“The Flash star holds kids captive in gun-filled farmhouse,” blared the headlines. But even after reading the news accounts of the latest allegations against Ezra Miller, the actor’s behavior is still hard to fathom. Known for their roles [Miller, who came out as queer in 2012, uses they/them pronouns] in Zack Snyder’s Justice League and Fantastic Beasts, the American actor’s run-ins with the law include assaults, arrests and reports of alleged child theft. Every new headline only raises more questions about the erratic actor. What’s going through their mind? Where are they right now? And above all – how did they get here?
Ezra Miller grew up in an artistic environment. Their father is a literary editor and their mother a modern dancer. In a 2011 Interview profile, the actor said about growing up in New Jersey, “There was such an intense concentration of wealth, and such a low concentration of any actual human happiness.” When they were six years old, the teacher asked them to do a class presentation on their favorite book. Miller brought a blood-covered stuffed dog to class with a tape recorder attached that played Miller’s dramatic reading of Stephen King’s Cujo. The teacher gave them the highest grade.
“Art is the only thing I have. Otherwise I’d be long dead. I probably would have done it myself,” they told Playboy in 2018. To overcome his stutter, he took lessons in the bel canto style of singing and made his debut at age six in Phillip Glass’s White Raven at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. After that came film roles in cult favorites, We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011) and The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2013). Then, Hollywood came calling with lucrative franchise roles as Aurelius Dumbledore in Fantastic Beasts and The Flash in Justice League.
“Queer actor Ezra Miller is the hero we need right now,” headlined the 2018 article in The Guardian by Elle Hunt, who said Playboy’s choice of Miller for its cover shows the world is really changing. Early in their career, Miller said quite matter-of-factly that they identified as a non-binary queer person, and their signing by DC made Miller the first out-of-the closet actor to play a superhero.
Miller’s flamboyance made them an idol on social media, and they mused in interviews on topics like colonialism, mental health, and about time as a construct. The actor confessed that they had gone through an adolescent stage of rebellious angst during which they “burned, broke, screamed, and hit things,” tormented by his privileged place in a world marked by “gross economic disparity.” Every appearance on the red carpet was an opportunity for performance art and Miller’s interactions with fans were often unpredictable. One day they would kiss fans like a typical movie star, and the next they would answer questions in gibberish, dressed as Toadette, the Mario Kart character.
Miller loves to talk about their farm and brags about watching the goats give birth. The actor advocated openly for the right to own semi-automatic weapons, until his publicist asked The Hollywood Reporter to remove that statement after the October 2018 shooting in a Pittsburgh synagogue.
“I’m trying to find queer beings who understand me as a queer being off the bat, who I make almost a familial connection with, and I feel like I’m married to them 25 lifetimes ago from the moment we meet,” they said in a 2018 Playboy interview. “And then they are in the squad — the polycule. And I know they’re going to love everyone else in the polycule because we’re in the polycule, and we love each other so much.” Miller was talking about the polyamorous group, which they christened the “polycule” (polyamory + molecule), that lives with them on his 96-acre farm in Vermont in the US. Ezra Miller was undoubtedly the most original star of the 2010s by far.
A couple of years ago, the actor’s eccentricity began to cause concern. In April 2020, a female fan tried to dance with Miller in a Reykjavik bar in Iceland, and the actor reacted by grabbing her by the neck and throwing her to the floor. The video went viral on social media, although most of the comments dwelled on the fact that Iceland had not imposed social distancing and mask requirements in the middle of the first Covid wave.
In March 2022, Miller was arrested for disturbing the peace at a bar in Hawaii. According to witnesses, the actor lost their temper when some people started singing karaoke. Miller began yelling obscenities, spat at a man playing darts and snatched the microphone away from the singer.
The actor was released from jail after a couple of friends posted the $500 (€480) bail. But a few hours later, the couple that had posted bail sought a restraining order against Miller, claiming that they had injured them with a chair, stolen a wallet and was refusing to leave their home. Miller had 10 altercations with the police during the few months they spent in Hawaii. Miller’s companion on that vacation was a 18-year-old woman named Gibson Iron Eyes, whose parents accused Miller in June of preventing them from seeing their daughter. Miller met Iron Eyes in 2016 at a demonstration against an oil pipeline construction project running through Sioux land. At the time, Miller was 23 and she was only 12 years old. Her parents claim Miller is endangering their daughter’s health by giving her alcohol, marijuana and LSD. Gibson is 18, but is still legally dependent on her parents under Sioux tribal law.
After going to Miller’s Vermont farm where their daughter currently resides, Gibson’s parents discovered that she had bruises on her body, and had no ID card, car keys, bank card, or cellphone. They began to suspect that she was being held against her will and reported Miller to the police. “Ezra uses violence, intimidation, threat of violence, fear, paranoia, delusions, and drugs to hold sway over a young adolescent Tokata,” reported the Los Angeles Times about the parents’ court filing that uses their daughter’s birth name.
