My Traumatizing Years With Bryan Singer

In this first-person account, Blake Stuerman, 30, details his experiences over his four years with the filmmaker Bryan Singer, who came to prominence as a director with 1995’s “The Usual Suspects,” and directed several blockbusters, including “X-Men,” “Superman Returns,” and, most recently, 2018’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

Stuerman met Singer in 2009 in New York City when he was 18 years old, and entered into a sexual relationship with him shortly after; Singer was 43. Their time together ended after Stuerman was fired as Singer’s assistant in June 2013 on the film “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” which opened the following year. Stuerman believes his relationship with Singer was abusive and traumatic. He says he was further traumatized by witnessing an incident in 2012 in which Singer allegedly assaulted someone.

Variety corroborated parts of Stuerman’s account of his life with Singer through documents, photographs, emails and text messages provided by Stuerman, and by speaking with people in Stuerman’s and Singer’s orbits at the time of these events. In total, Variety interviewed 20 people for this story, 18 of whom spoke with Variety under an agreement of anonymity in order to protect their positions within the industry or out of concern of reprisals from Singer — as well as Stuerman’s parents. Stuerman’s allegation of assault was corroborated by someone who was present for it.

When given a detailed summary of what Stuerman wrote, Singer’s lawyer, Andrew Brettler, responded in a four-page letter in which he called Stuerman’s allegations “uncorroborated, inflammatory, and highly defamatory” and that Stuerman “simply has an axe to grind” against Singer. But Brettler did not dispute — nor did he comment on — the allegations that Singer had sex with Stuerman beginning when he was 18. He also did not dispute or comment on the claim that Singer assaulted someone and Stuerman witnessed it. Singer’s response is included at the end of the piece.

Singer has been the subject of controversy for much of his career, starting with allegations of misconduct involving minors on the set of the 1998 film "Apt Pupil," and exploding after being accused of raping a minor in a civil lawsuit in 2014 (that was later withdrawn). In 2019, Singer settled a lawsuit for $150,000 that claimed he’d raped a 17-year-old boy in 2003 (he denied the allegations). Singer has never been arrested or charged with a crime related to these allegations, and he has denied all allegations of sexual misconduct. His professional habits have also come under scrutiny, and in late 2017, he was fired from “Bohemian Rhapsody” after causing what the Hollywood Reporter called “chaos on set.” He hasn’t directed a movie since. —Adam B. Vary and Kate Aurthur

I turned 18 in March of 2009. Just days after my birthday, my life would change forever.

I was working in New York as an assistant scenic designer when I was introduced to Bryan Singer. Bryan had heard about me through Gary Goddard, a friend of his, who was producing two of the shows I was working on. I was stick thin, wildly precocious and looked no older than 15. The textbook definition of a twink.

The first night I met Bryan, I was invited to a late dinner at Nobu 57. Gary called, instructing me to meet him and his friends for dinner. Gary’s friends had come to town for the opening of his shows. He said their helicopter had just landed and they were en route. He followed up minutes later to make sure I was coming. I had to Google what Nobu 57 was.

After arriving at the restaurant, I was escorted to a large table of men. It was after 11 p.m. and the dining room was mostly empty. There was just one open seat next to Gary. Bryan eyed me from across the table while Gary quietly explained that Bryan was a famous movie director who had made “X-Men” and “Superman Returns.” I had never heard of him before, but those movies were obviously very familiar. I fumbled with my chopsticks as Bryan asked about the shows I was working on and what I wanted to do with my career. Each time a new platter of sashimi was served, Bryan’s assistant would tell me how expensive it was. I had to tell Gary that I couldn’t afford to split this. He shared that with the table and they all laughed. It was the first time I had ever been around true wealth.

