Where has Casey Affleck been? It feels like we haven’t heard from him since he won a 2017 Oscar for his performance in Manchester By The Sea, despite having had sexual-harassment allegations and lawsuits filed against him. Yes, he was in that Rooney Mara film last year, but as he wore a sheet the whole time, we didn’t get to see much of him.
Today, Affleck has emerged in an interview with the Associated Press (AP) and, from his reserved manner and carefully phrased answers, it’s now clear where he’s been all this time – completing his fast-track degree in #MeToo at The Harvey Weinstein School Of Hollywood Harassment. Other notable alumni include Matt Damon, Louis CK, Kevin Spacey and even Affleck’s own brother, Ben.
Run by the best PRs and publicists in Hollywood, the #MeToo school is half rehabilitation, half education on how to successfully avoid blame while also appearing very, very, very sorry. No graduate will ever admit that they have enrolled in #MeToo school – it’s a secret boys’ club, like Fight Club or parliament.
“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 says, after a lot of sighing and lip biting. Those not wise to the teachings of a Hollywood PR may read this as an apology, when, in fact, Affleck has just admitted he regrets getting caught up in a lawsuit – not committing the alleged harassment in the first place. “It was really embarrassing,” he admits, “and I didn’t know how to handle it. I didn’t agree with the way I was being described and the things that were being said about me.”
Many have been praising Affleck for his “respectable” interview and not trying to “push blame elsewhere”, but others don’t believe he has “learned” from the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements. After all, he manages not to mention the fact that those conversations happened, in part, because of the actions of him and his pals. He has also apparently realised he should take a step back from speaking up in these arenas and follow, rather than lead. In an interview. About #MeToo.
Just a reminder of why Casey Affleck is being asked about sexual harassment in the workplace: in 2010, two of his co-workers filed civil lawsuits against him for sexual harassment and breach of oral contract – the first was producer Amanda White, who detailed allegations of “uninvited sexual advancements”; inappropriate comments about her fertility and age; encouraging another man to expose himself in front of her; referring to women as “cows”; and attempting to “manipulate” her into staying in a hotel room with him for the night, then grabbing her by the arm and sending abusive messages when she refused.
Affleck's comment raises questions about how much of an agreement can really be made between a woman and the man she claims has sexually harassed her
The other was cinematographer Magdalena Górka, who claimed Affleck intentionally inflicted “emotional distress" and once was joined in bed by the actor, who was wearing “his underwear and a T-shirt ... He had his arm around her, was caressing her back, his face was within inches of hers and his breath reeked of alcohol.” Again, when she rejected his advances, Affleck reportedly became aggressive and verbally abusive. The film they were working on was the now ironically titled I’m Still Here.
On the lawsuits, Affleck says, “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. And that’s that.” However, it raises questions about how much of an agreement can really be made between a woman and the man she claims has sexually harassed her.
In his AP interview, Affleck says the set of I’m Still Here was “unprofessional”. “I behaved in way and allowed others to behave in a way that was really unprofessional. And I’m sorry,” he said, before adding that – despite being a producer – he didn’t even think he was the boss at the time.
"As a dad", Affleck wants men to grow up to accept responsibility and show contrition (“when it is called for”). Within Affleck’s own production company, there’s been “a lot of talk”. What about, I hear you ask? “A lot of new things.”
There is a whole section of the interview where Affleck speaks some important truths. “Women [in Hollywood] have been underrepresented, underpaid, objectified and diminished and belittled in a zillion ways. And just generally had a mountain of grief thrown at them. Forever.” Agreed.
Oh, and if you were wondering, Casey Affleck has a new movie out later this year. Just in time for Oscars season.
This article was updated on 11 August to clarify the allegations against Affleck, at the request of his representatives.