Several women have detailed the ousted ‘Wonder Years’ director's alleged harassment and sexual assault.
New details have emerged around the allegations of misconduct that led to the firing of Fred Savage from The Wonder Years reboot. Several women who spoke to The Hollywood Reporter detailed what they said was the disturbing behavior that prompted an investigation and ultimately led to the director’s ousting from the show in May.
“I and the other women feel that people need to know what the wrongdoing was,” one of the several women who spoke on the condition of anonymity said. Previously, Disney’s 20th Television had only vaguely cited “allegations of inappropriate conduct” over the news of Savage’s firing. But the new exposé describes a pattern of “manipulative and erratic” behavior from Savage, a concerning relationship he had with one young female crew member, and an incident of alleged sexual assault against another former crew member.
The process that led to Savage’s firing first began in February, when six women on the crew of The Wonder Years banded together to file an official complaint to Disney and soon after spoke to an HR executive about the director’s behavior. The women claimed that Savage verbally harassed women on set and often switched between a charming outward persona and another frightening version that multiple sources said was marked by “dead eyes.” The Hollywood elite, one source said, “all see his absolute perfect, best face.” Meanwhile, they said, he would often unpredictably flip a switch with “below-the-line employees who don’t have power.”
The women say they were ultimately motivated to move forward with a complaint over concern about Savage’s relationship with a “much younger woman” on the crew. The woman’s once bright personality had changed dramatically after she became close with Savage and even moved into the house he lived at while filming in Atlanta, according to the sources.
She allegedly became fearful of Savage, who was “extremely controlling of her daily behaviors,” one person said. After another crew member attempted to protect the young woman (who declined to speak to The Hollywood Reporter), “he proceeded to verbally harass me and belittle me,” a reaction that occurred “multiple times,” a source said.
Savage also became extremely close to another crew member of the show, a woman in her early 30s who considered their relationship “platonic.” Savage took her out “to dinner and offered expensive gifts that she declined,” according to the magazine. Eventually she was abruptly fired from the show, a decision that she believes Savage was not involved with.
After she was fired, the woman was invited to a bar where crew were gathered and Savage allegedly assaulted her in the women’s bathroom:
As she was walking out of the stall, Savage entered. “I started laughing, like, ‘What are you doing? This is a women’s bathroom,’” she says. She says he approached her with “just like, dead eyes” and pushed her against a wall. “I said, ‘Please, don’t do this.’ I meant ruining the friendship. I was pleading, not from fear so much, but this was no going back.”
At that point, she says, “He put his mouth on mine very forcefully. He went for the top of my pants. I brushed him away. Then he put his mouth on mine again, grabbed my hand and pulled it on his groin area. I was pulling back. He stopped very angrily. I shoulder-checked him so I could get out.”
They both returned to the outdoor area and Savage quickly left with the younger crewmember who had also absorbed so much of his attention. But she says he texted her that night asking her to come to his house right away. “To remain neutral I laughed it off like,’Ha ha, no, have a good night,’ because I was honestly scared of him for the first time,” she says.
Savage’s firing can be seen, perhaps optimistically, as a litmus test for a shift in Hollywood. Savage had already faced two separate allegations of misconduct: a costumer on the original Wonder Years sued him for sexual harassment in 1993 when he was 16, and a female crew member on the FOX show The Grinder sued him for verbally harassing women employees and for shouting and striking her during a costume fitting. Both lawsuits were settled and Savage’s career in Hollywood faced little if any legitimate repercussion. This time, the allegations were taken more seriously. “To their credit, I was contacted within hours,” one of the women told THR. “An investigation started immediately and he was barred from set.”
Savage, meanwhile, sent a statement to the magazine claiming his willingness to change his behavior while vaguely denying “some incidents being reported.”
“Since I was 6 years old, I have worked on hundreds of sets with thousands of people, and have always strived to contribute to an inclusive, safe and supportive work environment,” the statement read. “It is devastating to learn that there are co-workers who feel I have fallen short of these goals. While there are some incidents being reported that absolutely did not and could not have happened, any one person who feels hurt or offended by my actions is one person too many. I will work to address and change any behavior that has negatively affected anyone, as nothing in this world is more important to me than being a supportive co-worker, friend, husband, father and person.”