'Florida Project' producer accused of sexual harassment by a dozen insiders

Earlier this year, the upstart June Pictures impressed by taking three films to Sundance and Cannes. One of those, The Florida Project, has since become an awards contender. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter before Sundance, June co-founder Andrew Duncan said one key to the company’s early success was its focus: “We keep outside noise on a minimum,” he said.

But the outside noise cannot be contained. Sources claim that Duncan, who has provided millions in financial backing for June, sexually harassed several people associated with the company and has also instructed a June employee to pay prostitutes. Duncan denies all of the claims of improper behavior, blaming unspecified "rivals of mine" bent on taking "cynical advantage of the news climate involving sexual harassment to undermine [June's] financial prospects."

The sources coming forward believe that Duncan’s partner in June Pictures, former ICM agent Alex Saks, has been aware of Duncan’s behavior for more than a year but did not take effective steps to address the issue when allegations were brought to her attention.

Following questions from THR, Saks announced late Thursday that Duncan is divesting from the company and she will lead it alone. “In light of allegations of misconduct against our investor Andrew Duncan, I am assuming sole ownership and leadership of June Pictures,” Saks said in a statement. “June Pictures is committed to a respectful work environment dedicated to producing quality films. We will continue our projects already in production and development.”

See photos of Andrew Duncan:

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NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 27: Andrew Duncan and Bria Vinaite attend IFP's 27th Annual Gotham Independent Film Awards at Cipriani Wall Street on November 27, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Steven Ferdman/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 10: (L-R) Producers Shih-Ching Tsou, Kevin Chinoy, Andrew Duncan, actress Mela Murder, filmmaker Sean Baker, actor Willem Dafoe, child actresses Brooklynn Prince and Valeria Cotto, actress Bria Vinaite, co-writer Chris Bergoch producers Alex Saks, Francesca Silvestri and guest Samantha Quan attend the 'The Florida Project' premiere at the Ryerson Theatre on September 10, 2017 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Dominik Magdziak Photography/WireImage)
LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 09: Producer Andrew Duncan attends the International Premiere of 'Thoroughbreds' during the 61st BFI London Film Festival on October 9, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images for BFI)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 03: June Pictures CEO Andrew Duncan and Mae Whitman attend the 'Operator' Premiere Party on November 3, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Todd Williamson/Getty Images for Welltrix, LLC)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 27: Andrew Duncan and Alex Saks attend 'Fun Mom Dinner' Premiere during the 2017 Sundance Film Festival at Eccles Center Theatre on January 27, 2017 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for Sundance Film Festival)
NANTUCKET, MA - JUNE 23: Producer Andrew Duncan attends the 'Fun Mom Dinner' screening during the 2017 Nantucket Film Festival - Day 3 on June 23, 2017 in Nantucket, Massachusetts. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for Nantucket Film Festival)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 21: Producer Andrew Duncan attends the 'Thoroughbred' premiere on day 3 of the 2017 Sundance Film Festival at Library Center Theater on January 21, 2017 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Sonia Recchia/Getty Images for Sundance Film Festival)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 03: June Pictures CEO Andrew Duncan and The Orchard's EVP Film and TV Paul Davidson attend the 'Operator' Premiere Party on November 3, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Todd Williamson/Getty Images for Welltrix, LLC)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 01: Andrew Duncan attends Momentum Pictures with The Cinema Society & SVEDKA host a screening of 'Fun Mom Dinner' at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema on August 1, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 21: Producer Andrew Duncan attends the 'Thoroughbred' premiere on day 3 of the 2017 Sundance Film Festival at Library Center Theater on January 21, 2017 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Sonia Recchia/Getty Images for Sundance Film Festival)
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As Duncan has provided the financing for June, severing ties with him would not appear to be an easy option, although he did confirm that Saks now "has sole operating control of the company and we have come to terms for her buyout of my stake." Saks did not respond to questions about how the company could move forward without Duncan’s financial backing or why she had not acted to sever the relationship sooner after hearing of alleged inappropriate conduct.

THR interviewed a dozen individuals with extensive knowledge of June Films since its launch a year ago. None would speak on the record for fear of retribution from Duncan and Saks. They describe a series of alleged incidents involving Duncan over the past year, including:

·      In mid-December 2016, Duncan allegedly initiated a FaceTime call at night with a female producer on the upcoming teen comedy Dude. Lying with his shirt open on a bed, sources say Duncan in crude language asked the producer — whom he did not know well — to have sex with her husband while he watched. When he became aware of another woman present in the producer’s home, he asked all three adults to have sex while he watched. Saks was told of the incident shortly after it occurred.