Bryan invited all of us back to his sprawling hotel suite. He asked to see my driver’s license because he couldn’t believe I was actually 18. I was accustomed to people asking how old I was because I did look so young. It was getting quite late, and I needed to take the subway home. Bryan was clearly disappointed that I needed to leave, and offered me a drink. He told me if I stayed, his driver could take me home. I declined. He insisted on giving me money for a cab and invited me to spend the week hanging out with him and his friends.

I was subletting a small room in an apartment on the Upper West Side. I took the subway everywhere. I couldn’t afford to take a cab even just a few blocks. I suddenly found myself riding around all over the city in a motorcade. On one rainy afternoon, we popped into an art gallery where Bryan casually dropped more than $10k on a John Waters self-portrait because he found it amusing.

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Blake Stuerman and Bryan Singer in 2009. Courtesy of Blake Stuerman

Each meal Bryan would say, “I’m sitting here. Blake’s sitting next to me. The rest of you figure it out.” At most of the dinners, Bryan would have something in a martini glass. I had never had a sip of alcohol or done any drugs prior to meeting him. One night at dinner, he pressed me on why I didn’t drink. Just try it. It’s OK. You’re safe. I relented and took a sip of his drink. It burned my throat. He insisted I have the rest. And then he ordered another.

He invited all of us back to his hotel suite after dinner. A legendary theater and film actor swung by as the evening grew late. The group left his suite a few at a time until I found myself alone with Bryan.

I was newly 18, alone in a hotel suite with a rich and famous man who was giving me his full attention, and I was intoxicated for the first time in my life. My chest grows tight now just thinking about it. You can imagine what happened next. I didn’t know I was allowed to say no. I didn’t know that alcohol was affecting my decision-making ability.

The next day, he asked whether I’d like to see Los Angeles. I had never been there, and he was offering to fly me with him on his plane. He told me I should work in film, that it’s what I’m “meant to do.” I felt he understood me; I always knew I was meant to tell stories. Bryan told me if I was serious about my future, I needed to move to Los Angeles.

So I did. That’s when I learned he had a reputation for liking very young-looking men.

Older men would lead groups of twinks, like me, into Bryan’s house. It was expected that these men had already vetted these boys to make sure they were legal. He would come hang out for a bit, make sure everyone had drinks, and then he’d pick the one, two, or more who he liked and we’d see them an hour or three later. I was often one of them.

I wanted to think I was special, different from all of the others. I did everything I could to prove myself. I worked hard and secured contract work at various firms and studios. Bryan told me I was talented. He was mentoring me. I had been hooked by the promise of working in film. I moved across the country on my own dime at his encouragement. He said it’s what I was supposed to be doing. As long as he wasn’t hurting anyone, I thought, it was OK. I mean, I had been a willing participant, right?

Around this time, Bryan went from rich to fuck you fuck you fuck you rich. He was making tens of millions a year, sometimes millions a month, off the television show “House,” which he had an executive producer credit on. He seemed to consider himself untouchable. And I thought I was so incredibly lucky to have such a talented and powerful man as my mentor. He invited me to sets, post-production sessions, script readings, development meetings, film festivals, parties and dinners. He would pay for meals and was extremely generous — he even took me to dinner with Sir Elton John. He also began to expect sex more frequently.

He would invite me over to watch movies until late each night. He called it “Bryan Singer’s Film School.” It was usually just the two of us but sometimes others would join and then leave the moment the movie ended. It was then expected that we’d have sex or, at the very least, I would masturbate with him. The nights he couldn’t fall asleep, he would read David Sedaris to me. He would get very frustrated if I fell asleep before he was finished.

For a long time — including up to a few years ago — I would vehemently defend Bryan. He’s not like what you hear! He’s very generous! No, he’s never been inappropriate with me! If he was so awful, do you think I’d be friends with him? 

I didn’t want to be another one of Bryan’s boys that got used and discarded. I wanted to tell stories — it’s what I’m meant to do. It’s what he told me I’m meant to do. I watched as he could make or break a career on a whim. He could turn his friends into millionaires because he felt like it. It’s what he kept promising to do for me.

