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Eliza Dushku was one of the biggest TV stars of the 90s. Then she disappeared.

This post discusses sexual assault and child abuse, and may be triggering for some readers.

In the late 90s and the early 2000s, Eliza Dushku's career was soaring. 

After stumbling into acting at just nine-years-old, she would soon become widely known for her roles on That Night, This Boy's Life, Bring It On and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. 

While she was set to become the next Hollywood 'it girl', the world's next biggest star had retreated into obscurity by the time the 2010s rolled around.

What we would come to realise almost a decade later though was that Dushku's break from the spotlight was a choice she made entirely on her own. 

Watch actress Eliza Dushku address students at a Youth Summit On Opioid Awareness in 2018. Post continues after video. 


Video via Youtube.

Eliza Dushku's career. 

Dushku "fell" into an acting career at the early age of nine - quite literally. 

Her brother, Nate, had been wanting to pursue acting but it would be Dushku who caught the attention of producers when she tripped and fell. 

“The first time I was called to go in for a screen test, my mother answered the phone and said, ‘Thank you, but no thank you. I don’t think this is what my daughter’s going to do in her life, but we’re flattered,’" the DollHouse actor told Bella Mag.

Eliza Dushku and her mother Judy, 2001. Image: Getty. 

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While her family didn't believe she'd "get the part," she was encouraged to take up the offer to audition for a free trip to Hollywood. 

That decision would catapult her into fame, as she scored a starring role on the 1992 romance thriller That Night, where she acted alongside Juliette Lewis, C. Thomas Howell and Katherine Heigl. 

Soon after, she would play the step-sister of Leonardo DiCaprio in 1993's This Boy's Life, which also starred Robert De Niro and Ellen Barkin.

Eliza Dushku and Leonardo DiCaprio in This Boy's Life, 1992. Image: Warner Bros. 

She would land another big role at the age of 12, where she would star alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis on the 1994 film True Lies. 

In 1999, Dushku starred alongside Kirsten Dunst and Gabrielle Union in the 2000 film Bring It On, which quickly became a pop culture phenomenon. 

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Since its release, a Broadway musical co-penned by Lin-Manuel Miranda and four sequels have followed.

"It covered ground that no other teen movie has ever covered then or since. Ever. Like, in history. It would’ve been as relevant 60 years ago as it was 20 years ago, and it’ll probably still be relevant 20 years from now," fellow actor Gabrielle Union shared with Vogue on the 20th anniversary of its release. 

"It’s the subject matter and how we handled it so unflinchingly with humour. It’s really stood the test of time and still packs the same wallop, but in a campy, good time."

Kirsten Dunst, Nathan West, Eliza Dushku, and Huntley Ritter in Bring It On 2000. Image: Getty. 

One of Dushku's most notable roles would be her character, 'Faith' on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. 

Despite being one of the most beloved characters on the show, she turned down an opportunity for her own spin-off - citing it was time to "try something else". 

She also admitted to IGN that the role felt intimidating to take on. 

"It would have been a really hard thing to do, and not that I wouldn't have been up for a challenge, but with it coming on immediately following the show, I think that those would have been really big boots to fill," she explained. "I think it would have been compared to 'Buffy'."

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Despite falling into a successful career, Dushku has since made it clear that fame was not all it was cracked up to be. 

Eliza Dushku, 2001. Image: Getty. 

In 2017, the actor revealed her struggle with alcohol and substance abuse and the impacts it had on her relationships with her family. 

At just 14, Dushku tried illegal substances for the first time, citing it as "fun... until it wasn't". 

"Something a lot of people don't know about me is that I am an alcoholic, and I was a drug addict for a lot of years," she explained at Youth Summit on Opioid Awareness. "You hear people say 'I am that' because I am that, and I'm always going to be that, but the difference between me and an alcoholic or drug addict that still drinks and does drugs is that I am sober."

She continued: "I loved the first time I took a drug because I loved how it made me feel. I loved the way it made me not feel, and I didn't have to feel... It was fun, and I loved it... until it wasn't." 

She made the decision to go sober after her brother told her she couldn't see her niece because 'he couldn't trust her'. 

