(NYTimes) – In a sign that the controversy over producer Harvey Weinstein could engulf other people in the film industry, actress Rose McGowan accused actor Ben Affleck of lying about his knowledge of Weinstein’s alleged sexual harassment and assaults of women.
McGowan, in a tweet and a subsequent email exchange with The New York Times on Tuesday night (Oct 10), said she had told Affleck that Weinstein had behaved inappropriately with her.
Affleck, who rose to stardom with help from Weinstein on the 1997 film Good Will Hunting, had said earlier on Tuesday that he was “angry” over Weinstein’s alleged abuse of women, but he gave no indication of whether he knew about it. “I find myself asking what I can do to make sure this doesn’t happen to others,” Affleck said in a statement.
Hours later, McGowan addressed the tweet to Affleck accusing him of omitting information in his statement. She quotes him telling her that Weinstein had mistreated other women.
“‘GODDAMNIT! I TOLD HIM TO STOP DOING THAT’ you said that to my face,” McGowan wrote in the tweet. “The press conf I was made to go to after assault. You lie.”
Affleck has not responded to McGowan’s tweet. He did not respond to requests for further comment.
The Times emailed McGowan to confirm that she was asserting that Affleck knew about Weinstein’s mistreatment of her because she had told him, and that she was accusing Affleck of lying because his statement did not acknowledge awareness of Weinstein’s behaviour.
“I am saying exactly that,” she replied. She wrote nothing further.
Affleck had been one of many Hollywood allies of Weinstein who remained silent following a Times report last Thursday about three decades of allegations of sexual misconduct by Weinstein and at least eight settlements with women. On Tuesday, The Times reported additional accusations by actresses including Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie, and The New Yorker published harrowing accounts of women who told of being raped by Weinstein.
Weinstein has denied the sexual assault accusations as described in The New Yorker and he has characterised other allegations as “off base”. But he has also apologised for “the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past”. Affleck, in his statement posted to Twitter on Tuesday, wrote that he was “saddened and angry” and that new reports of more serious assaults – which including accounts of forced oral sex – “made me sick”. But he did not say whether he knew anything about Weinstein’s treatment of women.
Other actors, like Meryl Streep and Judi Dench, said they were unaware of the accusations, and Glenn Close said she had heard “vague rumours”. In 1997, Weinstein reached a US$100,000 settlement with McGowan after an episode in a hotel room during the Sundance Film Festival, according to the Times report on Thursday.
McGowan and Affleck appeared together in the 1997 movie Going All The Way and the 1998 movie Phantoms. While several prominent actresses spoke out on Monday against Weinstein, Affleck was one of a small cadre of prominent male figures in Hollywood with ties to Weinstein who criticised him on Tuesday after the new reports in The Times and The New Yorker.
Matt Damon, Affleck’s longtime friend and film collaborator, said in an interview with Deadline on Tuesday that he “never saw” Weinstein harass or abuse women and that he would have put an end to it if he had. Damon’s and Affleck’s film careers were kicked off by Good Will Hunting, which Weinstein backed.
“This type of predation happens behind closed doors and out of public view,” Damon said. “If there was ever an event that I was at, and Harvey was doing this kind of thing and I didn’t see it, then I am so deeply sorry, because I would have stopped it.”
Several directors with close ties to Weinstein, such as Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, have not responded to requests for comment this week, however. An email to director Stephen Daldry also received no response, and a representative for director James Gray said he was in production on a new film and unable to speak. Director Phyllida Lloyd declined to comment.
As more women have come forward, questions have swirled over who in Hollywood might have known something and even directly or indirectly enabled him or protected him. Roughly two dozen former assistants and young actresses have said the powerful and widely feared producer routinely asked them to his hotel room under the pretence of talking about roles or work, and then solicited massages while he was naked or wearing a bathrobe, or sexually forced himself on them.
Paltrow told The Times that when she was 22, Weinstein invited her to his hotel bedroom for a work meeting and later proposed a massage. She said she had fled in terror and later relayed the incident to her boyfriend at the time, actor Brad Pitt. Pitt confirmed that he later confronted Weinstein at a theatre premiere and told him to never to touch her again.
Affleck later dated Paltrow, though it is not known whether she relayed news of the incident to him.
Actor George Clooney has also weighed in on the controversy, telling The Daily Beast in an interview published on Monday night that while he was aware of rumours that young actresses had slept with Weinstein to get roles, he had been unaware of any misconduct or the settlements Weinstein had reached with women.
“I didn’t hear anything about that, and I don’t know anyone that did. That’s a whole other level, and there’s no way you can reconcile that,” said Clooney, who has worked with Weinstein repeatedly over 20 years. “There’s nothing to say except that it’s indefensible.”
And actor Leonardo DiCaprio tweeted that he applauded “the strength and courage of the women who came forward”.
Also on Tuesday, Hollywood mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg – who has known Weinstein for 30 years and who was chairman of Walt Disney Studios when it bought Weinstein’s company Miramax – publicly released an email he sent to Weinstein, in which Katzenberg said he was “sickened”, “angry” and “incredibly disappointed”. “You have done terrible things to a number of women over a period of years,” Katzenberg wrote. “There appear to be two Harvey Weinsteins…one that I have known well, appreciated and admired and another that I have not known at all.”
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