Johnathon Schaech Accuses Director Franco Zeffirelli Of Molestation

Actor Johnathon Schaech, 48, has accused celebrated film director Franco Zeffirelli, 94, of sexual misconduct.

In a statement given to People, Schaech alleges that the incident occurred in 1992 when the Oscar-nominated Italian director cast the 22-year-old newcomer as the lead in his movie Sparrow.

Schaech, who had only been modeling and studying acting in Los Angeles for three years at the time, says he felt vulnerable around Zeffirelli from the start because his dyslexia made it difficult to master the film’s dialogue and dialect.

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“I could tell he wanted something from me beyond just being his leading man,” Schaech says. “He was in his sixties at the time, and you’d think I’d be safe in that situation. But I just knew I wasn’t safe. I felt it. My instinct was to stay away from him.”

Schaech adds that Zeffirelli “would drink to extremes, and become very aggressive and abusive.” He claims that while they were staying at an Italian château, the director would repeatedly knock on his locked bedroom door late at night.

“Almost every day, Franco would say, ’I need to be with you,’” Schaech recalls. “During the day, he would say things like ’I’m coming up to see you tonight’ and I would say, ’I’m not OK with that Franco, it’s not OK.’ He didn’t listen.”

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It was at a hotel in Sicily where Schaech says Zeffirelli finally got a key. “I was in bed sleeping and he let himself into the bedroom and he got beside my bed and was over the top of me on the side of the bed as I awoke,” he says. “He got in my face.”

“There was a moment where I was telling him ’No’ and he told me, ’We have to.’ I remember his breath smelling of scotch.”

“He molested me in my bed,” Schaech continues. “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. 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.”

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“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.”

“In the moment, I don’t remember thinking, ’Oh no, my career, I have to do this.’ [Instead] I felt like it was a rite of passage, like I had to do it in a sense. I was vulnerable. I didn’t scream and yell. I didn’t physically stop him, and it took me 25 years to answer the question why not.”

Schaech says that he was inspired to come forward about the incident by the bravery of his Doom Generation co-star Rose McGowan, one of Harvey Weinstein’s accusers.

“A predator found me and gave me this great opportunity and took advantage of me,” Schaech says. “I was molested, touched, groped, I was verbally abused. He beat me down to do that.”

Schaech, who has a young son with wife Julie Solomon, blames the abuse for years of intimacy issues and violent behavior. “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,” says the That Thing You Do! star. “It’s caused me to have major alcohol and drug problems, sexual addictions—it caused my whole world to be confused for a long time. I carried this shame all along.”

“I don’t care if you’re 22, or 12, a man or a woman, it’s not OK to take away innocence because you’re in a power position to do so,” Schaech concludes. “You have to face that thing that’s evil inside you or you will continue it onto the next generation. For my son, for the future of all of our kids, we have to stop it. Stop the evil. That’s why I wanted to talk. I want future generations to know they’re not alone.”

Zeffirelli, who came out publicly as gay in the mid-’90s but remained discreet about his personal life, revealed in his autobiography that he had been sexually assaulted by a priest while attending Catholic school. He clarified that he did not feel emotionally damaged by the incident and wrote that homosexual experiences “are not always bad for boys.”

Bruce Robinson has also claimed that Zeffirelli sexually harassed him when he appeared in the director’s 1968 adaptation of Romeo and Juliet.

In a response issued to People, Zeffirelli’s son Pippo says that Schaech’s allegations are “not credible and cannot be proved.” Pippo adds that his father is in poor health and will be unable to respond personally.

Schaech, who grew up with a gay uncle and two gay aunts, famously escorted Ellen DeGeneres to various events before the comedian came out as gay.

Celebrity interviewer. Foodie and Broadway buff in Manhattan. Hates writing bios.


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