Gibson Iron Eyes has declared her independence on Instagram, and claims to be mentally stable and happy making her own decisions. She calls Miller a “comrade” who is helping her, and accuses her parents of transphobia, claiming that they are the ones guilty of “emotional and psychological manipulation.” The court has not served Miller with the complaint because it can’t find the actor, who has a July 12 deadline to appear before the judge.
On June 16, a Massachusetts woman obtained a restraining order against Miller, who she claims behaved inappropriately with her 12-year-old son. The boy, who also identifies as non-binary, told The Daily Beast that Miller made him feel “uncomfortable” by inappropriate hugging and touching. “It made me nervous and scared because he yelled at my mom,” said the boy. His mother claims that in February, Miller showed up drunk at her home wearing a bulletproof vest and carrying a gun. Your son is “an elevated being, and would be lucky to have someone like me guide them,” yelled Miller.
On June 23, Rolling Stone revealed that three children between the ages of one and five live surrounded by guns at Miller’s Vermont farm. In March, Miller met a 25-year-old woman in Hawaii and invited her to move to the farm with her children. But the father said that he has not seen his children since Miller secretly took them in March. However, the mother says that Miller rescued her from a violent relationship. “He has given me a safe space for my three children – his farm is a safe haven for us,” she said. Regarding the guns, she says they are “for self-defense,” and that they are kept in a separate room where the children aren’t allowed. But Rolling Stone reporter Cheyenne Roundtree claims to have seen videos showing at least eight submachine guns, rifles, and revolvers scattered around the living room. Two others reported seeing a baby put a bullet in his mouth. On May 16, a Vermont social worker visited the estate and reported that the children “looked good,” although she recommended follow-up visits.
Warner Bros., the studio behind The Flash and Fantastic Beasts, has called several emergency meetings to decide how to deal with the Miller scandal, but so far has not changed the June 2023 release date for its $200 million blockbuster, The Flash. According to Deadline, other projects in development with Miller have been put on hold.
Ezra Miller and their team have not made any statements about the allegations. Miller deleted their Instagram account shortly after posting memes that seemed to mock the court’s attempt to find them – ”You cannot touch me I am in another universe” and “Message from another dimension.”
Britney Spears responds to ex-husband’s ‘hurtful’ claims that her children don’t want to see her | Culture
Singer Britney Spears responded on Sunday to claims made by her ex-husband Kevin Federline about her relationship with their two children, Sean Preston, 16, and Jayden James, 15.
In an interview which will be aired on ITV news, Federline said that the two teens had not seen their mother for months. “The boys have decided they are not seeing her right now. It’s been a few months since they’ve seen her. They made the decision not to go to her wedding,” he said, as reported by The Daily Mail.
In June last year, Spears married personal trainer Sam Asghari. The ceremony was attended by personalities such as Donatella Versace, Madonna, Paris Hilton, Drew Barrymore and Selena Gomez, but not her closest family or children. After the wedding, Spears and Asghari bought a house, valued at $10 million, near Federline’s home.
Federline, a former dancer, had a tumultuous romance with Britney Spears in 2014. The two met while recording a music and started dating. They were soon engaged and married just three months later. But the pair divorced two years later, citing “irreconcilable differences.” Federline has since married volleyball player Victoria Prince, with whom he has two daughters.
In the interview, Federline blamed the alleged fallout between Spears and her children on the singer’s Instagram account, which often features revealing photos. “‘Look, maybe that’s just another way she tries to express herself,’” Federline explained as what he has said to his sons. “But that doesn’t take away from the fact of what it does to them. It’s tough. I can’t imagine how it feels to be a teenager having to go to high school.”
Federline also spoke about the controversial legal conservatorship that gave Spears’ father, Jamie Spears, complete legal control over her finances and day-to-day existence from its signing in 2008 to its end in November last year. According to the former backup dancer, the conservatorship “saved” the singer. “This whole thing has been hard to watch, harder to live through, harder to watch my boys go through than anything else,” he said in reference to the process to end the guardianship.
But Spears has denied Federline’s “hurtful” claims. “It saddens me to hear that my ex-husband has decided to discuss the relationship between me and my children,” wrote Spears. “It concerns me the fact that the reason is based on my Instagram … it was LONG before Instagram … I gave them everything. Only one word: HURTFUL.”
The singer added that her mother advised her to give her children to Federline while she was under the conservatorship.
Spears’ new husband Asghari also rejected the claims. “There is no validity to his statement regarding the kids distancing themselves and it is irresponsible to make that statement publicly. The boys are very smart and will be 18 soon to make their own decisions and may eventually realize the ‘tough’ part was having a father who hasn’t worked much in over 15 years as a role model.”
