As a wannabe young actress, it was Gone With The Wind which sparked Charlotte Kirk’s dreams of becoming a famous Hollywood star.
No doubt the electrician’s daughter from Bexley in Kent was captivated by all that high drama — not to mention Vivien Leigh’s simmering turn as Scarlett O’Hara.
That legendary film, however, is nothing compared to the melodrama now going on in the 28-year-old’s own life.
For despite moving to LA a decade ago and landing a handful of parts over the ensuing years, this week saw the former model-turned-actress playing centre stage in a tawdry saga of ‘sex for roles’, blackmail and extortion that goes right to the grubby heart of Hollywood. As storylines go, it’s a roller-coaster ride, indeed.
Model-turned-actress Charlotte Kirk (above) played centre stage in a tawdry saga of ‘sex for roles’, blackmail and extortion that goes right to the grubby heart of Hollywood this week
On Tuesday, 75-year-old Ron Meyer — vice chairman of NBC- Universal, the U.S. media giant that owns film companies Universal Pictures and DreamWorks — abruptly resigned after claiming he was being blackmailed over an affair.
In a statement to staff, the executive admitted he had already previously made a private settlement — ‘under threat, with a woman outside the company who had made false accusations against me’ — despite the fact that the relationship was ‘very brief and consensual’.
He added: ‘I made this disclosure because other parties learned of the settlement and have continuously attempted to extort me into paying them money . . . and to publish false allegations about me.’
While he did not go so far as to name the woman in question, she was widely confirmed by industry insiders to be Charlotte Kirk — whose handful of roles include a ‘blink-and-you’ll-miss-it’ part in the box office hit Ocean’s 8 alongside Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett.
She had an affair with Meyer eight years ago when he was 67 and married and she was 19. The Mail understands that the settlement she signed with Meyer — who has worked with the likes of Steven Spielberg, Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts — was worth around $2 million (£1.5 million).
Intriguingly, it is not the first time Kirk had been embroiled in such a scandal.
Kirk’s sexual involvement with another Hollywood mogul — married Warner Bros chairman Kevin Tsujihara — resulted in his resignation just over a year ago, amid a flurry of shocking text messages suggesting that he had helped her land auditions in return for sex during their 2013/2014 relationship.
WarnerMedia launched an investigation into whether he engaged in improper behaviour. Despite quitting, 55-year-old Tsujihara denied abusing his position to assist Kirk’s career but said that his ongoing leadership would be a ‘distraction’.
And the plot thickens yet again. For, on Thursday this week, allegations emerged suggesting that the men said to be behind the Meyer blackmail plot were two British film directors closely associated with Kirk — her 50-year-old fiance, Neil Marshall, and Joshua Newton, who has won awards for his work and is said to be another of her exes.
The men are alleged to have contacted Meyer separately, threatening to file lawsuits which would have exposed his affair with Kirk in a desperate attempt to get him to give both money and the green light to their movie projects.
Kirk has appeared in as-yet unreleased films directed by both men — she plays the part of murder victim Nicole Simpson in Newton’s film The Framing of O.J. Simpson. Newcastle-born Marshall strenuously denies the accusations made against him, insisting there ‘isn’t a grain of truth to this story’ and saying that ‘the woman I love’ is the victim of a ‘witch-hunt’.
Ron Meyer (above), vice chairman of US media giant NBC-Universal, resigned after claiming he was blackmailed over an affair, which was widely confirmed by industry insiders to be Kirk
Newton did not comment about the allegations against him this week, but his lawyer called Meyer’s claims of extortion a ‘false narrative’.
Hardly surprising, then, that across the Atlantic, there is much head-scratching about how a virtually unknown 28-year-old from Britain has wreaked such havoc on some of Hollywood’s most powerful men. Writing on Twitter this week, actress Bette Midler said: ‘Don’t mess with #CharlotteKirk!’
So what is the truth about the enigmatic young woman making waves in La La Land for all the wrong reasons? In the past she has pooh-poohed any suggestion that she is a #MeToo victim.
When the Mail contacted Kirk’s agent, Shannon Pierce, this week to ask if she would speak to us, he said ‘not interested’ and slammed down the phone. Kirk’s 60-year-old mother Angie also declined to comment on the scandal at the family’s neat 1930s semi, just off the A2 near Dartford in Kent where she lives with her second husband.
But while Kirk and those close to her are remaining tight-lipped, a former NBC executive who worked alongside Meyer for more than 30 years told the Mail this week that the actress’s career is now regarded as ‘toxic’ and that she will never work in Hollywood again.
‘Who would want to work with her? No one,’ said Mike Sington, a former senior executive at NBCUniversal and a close associate of Meyer. He said that Meyer, a former mailroom worker whose Jewish immigrant parents escaped Nazi Germany, was ‘well-liked’ in Hollywood and that his demise had left him and others ‘heartbroken’.
‘If she was attempting to further her career, her career will come to a crashing end at this point. I can’t see anyone who would want to work with her in Hollywood — and I’m not just talking about the heads of studios. I don’t see any director that would want to work with her. I don’t see any other actor that would want to work with her.’
Charlotte Sophie Kirk — she uses her mother’s maiden name — was the third child born to Angie and her first husband, electrician Arthur Dyke. She was 11 when she decided she wanted to become an actress, overcoming her struggles with Asperger syndrome and joining acting classes with Jigsaw Performing Arts in South London before going on to attend the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts.
She began working as a fashion and glamour model and, while studying theatre arts at the Miskin Theatre in Dartford, appeared in commercials for Nintendo Wii and Orange.
It was in London that Kirk and Meyer met at a film premiere hosted by members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association in 2011. She is said to have told him that she was soon going to be in Los Angeles. His response was that she should give him a call.
