With a little psychology, actor Adam Ambruso survived being sexually harassed by a male Hollywood producer.
Ambruso told me that story while here for the Twin Cities Film Fest debut of the timely “Butterfly Caught,” which allowed me to share an armrest with him at the ShowPlace ICON Theaters at the West End and hobnob with Minnesota native/actor Jake Olson.
The thriller by writer/director Manny Rodriguez Jr. is a gritty examination of how three actors handle Hollywood’s rejection. One has sex with a director to land a role, echoing the current allegations against Harvey Weinstein, James Toback and Kevin Spacey.
“It’s interesting, the timing of ‘Butterfly Caught,’ ” said Ambruso, who plays a cop. “I have a lot of girlfriends — girls I’ve dated or just friends of mine — who have recounted stories. It happens so much you’re sort of like, ‘Yeah, and … ?’ It’s less about how do we stop it, more about how do you contend with it with class so it doesn’t ruin your career and so you don’t have to sleep with the guy.”
Ambruso didn’t, but “was able to turn that around and it’s been an example for a lot of people.”
Ambruso, a “pretty poor” boy from Texas who has supported himself with business ventures, said his career is taking off. He plays a good guy in “Butterfly Caught,” as does Jake Olson of New Branch. He was a producer and a bad guy in the just released “Trafficked,” a drama based on Harvard professor Siddharth Kara’s book (the film stars Anne Archer, Ashley Judd, Elisabeth Röhm and Sean Patrick Flanery). Ambruso just finished “The Great Race” with Treat Williams and may appear in a series of Lifetime movies. He’s very excited about plans to play the lead in “The Savant,” a production that will surround him with A-listers. One day he hopes to play James Bond. “That’s the dream,” he said. “I feel like Daniel Craig doesn’t want to do it forever.”
Q: Admittedly my interest in movies is rather narrow, so I guess it’s not surprising your films have not caught my eye.
A: The last three years have been a transformational time for all that groundwork I’ve done in the last 10 years. A couple of films have coincidentally come out at the same time — “Butterfly Caught” and “Trafficked.” They put the “Trafficked” script on my desk 2 ½ years ago. It enraged me, and I felt I had to make it. I had worked with the guys from “Dallas Buyers Club” on their second film, a horror thriller starring Anthony Mackie. They passed on the horror thriller [but] it wasn’t a waste of time because I developed some strong relationships and skills that ended up helping me produce “Trafficked.” I became a producer immediately: organized all the SAG paperwork, assisted the casting, found them most of the locations for free in Bakersfield. I contacted Buddy Owens, my uncle who is the son of my great-uncle Buck Owens [who died in 2006]. Actually filmed over half of “Trafficked” on the Buck Owens Ranch, which is now owned by Stan Ellis.
Q: Given all the Weinstein stuff, what’s been your experience with sexual harassment?
A: Yeah, it’s rampant. That’s the part of Hollywood — women and men will sell their souls for success — I’m not proud of and is hard for me to handle. On set I’ve told a real hard-core story that happened to me. A big producer early in my career asked me if I would perform some sexual acts with him the bathroom at a very chichi hotel. He said he would help me with my career. I said, “No, that’s not going to happen.” It led to an odd conversation. I have a lot of gay friends in Hollywood. I was prepared for this to happen. I felt I handled it well. He started emasculating me because he was mad. I said, “Listen, I’d prefer you didn’t help me with my career but I would like us to remain friends.” Ironically I kept running into this guy around town. One day he said, Let me pull a favor for you. He called Beth Holden; she manages Matthew McConaughey and Jeremy Renner. I ended up being managed by Beth for two years because of how I handled that situation. I didn’t tell him [you know], it was more like, “I know you’re hurting, this is how you think you get love. I’m going to treat you as if I was the same ignorant person staring me in the face. He looked at me and said, I have a problem. He would have never had that enlightenment if I [had] been right back at him and saying what most girls and guys say.”
CJ can be seen on Fox 9’s “Buzz.”