12:26 PM EDT, September 21, 2012
More and more kids are flocking to Hollywood today hoping to catch their first big break. And many of today's A-list celebs started out the same way. Tobey Maguire and Leonardo DiCaprio all landed roles as child actors before finding fame.
But just how safe is it for child actors working in Hollywood today?
Since 2000 prosecutors have charged over a dozen men working in Hollywood with child molestation and possession of child porn, leading many to wonder if Tinsel Town has a pedophile problem.
For years Marty Weiss managed dozens of young actors, getting them roles on shows like Nickelodeon’s iCarly and Disney’s Good Luck Charlie. But 10 months ago Weiss was arrested after a young actor accused Weiss of molesting him over 30 times - starting when he was just 11 years old.
“It is some of the most horrific child abuse I have ever seen,” said Anne Henry, the co-founder of BizParents – a non-profit child actors’ advocacy group.
An INSIDE EDITION producer caught up with Weiss shortly after he finished serving six months in jail.
“Excuse me Mr. Weiss. I' m with INSIDE EDITION,” said the IE producer.
“No comment,” Weiss retorted.
“Did you get a job in Hollywood just so you could get access to young kids?” asked the IE Producer.
But Weiss wasn’t interested in talking and walked off.
“There is an enormous problem. Predators come to our industry because there is no regulation. They come to our industry because they can be alone with children,” commented Henry.
Believe it or not, there are no background checks required in Hollywood for publicists and talent managers like Marty Weiss who deal with children.
Jim Moret, INSIDE EDITION’s Senior Correspondent, sat down with former child actress Alison Angrim.
“Isn't it horrifying to say there’s a casting couch for children and there is,” said Alison Angrim.
Best known for her role as the spit-fire Nellie on Little House on the Prairie, Angrim says predators have been abusing child actors for decades. “This is standard practice,” said Angrim
But Angrim, who says she was also molested as a child, believes few young actors report it for fear of being black-listed. Angrim is now the national spokeswoman for Protect.org - an organization that works to protect children from abuse
Before he got starring roles in movies like The Sandlot 2, former child actors Cole Weiss and his brother Michael (no relation to Marty Weiss) were lured out to Hollywood with promises of stardom by talent manager Tommy Lowery.
“It’s just completely, its unbelievable,” said Cole while choking back tears.
After paying for their airfare from Florida to Los Angeles, Lowery engaged in criminal sexual activity with Cole in a Hollywood hotel room. Cole was only 12 years old.
“He's sick. He did this. I didn’t do anything wrong,” said Cole.
Both brothers bravely testified against Lowery who's now serving a 19-year sentence for child exploitation charges.
“I believe that all child actors have at some point come in contact with a predator,” says Henry.
Case in point: Bob Villard. As a prominent Hollywood publicist and manager, Villard says he helped guide the young careers of several of today's biggest stars - including Tobey Maguire and Leonardo DiCaprio. Villard also frequently photographed the young future stars and even took photos of a young Tom Cruise.
While none of those actors has ever accused Villard of abuse, Villard recently finished an eight-year sentence for molesting an aspiring young actor.
An INSIDE EDITION producer also caught up with Villard.
“I'm with INSIDE EDITION. I'd like to talk to you about your career in Hollywood.”
But Villard ran off without saying a word.
“Why are you running away Mr. Villard?” asked the IE Producer.
Today, Anne Henry leads a group of Hollywood parents who are fighting to change the laws to keep sex offenders like Bob Villard and Marty Weiss from ever working with child actors again.
“They're convicted felons and they need to stay away from children,” said Henry.
A law now pending before the California governor would require a background check and a permit for anyone who works with child actors in an unsupervised setting.