When asked in the past about the two sexual-harassment lawsuits filed against him by female co-workers who worked with him on the 2010 film I’m Sill Here, Casey Affleck dismissed their allegations. “People say whatever they want,” he told Variety about the lawsuits. Now, in a new Associated Press interview, the Manchester by the Sea star takes a more contrite tone, acknowledging that he helped create “an unprofessional environment” while working on the Joaquin Phoenix mockumentary. He still maintains that he doesn’t “agree with everything, the way I was being described, and the things that were said about me.”
“Over the past couple of years, I’ve been listening a lot to this conversation, this public conversation, and learned a lot,” says Affleck, crediting #MeToo with his self-reflection. “I kind of moved from a place of being defensive to one of a more mature point of view, trying to find my own culpability. And once I did that I discovered there was a lot to learn.”
According to the actor, Affleck says he didn’t think of himself as “the boss” while making I’m Still Here, an attitude he seemingly blames for the unclear boundaries that, as director and producer, he was ultimately responsible for setting. “The cast was the crew and the crew was kind of the cast and it was an unprofessional environment and, you know, the buck had to stop with me being one of the producers and I have to accept responsibility for that and that was a mistake,” explained the actor. “And 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.” Said Affleck, “I behaved in a way and allowed others to behave in a way that was really unprofessional. And I’m sorry.”
Producer Amanda White and cinematographer Magdalena Gorka both sued Affleck after working on the film, accusing the actor of verbal and physical harassment. According to White, Affleck allegedly told her about his “sexual exploits,” asked a crew member to show her his penis, and, when she turned down his request that she stay in a hotel room with him, he purportedly “grabbed her in a hostile manner in an effort to intimidate her into complying.” Gorka described a similar on-set environment, in addition to an incident in which she awoke to find Affleck “had his arm around her, was caressing her back” after the film’s crew had crashed at her apartment following a long shoot. When Gorka told Affleck to leave her room, he allegedly became angry. The actor eventually settled both suits.
When asked what changes have been made at his production company Sea Change Media to avoid an “unprofessional” repeat on the company’s future film sets, Affleck didn’t really have a specific answer other than “listen to women.” Said the actor, “I think bigger picture, in this business women have been underrepresented and underpaid and objectified and diminished and humiliated and belittled in a bazillion ways and just generally had a mountain of grief thrown at them forever. And no one was really making too much of a fuss about it, myself included, until a few women with the kind of courage and wisdom to stand up and say, ‘You know what? Enough is enough.’ Those are the people who are kind of leading this conversation and should be leading the conversation.”