When she booked a small role in 2003 to play Tom Sizemore’s daughter in a movie that was being filmed in Utah, then-11-year-old Kiersten Pyke was so excited.
She had worked on smaller sets before, but this was a bigger role. Sizemore was a movie star — and the role could have helped her blossoming acting career.
But on the first day of shooting still photos on the Salt Lake City set, Pyke says Sizemore groped her during a scene where the girl sat near him beneath a Christmas tree.
It is a day the now-26-year-old woman remembers vividly. She remembers being disgusted by the smell of sweat and alcohol as Sizemore leaned in close to her to kiss her as they posed for photos. She remembers another scene later that day when she rode a bicycle, how his hands rested on the bike seat near her body.
She remembers silently pleading, “Please don’t do it again. Please don’t touch me again.”
After Pyke told her mother later that day that she was touched inappropriately — and her parents alerted police and those working on the set — the girl was fired from the movie.
Pyke said Monday that everything changed at that point. No one was interested in booking her in any roles and her career stalled. She never again booked a role in a movie.
And the abuse, she said, has had lasting effects into her adulthood. She has trust issues and post-traumatic stress disorder. As she looks at other child actors playing roles on TV, her thoughts drift and she wonders if any of them were touched by other actors the way she was.
“I will be damned if it wasn’t a huge turning point in my life,” she said at a Monday news conference. “Everything began to look sideways then.”
Pyke on Monday filed a lawsuit against Sizemore in Salt Lake City’s 3rd District Court, seeking at least $3 million in damages for the alleged sexual abuse.
Allegations of the 2003 incident of inappropriate touching first became public in November in a Hollywood Reporter article, which cited a dozen cast and crewmembers from the set of the movie “Piggy Banks,” a title that was changed to “Born Killers” before its 2005 release.
In November, Sizemore tweeted — then deleted — a denial that he kissed and groped the young girl. Efforts to reach Sizemore’s publicists on Monday were unsuccessful.
According to the lawsuit, a scene in the movie required the girl to sit on Sizemore’s lap as he was lying down in front of a Christmas tree. While filming the scene, Sizemore allegedly fondled the young girl’s genitals underneath her clothing.
After the alleged assault, the girl told her mother “that the man ‘Daddy’ in the movie had touched her inappropriately,” according to the lawsuit, and her mother called the Salt Lake City police department.
Sizemore was initially fired from the movie, the lawsuit alleges, but producers spoke with the girl’s parents and told them they “were compelled to hire Sizemore back” and, instead, the girl was fired from the film.
Police investigated the case and referred it to the Salt Lake County district attorney’s office to consider criminal charges. But prosecutors declined to file criminal charges, citing problems with witnesses and evidence, according to the police report.
The Tribune generally does not identify victims of sexual abuse, but Pyke agreed to the use of her name.
Pyke’s attorney, Robert Sykes, said Monday that while they are seeking millions in damages, they don’t anticipate getting much money from Sizemore. He added that they had been in negotiations to settle the case with Sizemore’s attorney, but discussions had stalled in the last six weeks.
On Monday, Pyke sat in Sykes’ office and petted her emotional therapy dog — a steel-grey pit bull named Diesel — and fielded questions from news reporters. When asked why she waited to file the lawsuit until now, Pyke said she never intended to bring it up publicly. But after the Hollywood Reporter article outed her story, and the casting director from the film posted a message on social media seeking her out, Pyke decided to consider a civil lawsuit.
“It’s not okay to touch children,” she said. “Plain and simple. Whatever comes of it now, it’s not for me at this point. … There are children out there who might watch this, and, like I did, will say something to their mommies and daddies.”
Pyke was able to sue in Utah because of a law change in 2016, when legislators voted to open a three-year window of opportunity, and even longer in some cases, for child sex abuse victims to bring lawsuits that had previously been considered too late to file. A year prior, lawmakers had erased the deadline for filing lawsuits that allege more recent childhood abuse — but it did not apply to older cases.
Now, those who could not bring a civil lawsuit under the old law can still sue under a three-year window starting in May 2016 or until 35 years after their 18th birthday – whichever is longer.