By Katie Spencer, Arts and Entertainment Correspondent, and Amy Hitchcock, Entertainment Producer
When he was five years old, Nathan Forrest Winters dreamt of being a star. By 11 he had the leading role in a film called Clownhouse.
It was a low-budget horror film directed by Victor Salva and financed by Francis Ford Coppola. Behind the scenes, something truly disturbing was happening.
“Some of the cast and crew came to my mum and said ‘Nathan and Victor’s interaction on set is not ok, there’s something going on’,” Winters, 39, told Sky News.
The former child star said Salva had been grooming him since he was six after he befriended Winters’ mother who made film props.
He said: “His grooming process was developing my love and trust. Developing my parents’ trust.
“Essentially he became a close friend of the family and it turned from ‘How about I take Nathan for a few hours tonight, give you guys a break’ into full weekends at his house.”
Winters said Salva invited him to stay at his apartment, where they watched Disney’s The Jungle Book together.
“He started talking about Mowgli’s loin cloth so that he could make me one,” he said.
“He got two bandanas and tied them together and made this loin cloth and as he’s tying them, he’s fondling me. And that’s my first memory of when the abuse started.
“It progressed over the next five years… For him, everything was sexual. He videotaped all of it, it was full-blown.”
When Winters’ family found out, they went to the police. Salva was convicted and sentenced to three years in prison, but served less than half.
Winters says the process of going through the courts was traumatic and intimidating.
“He had a nice expensive lawyer… There were people watching us. I think there’s no other intent than to make us aware that we were being watched, to intimidate us and scare us off,” he said.
As a convicted paedophile, Salva is on the sex offenders register but it hasn’t stopped him working in Hollywood.
Powder, one of the scripts he wrote in prison, was distributed by Disney’s Buena Vista Pictures. He has also directed the Jeepers Creepers franchise.
Winters, however, was told he would never work in the industry again.
“I was basically black balled for telling the truth. He’s been coddled completely, big names in Hollywood have been backing him throughout the entire process. Seems like there’s an exclusive club and Victor’s part of that club.”
When the Weinstein scandal broke, we predicted more allegations about other powerful Hollywood players would surface.
Some have been more surprising and shocking than others, but we were horrified at how little we had to scratch the surface to uncover stories of paedophilia in Hollywood.
For decades, former teen idol Corey Feldman has been met with varying levels of scepticism in speaking out about the abuse he suffered by Hollywood paedophiles – along with his friend Corey Haim who, before he died, said he was raped aged 11.
Starring together in 1987’s The Lost Boys, they were two of the biggest child stars in the Eighties. But it seems finding the courage to go public about their abuse hasn’t been enough to encourage others to dare to come forward.
“Right off the bat I can name six names, one of them who is still very powerful today, and a story that links all the way up to a studio, it connects paedophilia to one of the major studios,” Feldman said in a video he posted on Twitter in October.
US sexual abuse lawyer Jeff Herman told us the problem is staggering.
“I’ve heard many stories of kids going to an agent who can control their career, the agents spending time alone with the child, they’re able to get them away without parental supervision, and then they take advantage of these kids. It’s more common than we can even imagine,” he said.
“I’ve heard stories from adults who were abused as kids in Hollywood who’ve talked to me about going to these industry events where there are multiple men there exchanging information about kids, it’s frightening,” he added.
Child abuse experts in Los Angeles say they treat 200-300 cases of sexual abuse every year. As part of a two-month operation targeting child predators in Southern California, LA Police made 238 arrests in 2016.
Commanding Officer at the LA Police Department Juvenile Division Paul Espinosa told us it’s much harder to detect abuse among minors.
“It takes that inner strength to come forward. Now, with children that inner strength is not the same as with adults,” he said.
It’s a concern echoed by lawyer Jeff Herman: “They feel like they’ve done something wrong, they feel guilty, and it’s very difficult to come and talk about it because you’re not even sure if you’re a victim.”
Star of 1970s US sitcom Diff’rent Strokes Todd Bridges, who was molested by his publicist, told us that abuse has destroyed countless lives in Hollywood.
“I’m one of the few children who’s still around. Pretty much every one of my protégés have died or committed suicide or OD’d, you know, because they couldn’t get over the stuff that happened to them,” he said.
“At the time that it was going on, 11 to 12, I didn’t know what I was. As a little kid you don’t know what you are, I’d never had sexual encounters or anything and when that man did it to me, he’d groomed me very well.”
Hollywood writer Tony Hawkins points out that while children are particularly vulnerable, the power imbalance is heightened further by the fact many film industry people have a huge amount of influence.
“These people throw money at the problem, whether it’s paying people off or hiring a team of lawyers, powerful people use money as a shield and this is why all these people stay silent, it’s a very hard and powerful thing to fight.”
One of the most disturbing aspects of the Weinstein scandal is the people around him who were complicit in protecting the producer, keeping quiet about accusations of sexual assault and rape – which Weinstein denies.
The domino effect of people coming forward with allegations of misconduct by other powerful figures has been astonishing as people feel empowered to share their horrifying allegations.
Tyler Grasham, an agent for one of the stars of Stranger Things, was fired after being accused of raping an 18-year-old.
With allegations mounting, Kevin Spacey has apologised to actor Anthony Rapp for sexual harassment when he was 14.
And the Weinstein controversy has prompted fresh attacks over why Roman Polanski continues to be decorated with industry awards – despite a conviction for raping a 13-year-old.
The power that comes with fame seems to make some untouchable – a fact that comes as no surprise to Hollywood writer Tony Horkins.
“If we look at historically at what’s been going on, how long ago was it that Mel Gibson was completely derided in this town and he’s now being lauded for his work. We’ve seen these scandals for Roman Polanski and Woody Allen, scandals become very public and then a few years later they’re being given more money for projects.”
This selective amnesia is further evidenced in the case of Brian Peck.
In 2004 the actor was convicted of sex with a child. But just two years later he got a role on the kids’ show The Suite Life Of Zack And Cody, and has since been working as a dialogue coach on Anger Management.
When we queried whether Peck’s inclusion on the sex offenders register was considered when hiring him on Anger Management, someone close to the show, who wishes to remain anonymous, told us the decision to hire him was taken by the show’s star Charlie Sheen.
A cast member had complained when they found out about Peck’s background and an investigation had been conducted, but as Peck had served his time, the recommendation was that he could be allowed to stay on set providing no children were present and if his time off set was limited to Sheen’s trailer.
Lawyer Jeff Herman warns what Hollywood is seeing now is just the beginning.
“You just have to look at what’s happening with young women, we know they’re not being protected so what makes us think that anyone else is being protected? This is opening up, I think, a big can of worms for Hollywood.”
Winters hopes people will now find strength in one another to speak out.
“Whether you’re a woman, man, child or adult abuse is abuse and victims and survivors should all band together.
“There’s strength in numbers and I’m really hoping that through this exposure more people will come forward.”
In covering this story, there was one thing Bridges said that has stayed with us this week: “When you realise it’s wrong, they say you’re lying.”
You can’t quite imagine the enormity of what it must be like to go through something as harrowing as he did as a child – to be too scared to tell anyone, and when you finally find the courage to speak up, you are ignored, dismissed, discredited or paid off.
So it begs the question whether this will be enough of a catalyst to finally force Hollywood to oust its abusers.