·      Earlier in December 2016, at a crew dinner on location in Oklahoma for a film called Wildlife, an apparently inebriated Duncan allegedly kissed a female crew member on the lips without her consent, squeezed another attendee on her bottom while hugging her, suggested that a male and female crew member “shotgun each other” (smoke and then kiss, transferring the smoke) and offered to purchase hotel rooms for the night if others reported their sexual activities back to him. Wildlife, which is Paul Dano’s directorial debut, will be in competition at Sundance. Saks was not present at the dinner but is said to have been told of Duncan’s conduct.

·      In August 2017, at a dinner with Saks and the producers of the upcoming film Book Club in at Vincenti in Los Angeles, a seemingly inebriated Duncan allegedly attempted to kiss a female producer on the lips without her consent and repeatedly propositioned two women at the table, one related to the female producer, for a threesome. Book Club, directed by Bill Holderman, boasts a roster of stars including Diane Keaton, Mary Steenburgen and Jane Fonda. Paramount is in the process of acquiring the film.

More high-profile men who have been accused of sexual misconduct:

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High-profile men accused of sexual harassment, assault and misconduct
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High-profile men accused of sexual harassment, assault and misconduct

Movie producer Harvey Weinstein is accused of sexually assaulting or harassing dozens of women, including a number of well-known celebrities, over the past several decades.

(REUTERS/Gus Ruelas)

Matt Lauer was fired from 'Today' after multiple women accused him of sexual misconduct that allegedly included giving a co-worker a sex toy and dropping his pants in front of a female employee in his office.

(REUTERS/Mike Segar)

Actor Jeffrey Tambor has been accused of sexual assault by two women from the Amazon series, "Transparent."  

(REUTERS/Danny Moloshok)

Eleven women have come forward accusing President Donald Trump of unwanted touching or kissing. Trump has called the sexual harassment claims 'fake news.'

(Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Sen. Al Franken is accused of kissing and groping a woman without her consent during a United Service Organizations (USO) tour in 2006.

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Director Woody Allen has been accused of sexual assault by his daughter, Dylan Farrow. She says she experienced inappropriate behavior by her adoptive father on several occasions.

(REUTERS/Eric Gaillard)

Hundreds of women accused longtime Hollywood writer and director James Toback of sexual harassment.

(TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images)

Comedian Louis C.K. has been accused of forcing women to watch him masturbate, according to the New York Times.

(Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images)

Director Bret Ratner has been accused of sexual harassment by several women, including actresses Olivia Munn and Natasha Henstridge.

(Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Actor Anthony Rapp accused Kevin Spacey of making a sexual advance towards him when he was 14 years old.

(REUTERS/Danny Moloshok)

Roger Ailes, the former president of Fox News Channel, was accused of sexually harassing former anchor Gretchen Carlson and several other women from the network.

(Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)

Several women accused TV host Charlie Rose of sexual misconduct, including groping and lewd phone calls.

(Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)

Bill Cosby has faced sexual assault allegations from about 60 women, including several women who claim he drugged them.

(Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images)

Four women, including several that were also fellow Scientologists, have accused actor Danny Masterson of sexual assault, according to HuffPost.

 (Photo by Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic)

Mark Schwahn, the former "One Tree Hill" showrunner, was accused of sexual harassment by a large number of the show's cast and crew.

(Photo by JB Lacroix/WireImage)

Roy Moore faced multiple allegations of sexual misconduct with underaged girls.

(REUTERS/Marvin Gentry)

Bill Clinton faced numerous allegations of sexual assault and misconduct while he was president of the United States, with accusers including Juanita Broaddrick, who accused him of rape, Kathleen Willey who said he groped her and Paula Jones who said he exposed himself to her without consent.

(Photo by Dirck Halstead/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

Actor Casey Affleck settled lawsuits out of court wth two women who accused him of sexual harassment.  

(Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Film Independent)

Bill O'Reilly has reportedly made numerous settlements with women who accused him of sexual harassment.

(Photo by: Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

Anthony Weiner, a former Democratic congressman was sentenced to 21 months in prison in September 2017 after pleading guilty to sexting a teenage girl.

(TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

Veteran journalist Mark Halperin has been accused of sexually harassing women while he worked at ABC News.

(Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

Singer R. Kelly is accused of holding women against their will in houses in Illinois and Georgia in a reported 'sex cult.'

(Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images)

Former Fox Host Eric Bolling was accused of sending unsolicited lewd text messages to female colleagues.

(Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)

Director Roman Polanski fled the US after pleading guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor. Several other women have also come forward to accuse him of sexual assault.

(REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann)

Chef John Besh stepped down from the company he founded after female employees reported facing sexual harassment there. 

(Photo by Mireya Acierto/Getty Images for NYCWFF)

Photographer Terry Richardson was labeled the 'Harvey Weinstein of Fashion' by the Sunday Times amid widespread accusations of sexual harassment by models.

(Photo by Eugene Gologursky/WireImage)

Singer Kesha accused Lukasz Gottwald aka Dr. Luke of drugging and sexually assaulting her on multiple occasions.

(Photo by Tommaso Boddi/WireImage)

Former champion boxer Mike Tyson was convicted of raping a Miss Black America contestant in 1992. 

(REUTERS/Michael Clevenger/POOL)

Former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar has been accused of sexual abuse by dozens of his former patients and athletes.

(JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)

Music mogul L.A. Reid left his position as Epic Records CEO/Chairman in 2017 amid harassment claims by a female assistant.

(Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images)

Amazon Studios chief Roy Price resigned following reports that he harassed a producer and ignored an actress' allegation of sexual assault by Harvey Weinstein.

(Photo by Paul Zimmerman/WireImage)

Several women have accused former President George H.W. Bush of groping them during photo ops.

(REUTERS/Adrees Latif)

Chris Savino (right), creator of  'The Loud House' was suspended by Nickelodeon after being accused of making unwanted advances toward multiple women.

(Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for SCAD)

Actor Steven Seagal was accused of sexual misconduct by Inside Edition's chief investigative correspondent Lisa Guerrero.

(Photo by Paul Archuleta/Getty Images,)

Michael Oreskes, senior vice president of news and editorial director of National Public Radio, was accused of inappropriate conduct with two women in 1990s.

(REUTERS/Fadi Al-Assaad)

Dustin Hoffman was accused of sexually harassing a production assistant when he was 48 and she was a high school senior.

(REUTERS/Stephane Mahe)

Jeremy Piven was accused by actress Ariane Bellamar of groping her on two separate occasions. Piven 'unequivocally' denied the allegations.

(REUTERS/Mike Blake)

Ben Affleck apologized for acting 'inappropriately' towards Hilarie Burton during an appearance on MTV's "Total Request Live" in 2003.

(REUTER/Dylan Martinez

Aziz Ansari was accused of sexual misconduct by a woman he went on a date with.

(REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)

Andy Dick was accused of sexual harassment and misconduct on set, including groping people’s genitals, unwanted kissing/licking and sexual propositions.

(Photo by Earl Gibson III/Getty Images)

Rep. Ruben Kihuen, (D) Nevada, was accused of making repeated, unwanted propositions for dates and sex to a woman that once worked on his campaign.

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Actor Ed Westwick was accused by actress Kristina Cohen of raping her in his home.

(REUTERS/Danny Moloshok)

David Guillod, producer of 'Atomic Blonde,' is accused of drugging and sexually assaulting several woman.

(Photo by Jennifer Lourie/Getty Images)

Andrew Kreisberg, the showrunner for "Supergirl," was suspended in November 2017 amid numerous sexual harassment allegations by members of his staff.

(Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

Actor Tom Sizemore was reportedly told to leave a film set in 2003 after an 11-year-old actress told her mother that he had touched her genitals.

(REUTERS/Phil McCarten)

Steve Jurvetson left his own venture capital firm after allegations of sexual harassment

(Photo by Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch)

A former model accused George Takei of sexually assaulting him 36 years ago.

(Photo by Tara Ziemba/FilmMagic)

Olympic gold medalist Hope Solo accused former FIFA president Sepp Blatter of sexually assaulted her at an award ceremony in 2013.

(REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann)

A former writer for 'Mad Men' said the show's creator Matthew Weiner told her that she owed it to him to let him see her naked.

(REUTERS/Danny Moloshok)

Ron Jeremy has been accused of sexually assaulting more than a dozen women and the allegations span more than 30 years.

(Photo by Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic)

Multiple women accused producer Adam Fields of touching them inappropriately and sexually propositioning them.

