the actual, flesh-and-blood woman sitting in her backyard in Studio City, dressed casually in a black silk blouse, jeans, and brown boots, seems no more a Jezebel than she does a Joan of Arc. She’s nervous and halting at first. She fiddles with her voice recorder before placing it on the table; she wants her own account of what’s said during the interview (her lawyer tapes it as well). But as the conversation picks up steam, she starts sounding more self-possessed. She speaks with a distinct working-class dialect—not Eliza Doolittle, exactly, but not posh BBC English either (although, upon request, she’s able to launch into a near-perfect American accent). She’s tall and slender, polite and polished, attractive and charming, and sometimes a bit overanxious (setting up the interview required more negotiations than the Paris Peace Accords). In short, she seems like a completely normal Hollywood actress, in so far as such a thing actually exists.
Her birth name was Charlotte Dyke (she changed it when she started acting), and she was raised in Kent, about 30 minutes by train from London. Her dad was an electrician, her mom a home care worker. Early on, she was diagnosed with autism and Asperger’s. “I was different,” she says. “I had learning difficulties. I was always bullied in school.” Not surprisingly, she fled into fantasy, which she suspects is how she ended up becoming an actress. “I always loved to role-play,” she says. “I don’t know if it’s normal, but I always imagined I was being watched.” At the same time, the cruelty of her classmates ignited embers of ambition. “It pushed me to say, ‘I’m going to prove you mother******* wrong,’” she says. “From a young age, I wanted to escape from Kent. I wanted to go to London. I knew that’s where it was at.”
It didn’t take her long to get there. At 17, she enrolled in acting classes in Kent, then started landing modeling gigs, which led to commercial work (like an ad for Nintendo) and enough money to rent a flat in Kensington. During a trip to Paris, she was offered a modeling contract in France, which she turned down. “I liked modeling,” she says, “but it wasn’t where my heart was at. My heart was in acting. So it was a big decision. Paris or the U.S.? Because everybody said that if I wanted to be an actor, I should go to the U.S.”
One of those everybodys may well have been Meyer. The exact circumstances of their first encounter are fuzzy—did she approach the mogul or did he approach her?—but it’s certain that they met in London in the spring of 2012 at a Hollywood Foreign Press Association party after a screening of Snow White and the Huntsman. Kirk is prohibited from talking about Meyer, who cofounded CAA in the mid-1970s before climbing to the top of the Hollywood hierarchy at Universal. But a friend who prefers to remain anonymous describes her as being “flattered” by the mogul’s attention. “She was 19. He was 66. She thought of him as a sort of grandfather figure, a powerful man who was interested in her as an actress,” the friend says. “She didn’t think he had any sexual desires for her.” (In other words, she was “gullible and all that.”)
Either Meyer suggested that Kirk give him a call the next time she was in Los Angeles, or Kirk asked if she could call him—again, it’s fuzzy. Kirk’s first stop when she did move to America a few months later was New York, where she had contacts at a modeling agency. “I rented a flat on the Upper East Side,” she recalls. “I was there for a couple of months and thought, ‘I’m in the wrong bloody place! I need to be in L.A.’” For a while, she shuttled back and forth between the East and West coasts, auditioning for film roles and landing some bit parts, including a walk-on in James Franco’s low-budget NYU Film School production Black Dog Red Dog. (She never actually met Franco, who himself was later accused of harassing actresses.) It’s been reported that Kirk traveled in a flashy crowd at the time and even briefly dated billionaire producer Steve Tisch. But she denies it. “I’m not a party girl,” she insists. “I’m like an old person, really. My idea of fun is sitting in a nice, cozy place with a cup of tea.”
Even so, she clearly had a knack for showing up at the right place at the wrong time. In June 2012, while dining at Dan Tana’s, she met Ratner, director of such blockbusters as Rush Hour and X-Men: The Last Stand. At the time, Kirk was having visa problems—she had permission to work in the U.S. as a model, not an actress—and Ratner offered to write a letter of recommendation to DHS’s immigration department. “Ms. Dyke is an outstanding actress with remarkable talent. She has the unique ability to deliver each of her lines seamlessly,” he gushed in his 2012 endorsement. “I don’t recommend just anyone, but I believe that Ms. Dyke is an outstanding actress who would make a welcomed addition to the United States entertainment industry.”
But Ratner’s interest in Kirk apparently went beyond her theatrical abilities. According to court documents, the director insisted that Kirk have sex with him as a condition of his help. “Ms. Kirk refused to sleep with Ratner, but Ratner insisted and demanded that Ms. Kirk perform oral sex,” reads one of the court filings. “Due to her difficulty in social situations as a result of her autism, Ms. Kirk, hoping to secure a movie role in order to further her longtime dream of becoming a world-renown actress, submitted to Ratner’s force and performed oral sex.” The document goes on to describe a “cycle of sexual harassment” that included “numerous vulgar text messages” (like the one Ratner allegedly sent in June 2012 asking Kirk to “send some pussy shots”). All this, of course, was years before the 2017 Los Angeles Times story in which six other actresses—Olivia Munn and Natasha Henstridge among them—accused Ratner of forcing them to perform a range of sexual misdeeds.