Margot Robbie’s self-confessed ambition has made her the highest paid actress of the year | Culture
Self-doubt is Margot Robbie’s greatest motivator, and competes with ambition in the Australian actress’s psyche. She couldn’t believe her own eyes when she first saw herself on a giant ad for the Pan Am TV series in New York’s Times Square. “I still have the photo,” she told EL PAÍS a few years ago, somewhat wistful for the days when she was still a nobody. The script of The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), the Martin Scorsese film that put her on the map, touted her as “the most beautiful blonde in the world,” but she didn’t believe the hype. “I remember saying to a friend, ‘I haven’t worked in six weeks.’ I’m sure there’s nothing out there for me,” laughed Robbie. But Hollywood didn’t share her skepticism. In July, Variety magazine ranked Robbie as the highest paid actress of the year when her US$12.5 million salary for the upcoming Barbie movie was announced.
Margot Robbie may be this year’s highest paid actress, but 17 men made even more money, led by Tom Cruise who was paid US$100 million for Top Gun: Maverick. Her Barbie love interest, Ryan Gosling, was paid the same as Robbie, even though she has the titular role, more evidence that pay parity in Hollywood is far from being a reality. Robbie ranked ahead of Millie Bobby Brown (US$10 million for the Enola Holmes sequel); Emily Blunt (US$4 million for Oppenheimer); Jamie Lee Curtis (US$3.5 million for Halloween Ends); and Anya Taylor-Joy (US$1.8 million for Furiosa).
Robbie’s misgivings about her career aren’t shared by other industry giants. Martin Scorsese compared her to Carole Lombard for her comedic genius, Joan Crawford for her toughness, and Ida Lupino for her emotional range. He described Robbie as having a surprising audacity, and recalls how she clinched her role in The Wolf of Wall Street by stunning everyone with a tremendous, improvised slap of Leonardo DiCaprio during her audition.
Robbie showed the same boldness when she lobbied director Quentin Tarantino for another role opposite DiCaprio in Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood (2019). She sent the director a letter telling him how much she admired his films, especially her all-time favorite, True Romance (1993). The letter probably wasn’t necessary, as Tarantino already had the I, Tonya star in mind to play Sharon Tate in his new movie, describing her to EL PAÍS as an actress with a visual dynamism and personal qualities that you don’t see every day.
Robbie has wanted to work in movies ever since her start in Neighbours, the long-running Australian TV series that is coming to an end after 9,000 episodes and 37 years on the air. “Of course I’m ambitious. My career motivates me. I came to the United States with a plan, and I’m always looking ahead,” she told us. Even as a child growing up in Queensland (northeastern Australia), Margot Elise Robbie displayed her business smarts and drama queen chops when she decided to sell all her brother’s old toys from the sidewalk in front of the family home.
She jokes about her childhood, but part of that little girl always comes out in the wide variety of characters she plays. She has had all kinds of roles in little-known films like Suite Française and Z for Zachariah, and also in box-office hits like Suicide Squad and Birds of Prey. She won Oscar nominations for playing driven women in I, Tonya (2018) and Bombshell (2020). “Yes, many of the women I’ve played share my ambition – this is a tough industry. But I’m full of doubt like anyone else. You never know how things will turn out,” she said.
Seeking more control over her films, Robbie founded production company LuckyChap Entertainment in 2014 with her husband, British filmmaker Tom Ackerley, and some friends. She hopes to use LuckyChap as a vehicle for herself and other actresses, as she did with Promising Young Woman starring Carey Mulligan, a black comedy thriller film that won writer/director Emerald Fennell an Oscar for best original screenplay. “Margot is an extraordinary person,” said Fennell. “That’s why she’s doing so well as a producer who is determined to try different things and give women a voice.”
Robbie met British assistant director Tom Ackerley on the set of Suite Française in 2013. They began a romantic relationship the next year and moved in together right after attending their first Golden Globes gala for The Wolf of Wall Street. Married since 2016, the couple and co-workers in LuckyChap have a bright future ahead, judging by all the work that is piling up for Robbie. In addition to Barbie, she will appear in Amsterdam, directed by David O. Russell; as silent film star Clara Bow in Babylon, directed by Damien Chazelle; and has a role in Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City. As if that wasn’t enough to keep Robbie busy, a remake of Ocean’s Eleven awaits her; she will play opposite Matthew Schoenaerts in the post WWII drama, Ruin; produce a remake of Tank Girl; and play a female Jack Sparrow in another installment of Pirates of the Caribbean. Surely Margot Robbie doesn’t have any more doubts about her career.
