Actor Johnathon Schaech Says He Was Molested By Famed Director Franco Zeffirelli

Schaech says he was sexually harassed and assaulted during his 'big break' by the Italian director

Johnathon Schaech arrives at the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center's "An Evening" at the Beverly Wilshire
Richard Shotwell / AP Images

Schaech says he was sexually harassed and assaulted during his 'big break' by the Italian director

While it’s becoming a daily thing to hear stories out of Hollywood about women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted by a prominent actor, director, or celebrity chef, it’s still unusual to hear an actor, a man, come forward to tell their story of being sexually molested, particularly by another man in Hollywood. But actor Johnathon Schaech has decided to break his silence and speak out about being sexually molested during his big break into movies. Schaech alleges that while shooting the movie Sparrow, he was sexually molested by famed Italian director Franco Zeffirelli.

Like Terry Crews, Johnathon Schaech Was Afraid To Name Names

But observing the treatment actor Terry Crews received after he stood up to the Hollywood agent who assaulted him, Johnathon Schaech might have thought twice before speaking out about his own sexual molestation, especially about a name as big as Zeffirelli. Crews explained that he was at a party with his wife when talent agent Adam Venit groped him.

“My wife n I were at a Hollywood function last year n a high-level Hollywood executive came over 2 me and groped my privates. Jumping back I said What are you doing?! My wife saw everything n we looked at him like he was crazy. He just grinned like a jerk.”

Venit was briefly suspended, but is now back at his job, leaving Terry Crews feeling betrayed as if he wasn’t being taken seriously.

Johnathon Schaech Says He Was Raped By Franco Zeffirelli In Italy

But Johnathon Schaech decided to tell his own story in People Magazine, where he wrote the article himself, telling the story of how Italian director Franco Zeffirelli sexually molested him years before he became a known actor. In 1992, Johnathon Schaech was cast in the film Sparrow by Franco Zeffirelli, which Schaech considered his big break.

Johnathon Schaech says he had been in Hollywood for three years, mostly modeling and studying, and he still didn’t have an agent. Schaech said that after six auditions, he got the role, and was flown to England to work with a dialect coach.

“Franco would fly in and out to see what the progress was — and almost immediately he began trying to seduce me with words. He would tell me how wonderful and beautiful I was, told me incredible stories and what I needed to do to really be a real artist.”

Johnathon Schaech said that despite the fact that Franco Zeffirelli was very charming, something told him not to feel safe. Even though Zeffirelli was in his 60s, and Schaech was 22, the vulnerability Schaech felt under the direction of a master made him feel vulnerable.

“He was trying to seduce me, under the guise of teaching me, from the start.”

And Schaech said that when Zeffirelli would drink, he drank heavily, and everything would get worse. According to Johnathon Schaech, Franco Zeffirelli became “aggressive and abusive” after a few drinks. Schaech said he had nobody to talk to about his treatment by Zeffirelli.

Schaech said that the movie was filmed all over Italy in various chateaus, and Zeffirelli would plead with him.

“I need to be with you!”

Schaech Says That Zeffirelli Broke Into His Hotel Room

Johnathon Schaech explained that even though he turned down the advances of Zeffirelli, the director would come to his room at night. It got bad enough that Schaech would put chairs and pillows to barricade the door. But one night, Zeffirelli got a key to Schaech’s room and assaulted him.

“He got in my face. There was a moment where I was telling him ‘No’ and he told me, ‘We have to.’ I remember his breath smelling of Scotch.”

Johnathon Schaech said that he was thinking if he fought Zeffirelli off, what that would mean for his film and for his career.

“He molested me in my bed. He put his hands in places that I couldn’t even imagine and he did things that I am not proud of. But it’s not my fault. His pants never came off but I can [still] see him fumbling with his belt. He attempted to give me oral sex. I just remember being like, ‘God, please no. I’m OK, I’m OK.’ I did nothing. I just lay there in bed. It felt like 4 hours but it was probably like 30 seconds.”

Schaech says at that moment he related to when female rape victims talk about seeming to leave their own bodies.

Franco Zeffirelli’s Son Denies That His Father Molested Schaech

Pippo Zeffirelli, the son of Italian director Franco Zeffirelli, who is 94 and in failing health, said that there is no truth in the story that Johnathon Schaech is telling about working with Franco Zeffirelli in 1992, says PageSix. Pippo Zeffirelli is saying that Johnathon Schaech has a “true and proper vendetta against his father, and the timing of this story is convenient now that the older Zeffirelli no longer has the ability to defend himself.”

Pippo Zeffirelli says that Franco Zeffirelli gave Johnathon Schaech his big break, but had to dub some of the vocals, causing Schaech to seek revenge.