Casey Affleck Finally Sort of Almost Apologizes for Alleged Harassment
Half-decent / Half jacka**
It’s been eight years since two women—a producer and the director of photography—working on the film I’m Still Here filed sexual harassment suits against Casey Affleck (and about a year and a half since the allegations resurfaced while Affleck was campaigning for his Manchester By the Sea Oscar) but in that time, he’s rarely spoken about the accusations and subsequent lawsuits. The words he has said have been terrible.
Here’s what he told the New York Times via email in the fall of 2016: “It was settled to the satisfaction of all. I was hurt and upset—I am sure all were—but I am over it. It was an unfortunate situation—mostly for the innocent bystanders of the families of those involved.”
Here’s what he told Variety around the same time: “People say whatever they want. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how you respond … I guess people think if you’re well-known, it’s perfectly fine to say anything you want. I don’t know why that is. But it shouldn’t be because everybody has families and lives.”
By March of 2017 he seems to have at least ditched the victimhood approach, telling The Boston Globe, “I believe that any kind of mistreatment of anyone for any reason is unacceptable and abhorrent, and everyone deserves to be treated with respect in the workplace and anywhere else.” He also said that everyone on both sides of the suit “are prohibited from commenting on the matter,” a common stipulation in court settlements like the one Affleck and the plaintiffs reached, “and none of the people who are condemning him online know what happened.”
So it’s more than a little surprising to read a new interview Affleck did with the AP, in which he finally addresses the allegations head-on.
“First of all,” he said, “that I was ever involved in a conflict that resulted in a lawsuit is something that I really regret. I wish I had found a way to resolve things in a different way. I hate that.”
He continued, “I had never had any complaints like that made about me before in my life and it was really embarrassing and I didn’t know how to handle it and I didn’t agree with everything, the way I was being described, and the things that were said about me, but I wanted to try to make it right, so we made it right in the way that was asked at the time. And we all agreed to just try to put it behind us and move on with our lives, which I think we deserve to do, and I want to respect them as they’ve respected me and my privacy.”
So he’s still pretty much denying the allegations, which he has all along, including, at one point, having threatened a countersuit. But this is the first time he’s spoken about this since the #MeToo movement broke and he does actually seem to have gained some insight.
Affleck was the director, producer, co-writer and co-star of I’m Still Here. He was, as he admits, “the boss” and while he doesn’t specifically address the uneven power dynamics that brings into play, he does take responsibility for what he calls the film’s “unprofessional environment.”
“Over the past couple of years, I’ve been listening a lot to this conversation, this public conversation, and learned a lot. I kind of moved from a place of being defensive to one of sort of a more mature point of view, trying to find my own culpability,” he said. “Once I did that, I discovered there was a lot to learn. I was a boss. I was one of the producers on the set.
“I contributed to that unprofessional environment and I tolerated that kind of behavior from other people, and I wish that I hadn’t. And I regret a lot of that,” he continued. “I really did not know what I was responsible for as kind of the boss. I don’t even know if I thought of myself as the boss. But I behaved in a way and allowed others to behave in a way that was really unprofessional. And I’m sorry.”
Admitting that he himself was responsible for maintaining a professional workplace is a first step. But the behavior Affleck was accused of goes beyond “unprofessional.” The behavior describes was chronically toxic and inappropriate. He was accused of entering his female colleagues’ beds half-naked, consistent “lewd comments” and discussion of sexual acts, encouraging male crew members to expose themselves to the women, repeatedly referring to women as “cows,” and consistently encouraging other male crew members to harass the women.
He was also accused of locking himself in the women’s shared hotel room while filming in Costa Rica along with co-star Joaquin Phoenix and two other women so that they could “engage in sexual activity.”
That’s not just unprofessional, it’s straight-up harassment and abuse.
It’s hard to give Affleck much credit for this halfway decent apology, and the dedication he says he has to “keep [his] mouth shut and listen,” given the timing. He could have addressed all of this when he was promoting Manchester by the Sea, when people were asking him to. But he’s currently promoting his first film since #MeToo became a major conversation point, and he must have known his chances of getting through a promotional tour without having to address the charges were nonexistent. The interviewer he chose to give these statements to asked him many of the right questions, but let his responses go totally unchallenged.
This was clearly a strategic pick meant to get this all out of the way as painlessly as possible, allowing him to guide the conversation. It will be interesting to see what the rest of his interviews leading up to the release of this movie look like, as well as the promotional tours he’ll be doing for any of his upcoming projects. Of which, by the way, he currently has six. Because despite the severity of the allegations against him, Casey Affleck was always going to be just fine.
(via AP, image: screencap)
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