'Fast and Furious' director Rob Cohen accused of sexual assault
Four years ago, Hollywood director Rob Cohen invited 28-year-old Jane to a business meeting in Manhattan to discuss collaborating on a TV pilot. Cohen chose the cigar lounge where they met and ordered her a drink, even though she didn’t ask for one, Jane would later recall. He then moved the meeting to a restaurant that happened to be situated right by the hotel where he was staying, ordered a carafe of wine and encouraged her to drink some more, she said.
By the night’s end, Jane said she found herself regaining consciousness in Cohen’s hotel room, naked, while the director sexually assaulted her. She jolted out of bed and threw up.
Medical records reviewed by HuffPost show that Jane sought treatment for sexual assault after meeting with Cohen. Two people close to Jane confirmed that she told them about the assault both immediately after it happened and again about a year later.
HuffPost also reviewed text messages between Jane and Cohen, sent about two-and-a-half years after the alleged assault, in which she told him, “The night we met, you really hurt me and fucked me up.” At the time, Cohen wrote back that he was “so sorry to hear this.” He later told HuffPost, through a lawyer, that he was apologizing for what he believed was a dispute over compensation for her work on the TV pilot.
In response to a detailed list of questions from HuffPost, Cohen’s lawyer Martin Singer sent a 13-page letter denying any wrongdoing.
“The proposed Story is an outrageous defamatory hit piece, making extraordinarily offensive assertions that my client engaged in heinous sexual misconduct, criminal wrongdoing, and other inappropriate behavior, which are vehemently disputed and denied by my client,” wrote Singer, who is well-known in Hollywood for representing Bill Cosby and other men accused of sexual misconduct in that cutthroat industry. Singer cautioned HuffPost against “publishing this Story in an effort to feed the ‘Me Too’ media frenzy with this salacious Story.”
Cohen is best known for directing the first “Fast and the Furious” film back in 2001, which spawned a $5.8 billion global franchise with seven subsequent installments and two more planned. He directed “xXx,” released in 2002, and “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor,” released in 2008, along with a number of other frenetic films packed with handguns and high-speed car chases.
In February, his daughter, 32-year-old Valkyrie Weather, publicly accused him of molesting her when she was a toddler. Weather, who is transgender, also recalled trips with Cohen to visit sex workers in overseas shooting locations when she was a teen and still presenting as a boy. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, the director described his daughter’s allegations as “categorically untrue.”
The molestation allegation was not new to Cohen — Weather’s mother brought it up in divorce proceedings more than two decades ago. Cohen, through his lawyer, told HuffPost that his being awarded sole custody of Weather in the divorce proceedings demonstrated that the allegations were not valid. At the time, evaluators could not determine whether abuse took place, according to documents reviewed by HuffPost.
Jane contacted Weather this year shortly after reading Weather’s public statement. Jane wasn’t interested at the time in making her story public, but the two women had worked together, and Jane wanted Weather to know she wasn’t alone. She agreed to talk to HuffPost as a way of supporting Weather and has now decided to go public with her experience.
Cohen met Jane, who requested anonymity to protect her privacy, in early 2015 to discuss her role consulting on that TV pilot with his daughter Weather. The director had offered to use the industry contacts he’d accumulated in his four-decade-long career to shop the pilot around to the networks. Emails reviewed by HuffPost confirm that Cohen collaborated with Jane and Weather on the television project, although it never came to fruition. A major network representative also confirmed to HuffPost that she had discussed the project with Cohen.
Jane felt weird about the meeting with Cohen almost immediately. Cohen flirted with her and volunteered details about his sex life, she recalled. But she needed the money and was excited about the career opportunity, so she tried to ignore his comments.
Although Jane’s memory of the later parts of the evening is incomplete, there are details she remembers vividly. She remembers feeling suddenly alone with Cohen in the large restaurant after the other diners had trickled out. She remembers starting to feel “fuzzy.” She remembers him leaning over to kiss her cheek and thinking that was strange. She remembers being at another bar with Cohen — she distinctly remembers the checkerboard-patterned floor.
The next thing she remembers is waking up naked, she said. She remembers Cohen’s face in her crotch and his fingers inside her. She had not consented to any of this.
She made her way to the bathroom to vomit and stumbled back to the bed. Cohen tried to penetrate her, but he stopped when she told him to, she said.
