Johnathon Schaech is best known for his roles in That Thing You Do!, How to Make an American Quilt and The Doom Generation. He’s the latest celebrity to speak out about being a victim of sexual assault.
Schaech claims he was molested by director Franco Zeffirelli while filming Sparrow in 1993 when he was just 22. The now 48-year-old actor shares his #MeToo story with People, after keeping the trauma he experienced a secret for 25 years. Schaech recounts barricading the door to his room on a nightly basis to ward of Zeffirelli.
“[Then], one night, I think it was when we were at a hotel in Sicily and my costar wasn’t there, he told me he was coming to my room. This time he had managed to get a key…There was a moment where I was telling him “No” and he told me, “We have to.” I remember his breath smelling of Scotch. And this is the whole thing, and you hear it from the women who are opening up now about their own experiences with abuse: There’s a moment where, even though you are taught to be charming and have sex appeal as an actor, a line is crossed and everything changes. When someone crosses that line, when someone preys on you, there’s a panic that sets in. That’s what Franco did. He crossed that boundary and I felt as though I left my body. 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,” Johnathon shares with PEOPLE. “I was vulnerable. I didn’t scream and yell. I didn’t physically stop him, and it took me 25 years to answer the question why not. There’s a moment when someone is being violated by a predator where it is a clear form of violence that creates trauma in the body. We have a fight or flight response. People say they ‘leave their bodies’ and that’s what I did. When it was obvious Franco wasn’t getting what he wanted that night, he just left. He never tried to touch me again. I told him not to come near me again. He never said anything about it. For the predator who crosses the line they think that it’s OK.”
Zeffirelli’s son Pippo released a statement denying the accusations, saying they’re “not credible.”
“It is alleged that 25 years ago an actor, who was then in his early twenties, was the victim of alleged verbal abuse and alleged attempted sexual abuse by my father during the filming of The Sparrow in Sicily, Italy. [He] would have been 70 at the time. It is also alleged that my father drank alcohol and may have been drunk on set. Mr. Zeffirelli and all our family were living in a villa, whilst actors, production and staff were staying in a hotel in Catania; all these allegations are not credible. At the time Johnathon suffered from a throat type of obstruction which made his speaking difficult. Directors have different styles and some time they could be much more demanding on inexperienced actors. My father is in poor health and not able to understand this attack and to respond to the allegations made by Jonathan Schaech. This would be an attack to a great director, an artist and to a man at the end of his life that he is not able, nor he will be in the future able to respond. This will be an incredible damage to his image and reputation on the basis of allegations which are not credible and cannot be proved.” – Pippo Zeffirelli
For more about Johnathon’s story, head over to PEOPLE.