(Photo by Taylor Hill/WireImage)

Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) has been accused of unwanted sexual advances by former staffers.

(Jonathan Ernst / Reuters)

John Lasseter, the head of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, was accused of crossing the line with employees, including unwanted hugs.

(Photo by Gregg DeGuire/WireImage)

Singer Nick Carter was accused of rape by a former member of the all-girl teen band Dream, Melissa Schuman.

(Photo by Ray Tamarra/GC Images)

A singer accused billionaire Richard Branson of sexual assault during an event as his Necker Island in the Caribbean. Branson says he has no recollection of the matter.

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

Talent agent Adam Venit is accused of grabbing actor Terry Crews' genitals.

(Photo by Amanda Edwards/Getty Images)

Jeordie White (aka Twiggy Ramirez), Marilyn Manson former longtime bassist, was accused of rape by singer Jessicka Addams.

(Photo by Chris Weeks/WireImage for Bragman Nyman Cafarelli)

Lockhart Steele, Vox Media's editorial director was fired after a former employee accused him of sexual harassment.

(Photo by Hal Horowitz/WireImage for Haute Magazine)

Producer Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein's brother, has also been accused of sexual harassment. 

(Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for The Weinstein Company)

Jesse Lacey of  the band, Brand New, was accused of sexual misconduct, including soliciting nude photos from a teen girl in the past.

(Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Redferns)

Senior Correspondent for E! News Ken Baker California was accused of sexual harassment by two women.

(Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images)

American film director Oliver Stone was accused of groping model and actress Carrie Stevens in the 1990s.

(Photo by Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty Images)

Reporter Glenn Thrush was suspended by the New York Times after several women accused him of acting inappropriately when they were young journalists.

(Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images for SiriusXM)

Veteran radio host Garrison Keillor was fired by Minnesota Public Radio following claim of improper behavior.

(Photo by Al Pereira/WireImage)

CNN producer Teddy Davis was fired after multiple accusations of harassment.

(Photo via Twitter)

Producer Russell Simmons stepped down from his companies following sexual assault and harassment accusations from two women.

(REUTERS/Carlo Allegri)

Longtime conductor James Levine was suspended by New York's Metropolitan Opera after sexual abuse claims.

(Photo by Hiroyuki Ito/Getty Images)

Dylan Howard, editor in chief of the National Enquirer, was accused of sexual misconduct by several former employees, including forcing them to watch porn and openly discussing his sexual partners.

(REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)

"X-Men" director Bryan Singer was accused of raping a 17-year-old boy on a yacht in a lawsuit filed in December.

(REUTERS/Hannah McKay)

Harold Ford, Jr.

(Munshi Ahmed/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Chef Mario Batali has been accused by multiple women of "inappropriate touching in a pattern of behavior that spans at least two decades."

(Photo by Donna Ward/Getty Images)

PBS talk show host Tavis Smiley's show was suspended amid misconduct allegations made against him.

(REUTERS/Fred Prouser)

Former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb was fired from his job as an ESPN contributor amid accusations of sexual harassment by a wardrobe stylist at the network.

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Sen. Jeff Klein (D-New York), was accused of forcibly kissing a former female staffer back in 2015. 

(Photo by Mark Sagliocco/FilmMagic)

Ross Levinsohn, Los Angeles Times CEO and publisher, has reportedly been a defendant in two sexual harassment lawsuits and would rate the "hotness" of his female colleagues, according to a report by NPR.

(Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

A woman accused magician David Copperfield of drugging, sexually assaulting her when she was teen model in the 80s, according to The Wrap.

(REUTERS/Danny Moloshok)

James Franco was accused by several women of sexually inappropriate behavior. He was also criticized for wearing a "Time's Up" pin to the Golden Globes hours before the accusations against him surfaced.

(Photo by Michael Tran/FilmMagic)

Barry Lubin, also known as Grandma the clown, resigned from Big Apple Circus after admitting to pressuring a 16-year-old girl into posing for pornographic photos in 2004.

(Photo by David L Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Arizona Wildcats head football coach Rich Rodriguez was fired amid troubling off-field allegations. His former administrative assistant says Rodriguez inappropriately grabbed and touched her. 

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

President Trump's former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was accused of sexual assault by pro-Trump singer Joy Villa. She claims he hit her on the buttocks during an event at Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.

(Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images)

Steve Wynn, Chairman and CEO of Wynn Resorts, has been accused of sexual misconduct by dozens of peple. The Wall Street Journal the casino mogul regularly pressured employees to perform sex acts.