"I got sober at first for my family, because I had gotten to a point where I felt so sick about myself," she shared. "I didn't like myself but I love my family."

In 2018, the actress celebrated 10 years of sobriety with an Instagram post. In it, she urged others struggling with addiction to seek help. 

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Assault allegations.

Sadly, almost two decades after acting in True Lies, Dushku would reveal during the rise of the #MeToo Movement and the Time's Up Campaign that she was sexually assaulted by a stunt coordinator on set.

In 2018, the actor posted to Facebook, detailing accusations against Joel Kramer. She said the stunt coordinator molested her in a Miami hotel room.

"He laid me down on the bed, wrapped me with his gigantic writhing body, and rubbed all over me," she wrote. 

In her account, she also alleged Kramer groomed her by gaining the trust of both her parents. 

On one occasion he told her parents he would take her for a swim in the hotel's pool. Instead, he "disappeared in the bathroom and emerged, naked, bearing nothing but a small hand towel held flimsy at his mid-section."

Dushku wrote that she thought Kramer had been forced out of his Hollywood work after being "found out", but later learned he was still working in the industry, 

"And a few weeks ago, I found an internet photo of Joel Kramer hugging a young girl," she wrote. "That image has haunted me near nonstop since. I can no longer hide what happened."

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Sue Booth-Forbes, who was Dusku's legal guardian at the time of filming, said in 2018: "Eliza Dushku is telling the truth."

"I was her legal guardian and took seriously my need to have her in my sight at all times, which was often difficult to do. I was on the True Lies set for three weeks and reported Joel Kramer‘s inappropriate sexual behavior towards 12-year-old Eliza to a person in authority. I was met with blank stares and had the sense that I wasn’t telling that person anything they didn’t already know."

Kramer denied the allegations as "just outright hyperbole and lies". Since then, he has had two more allegations made against him. 

Dushku's mother, Judy, responded to criticism via Facebook, following her daughter's brave admission. 

"I accept your condemnation as Eliza’s mother," she wrote in response to comments that she had allowed the abuse. "No, it was not her career that I feared for, as that meant nothing to me. I was afraid of Joel Kramer, too. And it was years later that I finally understood fully what really happened.

"At the time, Eliza was too scared to tell the whole story and in a way I think she protected me from knowing because she knew how frightened I was of the powerful men on the set." 

Relationships.

Dushku began dating former Canadian basketball player Rick Fox in 2009. 

The pair discussed marriage, but in an interview with US Weekly, Fox shared Dushku had other goals in mind first. 

"We've been honest about that conversation, and we've had it," he explained. "I've failed in marriage before, and this will be her first marriage. So we want to make sure the foundation is laid in a responsible way where communication is had about what she wants from life as a woman - whether she wants to have kids or go back to school - whatever she wants to do." 

Fox had two children from his previous marriage to Vanessa Williams, whom he divorced in 2005 after six years of marriage.

"Watching her and my kids bond over the holidays was really a gift to me - I couldn't have wished for anything better," he shared. "I told her, 'We're not married, yet, but you're like a stepmother to my kids.'"

After five years together in 2014, the pair decided to call it quits. 

Despite all signs that they were going strong, Dushku shared her desire to return to Boston - where she grew up - was a major factor in their decision to part ways.

"Rick's an L.A. guy and I'm a Boston girl," she told Boston Globe in 2014. "Nobody in L.A. has a basement. They all have the obligatory storage spaces in the Valley."

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"I’d rather be a little physically cold here than emotionally cold in LA."

In 2016, Dushku began dating Peter Palandjian, the CEO of Intercontinental Real Estate Corporation. By 2017, the pair shared to Instagram they were engaged. 


In August 2018, Dushku announced she and Palandjian had officially tied the knot in a private ceremony, surrounded by family and friends. 

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The actor and CEO share two children together; a two-year-old son named Philip and in August, they welcomed their newborn son, Bodan. 

Legal battle.

In 2017, Dushku landed a major role working alongside NCIS star Michael Weatherly in Bull, where she would play the "smart, strong leading lady," lawyer, 'J.P. Nunnelly'. 