Meanwhile, Jane’s boyfriend at the time was starting to worry, he said in an interview with HuffPost. Jane had told him about the meeting with Cohen and said she expected to be home around 10 p.m. By that time, he hadn’t received any text messages from her in a while. He thought it was strange for an older man (Cohen was then in his mid-60s) to turn a business meeting with a 28-year-old woman into a late night of drinking, but he knew the show was a good opportunity for his girlfriend — who was struggling to find work — so he tried to be supportive.
Jane finally arrived at her boyfriend’s house in a taxi around 1:30 a.m. He wanted to know what had happened that night, but they were both tired and just went to bed. When they woke up in the morning, Jane was distant. Her boyfriend still remembers her “thousand-mile stare.”
At first, Jane didn’t know what to make of her experience with Cohen, she told HuffPost. She had a vague uneasy feeling about the night before but her memory of the encounter was hazy.
The night after the alleged assault, Jane went out to dinner with her boyfriend. Once they were seated, Jane’s gaze settled on the checkerboard floor. She panicked as memories of the previous night flooded into focus. Unable to conceal her anxiety, she told her boyfriend what had happened after her meeting with Cohen.
The fact that Jane says she vividly remembers being assaulted but has a hazy recollection of other parts of the evening is not unusual, Patricia Resick, a psychiatry professor at Duke University, said in an interview. Jane would not have been able to form any memories during the time she was unconscious, Resick noted. And even when she was conscious, she would have no reason to remember parts of the evening that did not seem unusual or dangerous.
Jane told HuffPost that she was a social drinker at the time and does not recall consuming enough alcohol to black out or lose consciousness. “It did not feel like being very drunk,” she said.
Within a matter of weeks, Jane went to a health clinic to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases. Medical records reviewed by HuffPost show she sought treatment as a victim of sexual assault. Jane told the medical professional who treated her that she continued to work on show development and communicate with her alleged assailant, medical records show.
Cohen recalls meeting Jane at a bar in 2015 to discuss the television project, but he denies being in a hotel room with her or sexually assaulting her, Singer wrote. According to his lawyer, Cohen also denies that Jane was unconscious in his presence and claims that Jane left immediately after their meeting ended.
After the health clinic visit, Jane tried to move on. She still wanted the TV project to work out. And she hoped that what Cohen did to her was a one-time mistake by a man of an older generation, rather than part of a pattern of predatory behavior. Maybe he felt deep regret, she thought. Maybe no one had told him about the importance of confirming consent. But the assault continued to weigh on her, she said.
In 2016, more than a year after the incident, Jane’s current boyfriend — who didn’t yet know about her experience with Cohen — made a joke about one of the “Fast and the Furious” movies while they were waiting for a train. Jane winced at the joke and her boyfriend could tell he’d said something wrong, he recalled in an interview. Jane told him that she had been raped by Cohen but that she didn’t like talking about it. She asked him not to tell anyone.
hearing all this shit about harvey is really hard and i can’t stop thinking about what you did. i keep wondering if you even know or care how much you hurt me. im guessing no.Jane, in a text message to Rob Cohen after the Harvey Weinstein story broke
Then, in October 2017, The New York Times and The New Yorker exposedHollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s decadeslong pattern of sexual misconduct. The news made it even harder to put Cohen out of her mind. She was frustrated that she was still affected by him, even years after the assault, she said. The next month, she decided to confront him.
“The night we met, you really hurt me and fucked me up. hearing all this shit about harvey is really hard and i can’t stop thinking about what you did. i keep wondering if you even know or care how much you hurt me. im guessing no,” Jane texted Cohen, whose number HuffPost confirmed. “Anyway, im not tryina be in the news or anything, i don’t want anything from you, but an apology would be nice.”
Cohen texted her back about an hour later. “I’m so sorry to hear this,” he wrote, according to texts reviewed by HuffPost. He asked if he could call her the following day and she agreed.
When he called, Cohen apologized for causing her pain but framed the incident as a misunderstanding between two people who had drunk too much, Jane said. At the time, she wanted to believe that was true.
Shortly after the phone call, Jane recounted the conversation with Cohen in text messages to her former boyfriend — the one who had been waiting for her to return home the night of the alleged assault. Jane told her ex-boyfriend that Cohen didn’t “challenge [her] account” and “seemed to understand that he needs to be careful about consent especially when drunk in the future,” according to the contemporaneous messages reviewed by HuffPost.
