Danny Elfman Sued for Defamation by Harassment Accuser Nomi Abadi

LA lawsuit contains graphic allegations of misconduct by the renowned musician and songwriter

Composer Nomi Abadi is suing “Batman” and “Beetlejuice” composer Danny Elfman for defamation, stemming from statements he made to Rolling Stone last year. The statements were included in an investigative piece about a settlement he reached with his former protégé after she accused him of repeated sexual harassment and misconduct.

Abadi’s lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleges that Elfman “sold to Rolling Stone horrific lies about Nomi for publication.” The list of alleged lies includes statements from the “Simpsons” composer and his representatives claiming that he had not engaged in sexual misconduct with Abadi, had never masturbated in front of her, had never touched her inappropriately and “never put his bodily fluids in a martini glass that he presented to Nomi,” as she alleged. The complaint also criticized Elfman and his team for portraying Abadi as “a scorned woman seeking revenge and money to make Elfman pay for rejecting her.” Abadi alleges that Elfman implied that she “provoked Elfman’s misconduct, including by asking him to take nude photographs of her.” As a result, “Nomi’s career aspirations have been [were left] in shreds.”

The complaint, obtained by Varietymarks the latest salvo that Abadi, a classically trained pianist and emerging composer, has fired against Elfman, a prolific composer who works in film and television and a founder of the groundbreaking New Wave band Oingo Boingo. Attorney Eric George, who represented Amber Heard in the early stages of her legal battles with ex-husband Johnny Depp, filed the lawsuit on Abadi’s behalf. George and Abadi declined to comment.

Elfman is represented by Camille Vasquez, who made a name for herself helping client Depp largely prevail over Heard in a televised trial in Virginia in 2022. Representatives for Elfman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Elfman’s statements were part of a Rolling Stone story published in July 2023. That story revealed that Elfman had entered into a previously unreported settlement and nondisclosure agreement with Abadi after she accused him of multiple incidents of sexual harassment and misconduct that occurred from 2015 to 2016. (Through a lawyer, Elfman has denied the allegations.) For the story, Rolling Stone reported that it had found a Los Angeles police report filed by Abadi in which she alleged that Elfman exposed herself and masturbated in front of her multiple times without her consent. Rolling Stone also reported that Abadi was suing Elfman for failure to pay the full $830,000 settlement. Wednesday’s lawsuit is her second against Elfman filed in open court.

In October, a second woman accused Elfman of sexual misconduct in a lawsuit she filed as Jane Doe XX. The woman alleged in the complaint, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, that Elfman had exposed himself to her regularly during meetings that took place from 1997 to 2002. In that lawsuit, the woman was described as a 21-year-old “protégé” of Elfman’s when the alleged incidents began. (Elfman’s attorney called Jane Doe XX’s accusations “baseless and absurd.”)

In the lawsuit filed Wednesday, Abadi alleges that “Elfman forced her [posing nude]”when he was 61 and she was 26 and “masturbated in front of Nomi, then apologized and promised not to do it again.” The complaint also says the Grammy and Emmy winner “inappropriately touched Nomi, then apologized to Nomi and later threatened her in an attempt to keep his crimes a secret.” In the most bizarre subplot, Abadi’s lawsuit alleges that Elfman’s representatives falsely denied that he put his semen in a martini glass and falsely claimed that Abadi knew it wasn’t semen. Elfman’s representatives claimed in the Rolling Stone story that the glass was filled with Cetaphil moisturizer, and that Abadi knew it was a “dumb photo prop.” “In fact, Elfman admitted to Nomi that he gave her a glass full of semen,” the lawsuit says.

Elfman’s story spread far and wide. “At least 20 prominent publications repeated his and his representatives’ defamatory statements about Nomi,” the complaint adds. As a result, job opportunities are said to have dried up for the aspiring composer, whose credits include a series of short films and the 2023 film “Sebastian.” “Nomi has suffered from PTSD, anxiety, depression, nervousness, and fear for her personal safety “in the wake of online harassment fueled by this defamation,” the complaint said.