However, just three episodes in, Dushku's character was written out of the show with little to no explanation given. 

What fans would come to find out was that she was allegedly fired from the show by Weatherly after being "sexually harassed and bullied day-in and day-out." 

In 2021, the actor came forward about her experience working on the set of Bull, and revealed within the first week of filming, she was "the brunt of crude, sexualised, and lewd verbal assaults."

After approaching her co-star, Dushku says instead of being met with understanding - she was abruptly fired from the show and written out of the season. 

"I suffered near constant sexual harassment from my costar. This was beyond anything I had experienced in my 30-year career," she said in a statement shared on Twitter. 

Dushku said that her co-star would refer to her as "Legs" and "would smell me and leeringly look me up and down."

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She went on to say that her co-star - who was not named specifically to be Weatherly - went "off-script," and in front of about "a hundred crew members," told her he would "take me to his rape van and use lube and long phallic things on me and take me over his knee and spank me like a little girl."

Dushku added: "Another time he told me that his sperm were powerful swimmers... These are just a few examples. These were not lines in the script."

The actor went on to say her co-star's lewd comments encouraged other crew members to sexually harass her. 

"One day after I delivered a court room monologue, that I'd spent significant time rehearsing, my co-star shouted out that he and his buddy wanted to have a threesome with me and began mock penis-jousting while the camera was still rolling," she shared. 

She went on to say another "random male crew member" approached her about having a "threesome".

"I had just been humiliated in front of a hundred co-workers by the star and now it seemed it was open season for others to demean me sexually too."

The actor said that after approaching Weatherly about his comments, she later found out he'd texted the head of CBS Studios, saying she had a "humour deficit" and that "he didn’t want me on the show." 

She was fired the following day.

Dushku explained that while looking into her legal options, she found that the mandatory arbitration clause in her contract "would be used to keep what had happened to me a secret and would protect CBS and the sexual harassment perpetrator who had blatantly retaliated against me for trying to stop the harassment in my workplace."

"I was shocked to learn that I signed away my rights to a public forum before taking a job," the actor shared.

She was paid $9.5 US million on the condition that she not speak about what happened on set, but decided to break her silence after her settlement amount broke to the media, and Weatherly gave a statement to the press. 

"NDAs re-victimize (sic) people," she told Time. "They give more power to the powerful."

Listen: Christian Porter. What happens now? Post continues after audio...

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Dushku's life now.

In 2019, after almost two decades of living in Los Angeles, Dushku returned to her roots and told Boston Magazine she was "a full-time Bostonian yet again."

In an honest admission, the actor shared she was shocked she had stayed in L.A. that long, citing it was "an honest effort". 

"L.A. was good to me for a lot of years, but to this day I still can’t believe I lived there for 18 years - that’s an honest effort," she said.  

"But I always considered myself a Boston girl through and through, and I always planned to come back."

She also obtained an Albanian citizenship, which was shown in an hour-long documentary she was a part of, called Dear America.

The documentary was made alongside her brother, Nate, actor and producer Blerim Destani, and photographer Fadil Berisha.

"Today and for all time, I, Eliza Dushku, am an official Albanian-American citizen and intend to continue to honour my roles by being a global service activist," she said. 

While she hasn't been in front of the camera since 2017, Dushku has a successful voice acting career, including a reprisal of her Buffy character, 'Faith', in Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds and other shows and films including Tobotomy, Torchwood: Web of Lies, Jay and Silent Bob's Super Groovy Cartoon Movie, Ultimate Spider-Man and Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.

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While Dushku's career isn't as jam-packed these days, the actor has remained steadfast in her desire to return to acting on her own terms. 

"I don't want people to think coming forward means ending your career," she told Time

Her decision to move back to Boston, away from the lights and the glamour of Hollywood life - was one she made entirely in mind of her mental health. 

"I could be acting ... I just need to be here right now."

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home. 

You can also call safe steps 24/7 Family Violence Response Line on 1800 015 188 or visit www.safesteps.org.au for further information.

Feature Image: Getty / Instagram @elizadushku.

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