The affair began a year later, though according to the LA Times this week, it amounted to no more than two encounters during a two-week period. After it finished, 19-year-old Kirk continued to contact Meyer, asking for his advice on acting roles and helping out with an autism charity that Meyer backed.
It was reported that last year Meyer agreed to pay Kirk $2 million (£1.5 million) in four instalments if she signed a non-disclosure agreement. It is believed that at least one of those instalments has so far been paid.
On Thursday, allegations emerged suggesting the men allegedly behind the plot were Kirk’s 50-year-old fiance Neil Marshall and Joshua Newton (pictured with Kirk), who is said to be one of her exes
According to both him and NBC- Universal, their affair was a ‘consensual relationship’ and not some kind of #MeToo situation. But, if nothing else, it suggests astonishing naivety on Meyer’s part if it didn’t occur to him that the striking blonde actress, almost half a century his junior, might be drawn to his position and influence.
Mike Sington says while ‘this is not a Harvey Weinstein thing’, the sensitivity around the #MeToo movement placed the studio mogul in a precarious position. He added that he believed she tried to extort money from Meyer to keep the affair quiet.
Last year, when her affair with Kevin Tsujihara was revealed, Kirk said that sleeping with the Warner Bros boss was her own choice.
‘I don’t consider myself a victim because it was my choice. I wasn’t forced into anything and I did what I wanted to do — good or bad,’ she said in a short interview with Daily Mail TV. She said that any suggestion she was a #MeToo victim would ‘cheapen all the men and women who have genuinely been exploited. I had a relationship with Kevin because I wanted to.’
But text messages she sent — leaked to the U.S. media last year — make uneasy reading. In one, sent to Tsujihara in March 2015, long after the affair had ended, Kirk wrote: ‘When we were in that motel having sex u said u would help me and when u just ignore me it makes me feel used. Are you going to help me like you said you would?’
Tsujihara replied: ‘Sorry you feel that way. Richard will be reaching out to u tonight.’
After being invited to ‘self-tape’ for a role, she texted again to complain that she had been put ‘in the mix’ with others. She was eventually given brief parts in Warner Bros’ 2016 comedy How To Be Single, as well as 2018’s Ocean’s 8.
Kirk had been introduced to Tsujihara by Australian billionaire businessman James Packer, with whom she also had a brief relationship at some point after meeting him at a film party in LA in November 2012. Packer announced his separation from his second wife in September 2013.
In a text message sent from Packer to Kirk on September 27, 2013, referring to Tsujihara, he says: ‘I have the opportunity of a lifetime for u . . . Come to the [hotel] Bel Air now. U will never be able to pay me.’ She texted Packer later, saying: ‘His [sic] not very nice! Very Pushy! He just wants to f*** nothing else does not even want to say anything.’
The leaked text messages suggest that Kirk felt used to smooth a path with Tsujihara but that the encounter failed to help her career. By October 2014, Kirk was complaining about her treatment. Packer texted: ‘I didn’t promise u anything or make u do anything. It feels like ur trying to blackmail me over a lie.’
Kirk responded: ‘We all know the truth. I’m not blackmailing you u just need to treat me with respect. I helped u and u said u would help me.’
In another exchange, Packer told her: ‘Get back in your box or let’s fight. Lying and blackmail are a bad start . . . Tough lying girl.’
Last year, at the time of the revelations about her affair with Tsujihara, Kirk tried to put down her ‘poor choices’ as youthful mistakes, admitting that she was ‘possibly a little arrogant and definitely very naive’.
Charlotte Kirk’s sexual involvement with married Warner Bros chairman Kevin Tsujihara (pictured with Sandy Tsujihara) resulted in his resignation just over a year ago
She added: ‘I acknowledge I may have made some poor choices and I’m sorry for that, but I’ve learnt from my mistakes since then and have grown a lot, as a person, as a woman, and as a professional actor.’
She said that she wanted to be judged on the quality of her acting. Before this week’s latest scandal, she might have been on the verge of doing just that. Her latest role is a woman falsely accused of being a witch after rejecting the advances of the wealthy local squire in a horror film set in 17th-century England.
The Reckoning is directed by Neil Marshall — Kirk’s fiance. The pair co-wrote and co-produced the film, which also stars Sean Pertwee. On Thursday, the couple were due to take part in a Zoom Q&A hosted by a Canadian film festival, but it was pulled at the last minute in a ‘mutually agreed’ decision with Marshall so as not to distract from the film.
But in an online interview, Kirk described the film as ‘a story of religious and misogynistic persecution’.
She said: ‘These men sought to strip her of her dignity and persecute her for nothing but their own gratification. Is it any wonder she’s got little mercy for them when the tables are turned?’
In statements released this week, Neil Marshall appeared to reference his girlfriend’s role: ‘The allegations concerning myself, Ron Meyer and NBCUniversal are nothing but lies based upon falsehoods,’ he told U.S. online digital entertainment site Deadline.
Separately, he told Vanity Fair online: ‘What we have here is a witch-hunt, plain and simple, perpetrated by overprivileged men in positions of power, aided by friends of equal standing and lack of ethics, fuelled by clickbait headlines such as we’ve seen these past few days, and carried out against the woman I love.’
In The Reckoning, Kirk’s character Grace Haverstock plots her revenge against her persecutors with bloody consequences. What the future holds for her in the real world is another matter.
Kirk is famous at last — even if for all the wrong reasons.
And given the level of her ambition, it’s unlikely we’ve heard the last of her yet.
Defending herself last year, in a speech which would have been worthy of her childhood heroine Scarlett O’Hara, she said: ‘I will never stop fighting; fighting to define myself, fighting for the best roles and fighting for the career I love and was born to do.’
It goes without saying that, after all, tomorrow is another day.