Nevertheless, Ratner, through his attorney Marty Singer, vehemently denies the accusations: “Mr. Ratner never had sex with Miss Kirk and never asked her to do anything for him,” Singer maintains in a statement to Los Angeles, attaching a 2017 letter Kirk sent to Ratner in which she wrote, “I have no claims or issues with you” and called rumors that she was pursuing a harassment claim against him “very crazy.”
Still, there are other horror stories alleged in the court documents from around that period. Like the time Ratner introduced Kirk to director James Toback at the Harvard Club and Toback allegedly attempted to get Kirk to perform oral sex on him. (Toback, who in the years since has been accused of harassing 38 different women, could not be reached for comment.) Or the time Ratner introduced her to his friend Patrick Demarchelier, the famed fashion photographer, and he purportedly attempted to perform oral sex on her during a photo shoot. (Demarchelier could not be reached for comment, either.) Not surprisingly, by the end of the summer of 2012, Kirk had enough of New York and decamped for Los Angeles for good, hoping to make a fresh start.
She rented a dumpy studio apartment in Beverly Hills—at the corner of Camden and Wilshire—and used her modeling savings to purchase an old Chevy. But she says she spent most of her time either attending classes at the Lee Strasberg Institute or sitting in a local coffee shop, scouring the trades for auditions and writing emails to agents. She says she had virtually no social life in L.A. in those early days. She did, however, take up that offer from Meyer.
“She called and got put right through,” recalls Kirk’s friend. “She wasn’t a celebrity, but when she phoned one of the most powerful men in the industry, he got right on the line.” Meyer invited her to visit him at his C suite on the Universal lot, where he gave her the five-star treatment. “He flattered her relentlessly. ‘You’ve got talent, you’ve got the looks, the camera would love you,’” the friend goes on. “And he picked up the phone and called [producers] Jeffrey Katzenberg, Brian Grazer, and Joel Silver—three of his close friends—and sang her praises [to them] in front of her. And, of course, they said, ‘Send her over.’”
Kirk did indeed meet with Grazer and Silver, according to court documents, both of whom offered encouraging words, although Grazer clunkily admitted to Kirk that he was only taking the meeting as a favor to Meyer. Meanwhile, Meyer and Kirk continued communicating by phone—up to three times a week, according to Kirk’s friend—until late one night Meyer purportedly popped up at Kirk’s Beverly Hills studio with a bottle of wine and a gift, a necklace in a box labeled, awkwardly, “Jennifer Meyer”—the name of Meyer’s daughter’s jewelry company.
What happened next is hotly disputed. Meyer, through his lawyer Howard Weitzman, adamantly denies any nonconsensual contact, calling the claims “false, frivolous, and fabricated.” But according to papers filed by Kirk’s lawyer, the studio chief demanded that Kirk sleep with him as a condition of his continued career assistance. “Driven by extreme pressure and intimidation,” the lawyer wrote, “Ms. Kirk slept with Mr. Meyer, believing that she had no choice but to submit to his demands.” Over the next couple of days, feeling bad about what happened, Meyer supposedly apologized on the phone and allegedly attempted to make amends by helping Kirk land a part in a picture Silver was producing—a Liam Neeson hijacking thriller called Nonstop. About a week after he turned up at her apartment, Meyer invited Kirk to a hotel to discuss the role—a lead as a stewardess—promising Kirk that he’d “behave.” He didn’t, at least according to another document filed by Kirk’s lawyers, which claims Meyer “again forced himself” on Kirk.
“Completely untrue,” counters a source close to Meyer, who reiterates that the studio chief never had nonconsensual sex with Kirk and adds that Meyer never once promised her a role in anything. He goes on to argue that Kirk’s claims against Meyer conveniently didn’t come up until years after the alleged incidents, when Kirk and her “gang” threatened a lawsuit to “extort” him for hundreds of millions of dollars.
Whoever is telling the truth, Kirk never did get that lead role in Nonstop. Instead, she was demoted to a smaller part as a passenger. But she did get flown first-class from L.A. to New York, where the film was being shot. She was picked up at the airport by a limo and delivered to the set to shoot a scene that took all of ten minutes to complete. Then the limo drove her back to the airport for her return flight to L.A. “It seemed like a fake scene,” says Kirk’s friend. “Just a charade, part of the seduction.” Fake or not, Kirk’s turn in Nonstop ended up getting cut from the film.
Not all of Kirk’s adventures in Hollywood ended badly. When Polish filmmaker Tomasz Szafranski came to L.A. to cast No Panic, with a Hint of Hysteria, an English-language comedy that he was about to shoot in Warsaw, he hired Kirk as one of the leads, alongside Stephen Baldwin. The film was barely noticed in the U.S., but Kirk proved, if only to herself, that she could handle a starring role. There were smaller gigs, as well, including a don’t-blink appearance in a low-budget thriller called Fractured—”I was just a dead person, really, laying naked with blood all over me,” she says—and a few scenes in a Bruce Willis direct-to-video sci-fi drama called Vice.
Click here to continue reading.
SOURCE: Los Angeles Magazine – Benjamin Svetkey