By Amy Kaufman . . . Twentieth Century Fox was just days away from locking picture on “The Predator” when an urgent note came in: Delete the scene featuring Steven Wilder Striegel.
Striegel, 47, didn’t have a big role in his longtime friend Shane Black’s reboot of the sci-fi thriller — just a three-page scene shared with actress Olivia Munn.
But last month, Munn learned that Striegel is a registered sex offender who pleaded guilty in 2010 after facing allegations that he attempted to lure a 14-year-old female into a sexual relationship via the internet. When Munn shared the information with Fox on Aug. 15, studio executives quickly decided to excise him from the movie.
“Our studio was not aware of Mr. Striegel’s background when he was hired,” a Fox spokesperson said in a statement to The Times. “We were not aware of his background during the casting process due to legal limitations that impede studios from running background checks on actors.”
Black, however, has always known.
Striegel, an actor who’d appeared on “Days of Our Lives” and “Melrose Place,” first met Black when he was invited to the “Lethal Weapon” screenwriter’s home by a mutual friend for pizza and a movie. When Wilder was arrested in 2009, the two had been friends for five years.
Striegel served six months in jail after pleading guilty to two felonies — risk of injury to a child and enticing a minor by computer. The first role he landed after his release was in Black’s 2013 film, “Iron Man 3.” Three years later, he got another part in one of the filmmaker’s projects, the crime caper “The Nice Guys.” In 2016, Black told GQ that he was planning to produce a heist film “by my friend Steve Wilder.”
Black defended his decision to cast Striegel in a small part in “The Predator” as a jogger who repeatedly hits on Munn’s character.
“I personally chose to help a friend,” Black said in a written statement to The Times. “I can understand others might disapprove, as his conviction was on a sensitive charge and not to be taken lightly.”
But he said he has long believed that Striegel was “caught up in a bad situation versus something lecherous.”