EXCLUSIVE: By May 4, Netflix’s cast and crew The Fall of the House of Usher had gone further. It had been three weeks since star Frank Langella was fired after an investigation into complaints of unacceptable behavior, and Bruce Greenwood had just been cast as his replacement. Then the incident returned to the headlines with Langella’s fiery guest column on Deadline, portraying himself as “collateral damage” and a victim of the cancellation culture he called “not fair,” “not alone,” and “not American.”
The reactions to Langella’s column were not uniform. He did gain support — some in Hollywood called his statement forceful, praising the Oscar-nominated actor for speaking out. The reaction among the cast and crew of The Fall of the House of Usherin the meantime† is largely that of shock, disbelief and anger, multiple sources tell Deadline, evoking memories of Langella’s time on the show and the investigation that led to his firing. The column also sparked a debate about freedom of artistic expression versus appropriate behavior in the workplace and about cultural clashes between generations as social norms change and evolve.
Deadline interviewed a number of people on or near the Netflix production who did not want to be named after this story. A word consistently used by virtually everyone when describing Langella’s behavior was “toxic,” as they recalled inappropriate comments and behavior, as well as “cruze” jokes he allegedly made.
“There was a general sense of toxicity that followed him,” said one person working on the series. “A lot of the cast and crew felt very uncomfortable around Frank from the start.”
Representatives from Netflix and Langella did not respond to requests for comment. In his column, Langella made it clear that he did not agree with his termination. He has met with lawyers and is said to be investigating legal action.
In the column, Langella, 84, describes in detail the incident he believes was at the heart of his firing. In his words, it involved a young actress who complained that he had touched her leg during a love scene in a way that had not been blocked by the intimacy coordinator.
While Netflix’s investigation was sparked by the touching complaint Langella spoke of, the internal probe investigated more than a dozen incidents and allegations over the course of several weeks, sources told Deadline. Other sources claim that most of the investigation took place in the 48 hours following the touching incident, and that complaint was one of a few that could ultimately be considered action by Netflix.
In his column, Langella spoke about the investigation and described “some of the allegations: 1. ‘He told an uncolored joke.’ 2. “Sometimes he called me ‘baby’ or ‘darling’.” 3. “He gave me a hug or touched my shoulder.”
People who worked with Langella on the Netflix series gave more details about some of the incidents, which, according to sources, started in its first week of production.
“There were issues with highly inappropriate comments, some of which were incredibly sexual in nature, others that were graphic and misogynistic,” one person from the show said of Langella, stressing that the comments “were not joking, but shocking to pretty much everyone within earshot.” .”
Here are a few examples that Deadline has been able to confirm with multiple sources; the alleged incidents were part of the investigation, sources said.
Langella had a habit of “saying things randomly or out loud that weren’t in the script” during block or rehearsal, two people from the production told Deadline. (“If you’re the protagonist, I think it requires you to set an example by keeping the atmosphere light and friendly,” Langella wrote in his column.)
One scene involved a discussion about a character who had gone to the bar. Frank added during the lockdown: ‘And then she took all her clothes and fucked the whole bar in front of the whole crew.’ Nobody laughed. There was no kidding to put it on, it was just a thing he said,” an eyewitness told Deadline.
Langella also reportedly inquired about the body makeup applied to an actor playing a character who was severely sunburnt, and asked the person if the makeup extended to his genitals; if the fire “burnt your dick?” “It was grossly inappropriate,” said a source.
Then there was a crude sex joke that Langella reportedly told several times in front of crew members and staff about elderly people in a nursing home where a man dumps a friend because she has Parkinson’s and her hand trembles when she holds his penis, multiple sources said. . Deadline.
In addition, “he asked cast members about their sexual experiences,” a source on the production told Deadline. Another added: “He spoke graphically about his own sexual history with many people, even as they were trying to get out of those conversations.”
People who have known Langella for a long time are not particularly surprised, citing the actor’s memoir from 2012 Dropped names, which is full of stories of sexual escapades and dirty jokes. The New York Times called the book “satisfyingly scandalous” in his review, which was titled “Merry Debauchery.”
I heard The Fall of the House of Usher producers and Netflix got involved early on, asking Langella to change his behavior. The actor alluded to warnings from the producers of the series in his column. He wrote:
“You can’t do that, Frank,” our producer said. ‘You can’t joke. You cannot give compliments. You can’t touch. It’s a new order.”
While Langella would agree to adjustments, he also accused those who tried to correct him of being “too tense and awake,” according to a show source. Langella echoed the “cancel culture” sentiment in his column, in which he questioned Netflix’s fair trial and insisted that he was not heard before his resignation.
In addition to sexually charged and explicit comments, the use of
a Racistically insensitive Langella’s “comments and jokes” were also the subject of Netflix’s investigation, several sources told Deadline.
As for the allegations Langella mentioned in his column like “he would give me a hug or touch my shoulder,” there were three allegations of inappropriate touching in a performance, including the one that led to the investigation, multiple people on the show told Deadline. . “They weren’t sexual scenes per se, but they were intimate in their own way; some were intimately familial,” said a source. Another added: “Actors sometimes asked that there be extra people on set with them if they wanted to share a scene with him, including people asking for an intimacy coordinator, even if a scene didn’t seem too intimate; there was a sense of mistrust and border crossing.”
In his column, Langella called the standard practice of carefully choreographing love scenes by intimacy coordinators “absurd!”, claiming that “it undermines instinct and spontaneity.”
In a separate incident, “in at least one case, a non-sexual physical contact was made with a makeup artist where he knocked them out of the way, which was very disturbing,” an insider told Deadline. Other sources suggested that Langella had repeatedly asked for the special effects work on him to be paused and eventually gestured to the makeup artist trying to protect himself. Anyone who has read the Edgar Allan Poe short story on which the Netflix series is based will know that the character Langella played, Roderick Usher, has a specific appearance that requires heavy makeup.
As Netflix’s investigation progressed with new incidents and witnesses emerging, tension grew as cast and crew felt like nothing would come of it, Deadline was told. When Langella was fired, “there was a deep relief bordering on cheers from the cast and crew,” according to a show source.
The Fall of the House of Usher is currently in production for a possible 2023 premiere on Netflix.