The power differential between the two seems significant. Elfman, a four-time Oscar nominee who is represented by Kraft-Engel Management, remains one of the most sought-after composers in the industry. He created the instantly recognizable theme for “The Simpsons” and, more recently, Netflix’s “Wednesday.” Elfman, 71, is a frequent collaborator with Tim Burton, having scored most of his films, including 1989’s “Batman” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” and has also worked with everyone from Noah Baumbach to Sam Raimi. His upcoming films include Warner Bros.’ “Beetlejuice Bettlejuice.” What’s more, the composing industry is tight-knit, male-dominated and union-free. Mentorships are essential for young composers trying to get their feet wet.

But the mentor-mentee relationship can be fraught with landmines. Abadi’s lawsuit alleges that Elfman frequently disrobed in what was supposed to be a professional setting and “called nudity an important part of his creative process and insisted that a nude environment did not mean a sexual environment.” The lawsuit continues: “On more than one occasion, Defendant Elfman reprimanded Nomi for her belief that nudity is inappropriate in a studio setting and insisted that changing her conservative views on nudity would benefit her artistically.”

Elfman “also began regularly opening his studio door in his robe with the front of the robe open, exposing his genitals,” the complaint alleges, and showed his acolyte a gallery of images on his laptop of Elfman nude with nude women, referring to them as his “special friends.” “Defendant Elfman was eager to prove to Nomi that other women had been nude in his vicinity in an ‘artistic’ and ‘non-sexual’ manner and strongly encouraged Nomi to do a similar photo shoot with him,” the complaint alleges. “Nomi told Mr. Elfman that she found the photographs stylistically appealing but was uncomfortable with the idea. Defendant Elfman became enraged with Nomi and again berated her for her modesty.”

During a group trip to Paris, Elfman convinced Abadi to participate in a photo shoot he described as artistic and non-sexual. But according to the complaint, “he suddenly grabbed his penis with one hand and grabbed Nomi by the wrist with his other hand, pressing her hand down on her genitals,” the complaint says. “Nomi was overwhelmed and terrified. Defendant Elfman began to masturbate vigorously and instructed Nomi to do the same to herself. Nomi was terrified, frozen, and acted as if she wanted to please Defendant Elfman. Relieved that the moment was over within seconds, Nomi was stunned and shocked. Nomi recalls that Defendant Elfman stared at her with wide eyes, as if he was surprised. Defendant Elfman then removed the memory card from Nomi’s camera and handed the empty camera back to Nomi, later saving the photos to his computer. Defendant Elfman instructed Nomi to ‘not tell anyone about Paris,’ or she would be ‘dead meat.’”

During one of their final meetings in 2016, a political conversation devolved into a shocking Elfman meltdown, the lawsuit alleges. When Abadi expressed her fear of presidential candidate Donald Trump and her support for candidate Bernie Sanders, Elfman responded, “We can’t have a Jew running our country,” the lawsuit says. (Elfman is Jewish.) “The hour-long argument ended with Defendant Elfman yelling at Nomi and shaking his fist at her, red in the face,” the lawsuit continues. “Nomi, already aware of Defendant Elfman’s temper, was terrified but remained calm. Defendant Elfman raised his voice at Nomi and yelled, ‘Fuck you and fuck your entire generation,’ at which point Nomi left his studio.”

In February 2023, Abadi spoke at a pre-Grammy press conference, noting that despite being a member of the Recording Academy, she did not vote because the Grammy nominees list included “abusers.” Elfman was nominated for a Grammy for Marvel’s “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.” Other women speaking at the press conference condemned the use of NDAs, noting that they are used by powerful men to silence women in the music industry.

Meanwhile, the issue of the LAPD report, which is not mentioned in today’s lawsuit, raises even more questions that remain unanswered. In its story last year, Rolling Stone cited details from the report but noted that an LAPD representative “could not locate the report and that the department ‘has no information to provide and no explanation.'”

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