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Singer and Stuerman, in November 2009. Courtesy of Blake Stuerman

As we got closer, he expected even more. If he didn’t find a boy out at the bars that night, I would have to be the boy. If I put up even a little bit of resistance, he’d get angry. Why would I throw my future away? If I wanted to leave I was welcome to, but I wouldn’t be allowed back. He would text me about sex: “Boy cum yeahhhhhhhhh!”

In the fall of 2012, a small group of us were sitting on the back patio of Bryan’s house. It was well after midnight, and Bryan had already passed out in his room. On the opposite side of the property, the party was still raging. The thumping of the bass was relentless.

I could never have predicted what came next, it all happened so fast. I heard loud yelling coming toward me. When I turned, I saw Bryan charging toward us screaming very angrily. He violently attacked one of the guests near me. I grabbed Bryan and took him back into the house. His eyes were wild and full of rage. I had never seen him like this before. We went to his room and he slammed the door. I found a shattered lamp on the floor and began picking up the pieces.

“I’ll fucking kill you if you leave me.” Those were his exact words. I had never witnessed or experienced physical violence before meeting Bryan.

I realized I was trapped alone in a room with a violently drunk man. The terror quickly sank in. What had happened? I did my best to calm him down. I chose my words as carefully as I could. Would something I say set him off? I didn’t want to find out.

The room was dark and the thumping from the pool had grown even louder. It was keeping him from sleeping. He was growing angry again. If I had to scream for help, no one would have heard me.

I began sending frantic texts to people who were still partying, telling them to shut everything off. He kept telling me to put my phone away, his tone becoming more and more aggressive. I hid the light of my phone behind a ridge of the comforter. I continued sending texts as discreetly as I could. I pleaded with them to tell everyone to go to sleep or leave. This wasn’t a joke. My texts were desperate. I was desperate.

It was nearly 6 a.m. by the time I was able to get everything shut down. That’s when he finally fell asleep.

From then on, I lived in fear of Bryan following through on his threats.

If Bryan found out I had hooked up with someone without his permission — without inviting him to participate — he berated me, and dangled my future in front of me. I wasn’t allowed to date. I wasn’t allowed to have sex with people of my choosing. He controlled me.

Bryan values loyalty above all else, so I quickly became an integral member of his posse. He included me on projects he was developing and making, like 2013’s “Jack the Giant Slayer,” and gave me a seat at the table. Any good idea I had was his idea. At least he liked my ideas. I just needed to work for him for a year or two, and then I could escape. I could go work for someone else. Just a little bit longer, I thought. I was now formally on the payroll. I had a credit card. We had essentially lived together for months at this point — spending every moment together. I didn’t have a life outside of Bryan. The very few friends I did have stopped speaking to me because I didn’t have the time to see them.

During production on “X-Men: Days of Future Past” in spring 2013 in Montreal, the mental and emotional abuse from Bryan would frequently trigger panic attacks. One panic attack was so severe that I collapsed from hyperventilation and was taken by ambulance to the emergency room. I would be so exhausted from not getting more than three or four hours of sleep a night that I once fell asleep sitting upright, mid-bite, with a fork in my mouth at a dinner.

He would go out almost every night during production. I was expected to be right by his side. I didn’t know this wasn’t normal. When I asked him if it was OK if I stayed sober he said, “That’s not fun for me.

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Bryan Singer on the set of “X-Men: Days of Future Past” in 2013. 20th Century Fox / courtesy Everett Collection

As he became more erratic and under pressure during filming, I was his primary source of relief. Everything was my fault. If he didn’t get fucked last night? It was my fault. If he pissed the bed from drinking too much? Somehow, it was my fault. If he stepped in a puddle, it was my fault. Sex between us had become much less frequent which, in hindsight, was likely adding to his behavior toward me.