She felt a little better after the call, she told her ex. She felt like she had passed the guilt on to Cohen. She didn’t want her name in the news and she didn’t think “canceling” him would help her. She just wanted him to understand what he had done to her so that he wouldn’t hurt anyone else.
Asked by HuffPost about his apologetic text to Jane, Cohen claimed he’d thought she was talking about money. “My client recalls receiving an odd text or email from [Jane] inferring that she had been taken advantage of, which my client understood to be a complaint that she had never gotten paid for consulting on the defunct project,” Cohen’s lawyer Singer wrote. “Significantly, my client categorically disputes that [Jane] said anything to him during that call about any alleged sexual assault.”
Presented with a screenshot of the text conversation between Jane and Cohen — in which Jane referenced “the night we met” and Harvey Weinstein — Singer said that “nothing in the alleged text exchange you provided is inconsistent” with Cohen’s explanation of events.
Earlier this year, Jane learned she wasn’t the only person with sexual assault allegations against Cohen. On Feb. 21, Cohen’s daughter Weather accused him of having used her body “for his own sexual gratification” when she was 2 years old. Weather posted her statement on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit ― where Jane eventually found it.
She always had the sense that she had been sexually abused as a young child, Weather told HuffPost, and it was a feeling that confused her since she couldn’t recall a specific incident of abuse. That feeling grew more acute as she got older, particularly after she came out as transgender and started working with a therapist. In April 2017, when Weather was 30, she decided she needed to ask her mother directly. She wasn’t comfortable discussing it over the phone, so she reached out to her mom on Facebook Messenger.
“Was I raped?” she asked her mother, Dianna Mitzner.
“When you were a toddler,” Mitzner wrote back, “I walked into the bathroom you were in the bathtub with him he was usu g [sic] your body to masturbate.”
Cohen denied the allegations when Weather confronted him via email days later. “NONE OF THAT WAS TRUE,” he wrote in an email, which HuffPost has reviewed. “It was SHE who had you on top of her naked body in the bath tub when I came home unannounced.”
Cohen offered a more measured statement when Weather went public with her story this year. “I hope and pray that one day, my child will come into the realization that no matter what anyone says or tries to convince her was the case when she was a child, it is both untrue and unimaginable,” he told The Hollywood Reporter in February.
When Mitzner brought up the alleged bathtub incident during her divorce from Cohen in the early 2000s, he denied the allegations but did not accuse Mitzner of being the abuser. He also made no mention of abuse by Mitzner in his communication with HuffPost.
After a yearslong custody battle, Weather was sent to live with Cohen in Los Angeles, which had more schooling options than the rural area where her mother resided. Weather chose to move back in with her mother less than a year later, she told HuffPost.
Through his attorney, Cohen pointed to the custody outcome of the divorce proceedings as vindication. Because there were no other witnesses, HuffPost could not independently corroborate Mitzner’s version of events. But to Weather, her mother’s description of the abuse rang true. It felt like the answer to a question she had been struggling with for most of her life. And it resonated with her memories of her father thrusting his pelvis in front of her face when she was a child and taking her to see sex workers in Thailand and the Czech Republic when she was a teenager.
The “narrative that I was somehow tricked into believing he abused me, that I was too young to remember my experiences at that age, falls short when talking about a barely adolescent child in Prague and Bangkok,” she told HuffPost.
Weather felt it was important to come forward because she suspected her father had mistreated others. “My greatest hope is that others who have been hurt by Rob Cohen feel that they are able to come forward as well,” she wrote in her statement earlier this year.
When Jane saw Weather’s post on Reddit, she was angry that she had convinced herself that her experience with Cohen was an anomaly.
Oh, what the fuck, she thought.
By then, the television project had fizzled. Jane and Weather were no longer in regular contact but they still occasionally swapped podcast recommendations or movie trailers. Jane had never told Weather about being assaulted by Cohen because she didn’t want to damage Weather’s relationship with her father. And she still didn’t want to go public with her story. But she did want Weather to know she wasn’t alone.
“Hey,” Jane wrote on Facebook Messenger.
“I kinda never wanted to tell u cause i thought it’d be super awkward for u and i couldn’t imagine how it’d be helpful, but, uh me, as well.”
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Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.
- This article originally appeared on HuffPost.