(REUTERS/Mike Blake)

Music exec and 'The Four' judge Charlie Walk was accused of sexual harassment by a former employee. Life Lab founder Tristan Coopersmith penned an open letter about Walk in January claiming he sent her lewd comment and cornered her in the bedroom he shared with his wife.

(Photo by Matthew Eisman/Getty Images for Vh1 Save The Music)

Several women filed sexual harassment complaints against Humane Society CEO Wayne Pacelle, according to the Washington Post.

(Photo by Linda Davidson / The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Actor Scott Baio, was accused of molesting is former 'Charles in Charge' co-star Nicole Eggert when she was a minor.

(REUTERS/Mike Segar)

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Sources say most June filmmakers appear to be unaware of Duncan’s alleged conduct. Sources say Saks, who named to THR’s NextGen list in October, has been grappling with how to proceed at June given imminent media reports on Duncan’s conduct. 

Asked about allegations that Duncan had asked for payoffs to be made to prostitutes, CFO Dori Rath responded, “I have not been directed to do anything with any funds that are within June Pictures. But as far as any questions about what payments have been made, it’s a private company. I can’t comment on funds in a private company, but to my knowledge, I have never been directed to make payments anywhere that would not be appropriate.” Company controller Eileen Mazzei did not respond to requests for comment.

Sources say Duncan has pledged millions to invest in the movie business. In an interview with THR a year ago, Duncan said he and Saks “hate being called investors.” The company’s game plan is to make movies across all genres, mostly in the $5 million to $10 million range.

June’s only announced project set to go into production in 2018 is My Life on the Road, an upcoming film based on the life of Gloria Steinem with Julianne Moore. 

Andrew Duncan's full statement:

My company, June Pictures, is going through a pivotal phase of growth and it seems apparent to me that some rivals of mine are trying to take cynical advantage of the news climate involving sexual harassment to undermine our financial prospects. The several circumstances that have been presented to me by news outlets are each distorted or demonstrably false in several key respects.

I was first contacted about allegations against me on Thursday, Dec. 14, late in the afternoon by The Hollywood Reporter with a demand that I reply within hours or face publication of the anonymous claims. Apparently, as I learned from colleagues, unknown sources were also encouraging stories by publications including Variety and Deadline Hollywood at the same time. It seems to me that maneuvering was done to create competitive pressure between those outlets and build a sense of momentum to essentially baseless assertions.  

Here are the specifics. In December, 2016, I hosted cast and crew of a film project to a collegial dinner at a public restaurant. That outing was an enthusiastic celebration of our project by all involved but at no time did I physically touch anyone inappropriately. None of the more than a dozen people that were present put their name to anything contrary, nor staff, nor anyone else at the venue at any time then or now. The situation that was recounted to me by reporters about that evening has no hard basis and simply did not happen as they describe it.  

Similarly, a supposed incident at a group dinner I hosted in August 2017, at a restaurant in Los Angeles has also been fabricated. No improper conduct occurred on that occasion either and there is no person that publicly corroborates otherwise.  

A video chat I had with a former co-producer and her spouse in December 2016, is also being misrepresented.  I said nothing in the exchange that was coercive in any way. Even-handed reporting ought to include the fact that my company had previously declined to finance a film that individual had previously proposed.  

The claim that I had sought to misappropriate company funds for an illicit purpose is entirely false and also has no supporting substantiation. I have never misused the company’s funds in any way, a fact that is affirmed by our chief financial officer.  

The internal business discussions I have had with colleagues about the future of our company have been underway for a long while and began well before any of these current falsehoods arose.  

Whatever the broader context in society, journalists owe the public and the subjects of their coverage an obligation to substantiate the stories they present, especially when those articles malign a person’s hard-earned reputation. It is both a painful and more difficult course of action for me to confront lurid and baseless allegations about my conduct in this detailed way. But I am obliged to take this stance both for my own personal integrity and out of sense of duty to the many dedicated employees and colleagues with whom I work.  

It seems obvious to me that substantiated facts and fairness are utterly absent from this reporting and that instead hidden sources are co-opting the press for their own, ulterior motives. I intend to stand up for my integrity and confront any wrongful allegations of misconduct and also any concealed methods that are taking place to advance those malicious claims.  

Alex Saks has sole operating control of the company and we have come to terms for her buyout of my stake.

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