Bryan would keep the actors and crew waiting while he worked to sober up in the mornings. We would come up with excuses to buy more time. As calls would come in telling us they were ready for him to come to set, he would lash out at me. One morning, I just couldn’t take much more of what he was saying to me. My body couldn’t take much more. I told him he was an alcoholic and needed help. He flew into a rage and screamed back, “I know I’m a fucking alcoholic! You just fucked up, man. You just fucked up so bad. GET THE FUCK OUT!”

I hid in a trailer on the far end of basecamp for the rest of the day. I felt sick to my stomach. Why hadn’t I just taken it? Now my career was over.

Someone from the production knocked on the door and came in and told me that this happens. It’s normal. Just give him a few hours and he’ll calm down. I said I didn’t know if I could keep doing this. Their tone shifted. I was asked what it would take for me to keep going. Is it money? Do you want more money? That’s easy. I said I needed to think about it. It bought me a day and a half off, which allowed me to get some sleep. Bryan cooled down and I decided to stay. It wasn’t long before it was back to the same.

On a Sunday in the summer of 2013, as production on “Days of Future Past” continued, I accidentally overslept. We weren’t working that day, but we were supposed to get brunch. I was awoken by security coming into my apartment. When they confirmed I was alive, I was told I needed to pack my things. I was being sent back to Los Angeles. I had less than two hours to get out.

To make sure you’re loyal and that you won’t leave, Bryan gives you a taste of having nothing. He teaches you a lesson. Your credit card is frozen, and you’re expected to pay for yourself to get back home. It’s like a time out. It scares people into realizing what they’ll lose. I was told to lay low and wait a few days. Just let it blow over.

But I was done. I got back to L.A., and I didn’t even know who I was. I didn’t have any friends who weren’t also his friends, too. I didn’t know who I could trust. I didn’t even know who I could talk to. I’d been warned that if I left, I was out. I so badly wanted to finish the movie or, at least, make it to the end of filming, but by that point I knew nothing would change.

I made my feelings known and a separation agreement, which included a final, low five-figure payment, was drawn up. I was not included in the credits of “Days of Future Past.” I was told it was simply “an oversight.”

I was told that I did all of this to myself and had no one else to blame. I was convinced that I’d fucked up and hadn’t worked hard enough. I thought I blew my one shot at getting to tell stories. All my self-worth was tied to what I did and who I knew. Now I was nothing.

"I'm choosing to get back into the industry on my terms. I will not defend abusers. I will not allow myself to be abused."

Just before “Days of Future Past” was released in 2014, Bryan was very publicly accused of sexual assault and rape. Since I had been in his orbit for so long, my life was analyzed, hacked, and sold to tabloids. I had been warned not to say anything. Unable to defend myself publicly and embarrassed I had been fired, I completely retreated and fell into a severe depression.

I had to move home. My parents watched me struggle to get out of bed each day for almost two years. They watched as I repeatedly dealt with alcohol abuse and dependence on anti-anxiety medications. As a condition of living with them, I began seeing a therapist weekly. Even after years of therapy, I still instinctively believe anything that goes wrong is my fault, and mine to fix. I say sorry so much that I’m often asked for what it is I’m apologizing. I thought about all those who came before me — what condition were they in? It turns out addiction, severe depression, PTSD and anxiety are all very common among those of us who experienced Bryan’s wrath.

Studies have shown that victims of abuse, especially emotional abuse, often defend their abuser for a fair amount of time even after the relationship has ended. Up until a few years ago, I still defended Bryan in private. If someone brought up the rumors of his alleged behavior, I would deny them. It wasn’t until I began receiving treatment specifically for abuse and PTSD that I accepted what had actually happened.

I am a victim of abuse by a very powerful, very wealthy and very sick man. I am a victim of Bryan Singer.

In 2019, Bryan was again accused of sexual assault and rape, this time in a story published by The Atlantic. Reading the piece, I saw myself in the life-altering struggles the victims experienced as a result of their alleged assaults.

