Hollywood’s Dirty Little Secrets: The Truth About the Casting Couch in the 2000’s

Don’t you think 2017 has been a year that lifted the veil on the still operational abuse on the casting couch? It was a year we saw brave women and men, coming forward to complain about powerful men and in some cases, much loved, celebrities, abusing the trust placed in them. Our society protects and even celebrates men, who are predators, in a culture that protects and even encourages this dreadful behaviour. We don’t want to believe. It is only in the face of irrefutable proof or sheer numbers and similarities of complaints that we accept what we really knew all along and just didn’t want to face.

So how do we define abuse?

“Sexual abuse is unwanted sexual activity, with perpetrators using force, making threats or taking advantage of victims not able to give consent. Most victims and perpetrators know each other. Immediate reactions to sexual abuse include shock, fear or disbelief. Long-term symptoms include anxiety, fear or post-traumatic stress disorder. While efforts to treat sex offenders remain unpromising, psychological interventions for survivors — especially group therapy — appears effective.”
Adapted from the Encyclopedia of Psychology

The phrase “not able to give consent” is the key. Consent can only be given in an equal relationship, where both parties are free to say yes or no, without repercussions. Those repercussions of “saying no” can be things like loss of a much coveted role or potential career break, loss of home or parent, ostracism or public humiliation. Coming forward becomes even more daunting, because a person held in high esteem will be protected because if you pull at one thread the entire fabric is unraveled, exposing many, which is what we are seeing as more and more people have the courage to come forward.

Donald Trump, President of the United States

I believe the beginning of the end of men having to be held accountable starts when a self-confessed sexual predator is exposes for bragging about groping women, and that “they let you do it if you are famous”. This man then becomes the President of the United States. This clip alone should be enough to prevent this man from running for office on moral grounds alone. By electing Donald Trump, the message is that it is OK. His own wife puts it down to “locker room banter”.

We, as enlightened people, are outraged at his comments, so how the hell does he become the POTUS? How could this have been overlooked?

Harvey Weinstein

harvey weinstein (photo credit: Peter Foley)
harvey weinstein (photo credit: Peter Foley)

With a litany of accusers, Weinstein allegedly abused his position as a massive power broker in the entertainment industry, the list of women accusing him of sexual harassment seemingly endless. People around him knew about his lewd behaviour, but that behaviour was tolerated for years, I believe, put down to an attitude of “oh that’s just how he is, deal with it”.  The “casting couch” culture is very real. I do find it comforting that women are feeling confident enough in 2017 to come forward, but sad that it has taken so long for Hollywood to say “it’s not OK”.

I imagine there are many more women who, knowing the culture, have had to play up to men, such as Weinsein, in order to get ahead in a competitive, cut-throat but potentially lucrative business. How many women in the entertainment business are filled with shame and guilt for “going along with it”, who will never come forward because they “allowed” it to happen or worse still, “encouraged” the behaviour as part and parcel of achieving success on Hollywood.

According to The New York Times, the following is the known list of women who allege they were victims of Weinstein’s unwanted sexual attentions or even sexual assault:

  • Lucia Stoller, now Lucia Evans
  • Asia Argento, a film actress and director
  • A third woman accused Weinstein of raping her, although her story was not detailed and she was not named.
  • Ambra Battilana Gutierrez
  • Mira Sorvino
  • Emily Nestor
  • Emma DeCaunes
  • Rosanna Arquette
  • Jessica Barth
  • Annabella Sciorra
  • Daryl Hannah
  • Gwyneth Paltrow
  • Angelina Jolie
  • Judith Godrèche, a French actress
  • Katherine Kendall
  • Tomi-Ann Roberts
  • Dawn Dunning
  • Cara Delevingne
  • Zoe Brock, an actress and model
  • Samantha Panagrosso, a model
  • Lysette Anthony, a British actress
  • Lupita Nyong’o as a student at the Yale Drama School

And this list are just the women who have come forward. Sure some of the allegations are, on their own, “mild” and if singular could be put down to a temporary lapse in judgement or misreading signs, but in the sheer number of the allegations of sexual misconduct, it shows a pattern and a culture of sexual harassment by someone seemingly unstoppable, due to his power and influence.

For the victims of those in power, they are all too aware that speaking up may lead to stalled careers and ruined reputations. Countless women have fought back against these predatory, powerful men, have filed lawsuits, in most cases end up with an out-of-court settlement complete with a nondisclosure agreement that enforces that they must remain silent on the matter forevermore or face huge financial and legal repercussions. Weinstein is just one of many I suspect.

Weinstein’s response, from spokesperson Sallie Hofmeister: “Mr. Weinstein unequivocally denies any allegations of non-consensual sex.”

