Documentarian James Ronald Whitney sued by actor

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com April 23 2003 12:00 AM ET

An actor has sued out documentary maker James Ronald Whitney, claiming he was put "in extreme fear of his life" during an audition for the filmmaker's latest project--because he had a gun pointed at his head and fired. The lawsuit, filed on Friday in Los Angeles superior court, accuses Whitney and his production company, Fire Island Films, of assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligence in connection with a February audition at a Los Angeles home.

Actor James Larsen said he was told in the audition to improvise with two women who handcuffed him to a chair and began dancing in a "playfully seductive manner." An unidentified man burst into the house, shouting, "What the hell is going on? This is my house, and this is my girlfriend," the lawsuit said. The man began fighting with casting supervisor Josh Coleman, then pulled out a gun, pointing it at Larsen's head and pulling the trigger. Larsen "was in extreme fear for his life and leapt forward to the floor with the chair still handcuffed to him as the gun shot sounded," the lawsuit said. Whitney and several other crew members came out from hiding and informed him that the entire event had been staged and filmed, the lawsuit said.

The New York-based Whitney, who made the HBO documentary Just, Melvin: Just Evil about his abusive grandfather, said he had not seen the lawsuit. "All the conversations we have had with James Larsen subsequent to filming have been extremely positive, and he has always been excited about the project," he told Reuters on Monday. Larsen's suit is seeking unspecified monetary damages.