While it’s unlikely Bryan will ever get to make another movie, he will be just fine. He has more money than he knows what to do with.

I’m choosing to get back into the industry on my terms. I will not defend abusers. I will not allow myself to be abused.

But is a career in Hollywood even possible under these terms?

I just want to tell stories. It’s what I’m meant to do.

Finally, I’m ready to tell mine.

Variety senior entertainment writer Adam B. Vary and editor-at-large Kate Aurthur first became aware of Blake Stuerman in 2014 when reporting on allegations of rape against Singer at BuzzFeed News, and tried unsuccessfully to contact Stuerman many times to speak with him. In August 2021, Stuerman emailed Vary, saying he was interested in publishing a piece about his experiences with Singer. To help corroborate his account, Stuerman provided extensive documentation, from photographs of him with Singer to text messages of a sexual nature between him and Singer. Stuerman also provided text messages he sent the night he alleges he witnessed Singer assault someone at a party; in one text, which Variety authenticated with the recipient, Stuerman says Singer “told me he’d kill me if I left his side.”

Among the 20 people Variety spoke with to corroborate Stuerman’s account, were those who knew Singer and/or Stuerman during their time together — as well as people who worked on “X-Men: Days of Future Past” or had worked with or were familiar with Singer in a professional capacity. And a source with direct knowledge of his deal confirmed that Singer did make millions of dollars from the Fox drama “House” — he directed the pilot and was credited as an executive producer — which ran for eight seasons and 177 episodes from 2004 to 2012.

In Brettler’s response to Variety’s email detailing Stuerman’s allegations, he refers to the memo as “a bullet point list of the uncorroborated, inflammatory, and highly defamatory allegations from Mr. Stuerman”; but Brettler also provided a series of text messages from Stuerman to Singer that further corroborate that Stuerman’s relationship with Singer was sexual in nature, including redacted nude images of Stuerman; that Stuerman felt dependent on Singer for money; and that Stuerman’s mental health had deteriorated by the end of his relationship with Singer.

“As you will see, [Mr. Stuerman] also repeatedly asks Mr. Singer for money, for a job, and for a place to live,” Brettler writes. “Early in their relationship, he and Mr. Singer both expressed their affection for one another, but as time passed, Mr. Stuerman grew increasingly paranoid, delusional, and needy. It was then that Mr. Singer began distancing himself from Mr. Stuerman.”

Brettler did not address Stuerman’s allegation of witnessing an assault by Singer, nor Stuerman’s allegation that Singer got him drunk before their first sexual encounter when Stuerman was 18.

“The types of allegations that Mr. Steurman [sic] now is leveling against Mr. Singer are nothing more than self-serving and conclusory statements with absolutely no evidentiary support,” Brettler writes. He adds: “Mr. Stuerman is angry and upset that he allegedly did not receive the ‘credit’ that he thought he deserved on Mr. Singer’s films....And, most of all, he is angry and upset that Mr. Singer is no longer funding Mr. Stuerman’s jet setting lifestyle and supporting Mr. Stuerman financially, as he had done for so many years.”

“It is evident, based on the limited information that Mr. Vary provided, that Mr. Stuerman does not want to take any responsibility and/or accountability for the decisions he made and actions he took as an adult,” writes Brettler. “Rather, he spins a tale of alleged grooming and abuse, supposedly at the hands of Mr. Singer, even though Mr. Stuerman acknowledges he was a ‘willing participant’ in the relationship.”

In separate correspondence, Brettler pointed Variety to a National Enquirer article about Justin Bieber’s “Weed-Mobile” that includes a photo of Stuerman among partygoers who “drank beer and reportedly smoked weed” on an evening in September 2012: “This article further undermines Mr. Stuerman’s claim that ‘until he met Mr. Singer, he’d never drank or done drugs.’”

As Stuerman writes, and many people corroborated to Variety, Stuerman and Singer had met three years earlier, in 2009.

Gary Goddard could not be reached for comment.