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After actress Olivia Munn made the studio aware that a short scene in the latest installment of the "Predator" franchise featured a registered sex offender, 20th Century Fox has chosen to remove the sequence from the film prior to its nationwide release date.
Steven Wilder Striegel was featured in a short scene alongside Munn in the movie, which was nearing completion before the issue arose, according to The LA Times. The scene was removed just hours before the "The Predator" premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival during the early hours of Friday.
Munn later learned that Striegel had pleaded guilty after being charged with risk of injury to a child and enticing a minor by computer, after he attempted to seduce a teenage girl into a sexual relationship through the internet in 2010.
“The offender, who was 38 years old at the time, engaged in an Internet relationship with a fourteen year old female victim who was known to him. The offender attempted to lure the victim into a sexual relationship by making sexually graphic suggestions to the victim,” according to Connecticut’s sex offender registry. “No weapons, intoxicating substances, force or vehicles were used in the commission of these crimes.”
Munn informed the studio of Striegel's record, prompting quick action from the company. A spokesperson said they did not know of Striegel's history when he was hired.“We were not aware of his background during the casting process due to legal limitations that impede studios from running background checks on actors," the Fox representative said to the Los Angeles Times.
Shane Black, the director of the sci-fi reboot, had been aware of the situation. Black and Striegel had previously worked together on "Iron Man 3" and "The Nice Guys," and offered Striegel the role in "Predator" without an audition.
Black defended his casting decision following the studio's announcement that it had axed the scene.
“I personally chose to help a friend,” Black said in a written statement to The LA Times. “I can understand others might disapprove, as his conviction was on a sensitive charge and not to be taken lightly.”
Black added that he thought Striegel was “caught up in a bad situation versus something lecherous.”
Munn has responded to Black's defense.
"[It is] both surprising and unsettling that Shane Black, our director, did not share this information to the cast, crew, or Fox Studios prior to, during, or after production," she told the LA Times “However, I am relieved that when Fox finally did receive the information, the studio took appropriate action by deleting the scene featuring Wilder prior to release of the film.”
Striegel has attempted to explain that his altercation with the teenager was a misunderstood attempt at boosting her confidence. Graphic emails exchanged between the two, in which Striegel said that there was no one in the world he'd rather have sex with and pressured her to stay silent about their communications, tell a different story.
Striegel has since emphasized that there is no evidence of any physical contact between the two occurred.
“Nothing supported such a claim, and no charges in that regard were even filed. The only thing I was ever charged with were words in an email,” he told the LA Times.
Several attempts by Oxygen.com to contact Striegel by phone were unsuccessful.
In California, there are no laws that restrict the hiring of sex offenders or formalized requirements about informing employees they are working with sex offenders. The Screen Actors Guild guidelines on the matter are vague.
“Producers are responsible for maintaining a safe working environment under our collective bargaining agreements and the law, and that applies to any type of on-set danger or threat," said the union’s chief operating officer and general counsel, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, to the LA Times.
Davis Entertainment, the production company for "The Predator," has not commented on the matter.
"The Predator" is set to open on September 14. A reboot of the 1987 sci-fi classic, early reviews of the movie has been largely positive.
"Whether the world actually needs [a sequel], and whether this reboot was necessary at all, is probably a question worth raising, but at least Black's take on it is to never take it too seriously while keeping us duly entertained," wrote Hollywood Reporter critic Jordan Mintzer in his review.
As of early Friday morning, the IMDb page on“The Predator” did not include Striegel in its cast list.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.