Salem’s last witch regains her honor | Culture
As statues of slave owners and slave traders continue to fall in the United States, the embers of the bonfires that burned women accused of committing spells and witchcraft are also being extinguished. In the umpteenth revision of history to try to exonerate the victims, the most recent episode concerns the last official Salem witch, Elizabeth Johnson Jr., from the massive 1692 and 1693 trials in the English colony of Massachusetts. Thanks to the initiative of a middle school teacher and her students in Andover, located in the same county as Salem, her spirit can now roam free. The enthusiastic students began the vindication process in 2020 and persuaded Massachusetts state senator Diana DiZoglio (D), who took up the cause and pushed for Johnson’s pardon, which was announced last week.
It has taken 329 years for Elizabeth Johnson Jr.’s name to be cleared definitively. She was the last of the Salem witches to be exonerated. While Johnson was spared a death by hanging, she was stigmatized until she died at 77, an uncommonly long life for the time. Historians say that Johnson showed signs of mental instability and was single and childless, all of which were signs of witchcraft during that period. She pled guilty before the court of inquisitors. Almost 30 members of her extended family were also implicated, as if witchcraft were contagious, hereditary, or both. Johnson, her mother, several aunts and her grandfather, a church pastor, were tried as well. According to historian Emerson Baker, the author of a book about the Salem witch trials, her grandfather described Johnson to the judges as a “simplish person at best.” Most likely, the judges would have equated “simplish” with different during that superstitious and pre-scientific period.
The fact that Johnson didn’t have any descendants deprived her of anyone to vindicate her good name, as relatives of the other defendants did. The first attempt to do so happened at the beginning of the eighteenth century. Then, in the 1950s, Massachusetts passed a law exonerating those found guilty, but it failed to gather all the names. A 2001 attempt at justice excluded Johnson because, after her conviction in 1693, she was formally presumed to be dead (executed).
The social hysteria against everything that deviated from the norm, against the minimal exercise of free will, was implacable against women, as Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible (the playwright adapted it for the big screen in 1996) and recent variations remind us. The theme lends itself very well to artistic creation, but in real life it amounted to opprobrium for those who suffered it and represented a cause for scorn among puritans.
Salem was more than a witch trial. According to historians, it was a collective exorcism fueled by a puritanical inquisition based on paranoia and xenophobia, a gratuitous auto de fe that unleashed people’s worst instincts: fear and the human tendency to blame others for one’s own misfortunes. At least 172 people were indicted in the 1692 trial. About 35% confessed their guilt and were spared the gallows; according to sources, around twenty insisted on claiming their innocence and did not escape that fate. The rest of the detainees were acquitted or sentenced to prison. The Salem witch trials represented a collective bogeyman through which one can foresee the later threat of the Ku Klux Klan. It is hard not to wonder what bonfires would have burned today on the pyre of social media and extreme polarization.
The great Salem witch hunt can be re-read through the prism of gender. As the adage goes, se non è vero è ben trovato (Even if it is not true, it is well conceived). Witches, like those in Salem and the woman in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter (made into a film in the 1950s), were demonized for going off the rails. The dominant society’s puritanical stance against any kind of heterodoxy or freestyling, against rebels with or without a cause, led people to be targeted for dressing exotically by puritanical standards or for daring to drink at a tavern, a sacrilege for the morals of the day. It’s not difficult to draw a straight line from the bonnet of a witch on the gallows to the handmaid’s white bonnet in Margaret Atwood’s novel: all were women who were demonized, objectified, and scapegoated for deeper ills.
Beyond gender, other historians emphasize the socioeconomic dimension of the Salem witch trials, which combined a deep-seated inequality with racism, the United States’ original sin since well before the Declaration of Independence. The trials targeted colonial society’s most vulnerable during a period of economic instability that unleashed fierce rivalry among Salem families. According to historian Edward Bever, society was permeated by interpersonal conflict, much of it stemming from competition over resources. People did whatever they could to survive, from physical aggression to threats, curses, and insults. One of the first women accused, Sarah Osborne, was a poor widow who dared to claim her husband’s land for herself, defying the customary laws of nature, which granted the inheritance to sons. The accusation of witchcraft ended Osborne’s claim. Tituba, an indigenous slave, was accused of being a witch because her racial origins differed from the norm. Sarah Good was also poor, but she defended herself against the humiliations of her neighbors, which led her to the gallows; her daughter, Dorothy Dorcas Good, was Salem’s youngest victim: she was arrested at only four years old and spent eight months in prison.
Since then, history has not changed the fact that vulnerable women pay the price for circumstances beyond their control. That the Puritans of the time considered women—the evil heirs of Eve —prone to temptations such as the desire for material possessions or sexual gratification was only an added factor. Poor, homeless, and childless, these women in the shadow of society’s dominant morality were fodder for the gallows. But Elizabeth Johnson Jr. didn’t just manage to save her life; 329 years later she recovered her honor as well.
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