Black issued an apology Thursday afternoon for casting Steven Wilder Striegel in a scene opposite Olivia Munn: “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,” Black added.
The scene featured Steven Wilder Striegel’s character hitting on Olivia Munn’s character. Fox removed the scene after Munn told the studio on Aug. 15 about Striegel being a registered sex offender. Striegel pleaded guilty in 2010 to two felonies — risk of injury to a child and enticing a minor by computer — after facing allegations that he attempted to lure a 14-year-old female into a sexual relationship through the internet. He served six months in jail.
“Our studio was not aware of Mr. Striegel’s background when he was hired,” a Fox spokesperson said in a statement on Thursday to Variety. “Several weeks ago, when the studio learned the details, his one scene in the film was removed within 24 hours. 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 told the Los Angeles Times that he did not have to audition for his part in the movie. “The character I played was named after a mutual friend of ours, and it seemed a good fit,” he said.
Striegel was cast previously cast in Black’s 2013 film, “Iron Man 3” and in 2016’s “The Nice Guys.” Black defended his decision to cast Striegel in “The Predator,” telling the L.A. Times, “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.”
Munn told the newspaper that she found it “both surprising and unsettling” that Black did not share this information to the cast, crew, or Fox Studios prior to, during, or after production. She also said, “However, 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.”
Striegel also released a statement to the Times. “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. 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.”
“The Predator” premieres Thursday night at the Toronto International Film Festival before opening in theaters nationwide Sept. 14. Early tracking has shown is will open in the $25 million to $30 million range. Black’s new installment of the “Predator” franchise follows the titular aliens, who return to Earth, now deadlier than ever before after taking the DNA of other species. Jacob Tremblay’s character accidentally triggers an alert that brings the Predators back to Earth.
Black is directing from a script he co-wrote with Fred Dekker. John Davis has returned to produce after producing the three previous installments. The cast also includes Sterling K. Brown, Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Keegan-Michael Key, Alfie Allen, Thomas Jane, Augusto Aguilera, Jake Busey, and Yvonne Strahovski.