Kevin Spacey

Kevin Spacy (Photo credit AP Associated Press)
Kevin Spacy (Photo credit AP Associated Press)

Now this one was devastating to me. I think Spacey is a genius and incredible actor. I have admired him for years. I loved him in Richard III, American Beauty and House of Cards. I am gutted that the latter was cancelled because it was such a brilliant series. I suspected that he was probably gay, and that is totally OK, it doesn’t affect careers in Hollywood like it would have in the past. What I objected to most was that when he was accused of molesting a 14 year old boy, he “came out” and thus there was an implication that gay men are pedophiles. The two are mutually exclusive and Kevin was using the “coming out” as a distraction from the story about molesting a 14-year-old boy.

Kevin Spacey’s statement at the time when Anthony Rapp, accused Spacey molesting him when Rapp of just 14:

“I have a lot of respect and admiration for Anthony Rapp as an actor. I’m beyond horrified to hear his story.

“I honestly do no remember the encounter, it would have been over 30 years ago.

“But if I did behave then as he describes, I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behaviour, and I am sorry for the feelings he describes having carried with him all these years.

“This story has encouraged me to address other things about my life.”

“I know that there are stories out there about me and that some have been fuelled by the fact that I have been so protective of my privacy.

“As those closest to me know, in my life I have had relationships with both men and women. I have loved and had romantic encounters with men throughout my life, and I choose now to live as a gay man.

“I want to deal with this honestly and openly and that starts with examining my own behaviour.”

Kevin Spacey was a highly respected, successful and loved actor and director, a genius. I say was, because I believe is work will be forever overshadowed by his poor judgement and abuse of power. His incredible body of work will forever be under the shadow of the allegations, like “genius” film maker Roman Polanski, arrested for the rape of a 13 year old girl.

So who has made allegations so far?

  • Actor Anthony Rapp, best known for his role in Star Trek: he alleged Kevin Spacey made sexual advances to him when he was a 14-year-old boy, when Spacey was 26.
  • Tony Montana, a filmmaker and director, said Kevin Spacey groped him in a Los Angeles pub in 2003.
  • British barman Daniel Beal claimed Spacey flashed at him and later gave the then-19-year-old a £5,000 watch to try to silence him.
  • Actor Roberto Cavazos, said Spacey routinely preyed on young male actors.
  • The son of actor Richard Dreyfuss, Harry, came forward to allege Spacey groped him while his father was in the same room.
  • Anonymous artist who claims he had relationship as a 14-year-old boy with Spacey, who was 24
  • Anonymous man said he was driving Spacey to the House of Cards set near Baltimore when the star put his hands down the production assistant’s trousers
  • Kris Nixon, a young barman
  • 20 accusers linked to the Old Vic theatre made claims against Spacey. Sixteen members of staff and four others made allegations against the 58-year-old between 1995 and 2013

Terry Richardson Photographer

KIBOSH, by Terry Richardson
KIBOSH, by Terry Richardson

Photographer Terry Richardson’s career is now overshadowed by the mounting sexual assault and harassment allegations against him. An email from leaked from Condé Nast International – which publishes a range of world-renowned titles including Vogue, Vanity Fair, GQ and Glamour – reveals that the company will no longer feature material from the controversial photographer. 

“It’s not who you know, it’s who you blow. I don’t have a hole in my jeans for nothing” is statement made by Richardson to Hint magazine 10 years ago.

  • Model Liskula Cohen, 2001 – “He wanted me to be completely naked and pretend to give one of the men a sex act, while he was also naked,” she told New Statesman. The men were allegedly not models or actors but Richardson’s friends. 
  • Coco Rocha, 2007 said, “I won’t work with Terry Richardson again,” saying that she “didn’t feel comfortable” and “won’t do it again.
  • Anna, New York stylist alleges in 2008 that Richardson harassed her while on a photo shoot.“I felt a dick pressing into the side of my face. Terry Richardson’s semi-hard penis was plunged into the outside of my cheek, and he was jabbing it into my face,” she wrote in a letter Jezebel.
  • Sena Cech, 2009, a 19, model Sena Cech was allegedly asked by Richardson’s assistant to “give him a violent h*nd job” during a naked photoshoot. “I did it. But later I didn’t feel good about it,” Cech said in Sara Ziff’s documentary Picture Me.
  • Scout Willis, 2012 “Last night Terry Richardson tried to f**ger me, I didn’t let him, obviously. But I did let him photograph me topless in the bathroom.”
  • Dianna Agron, 2010: Glee stars Lea Michele, Cory Monteith and Dianna Agron, the two female stars were pictured in racy clothing which their male co-star was fully dressed. Agron later shared her regret about the photos on her personal blog.
  • Richardson’s intern, Alex in 2004, was pictured performing a sexual act on Richardson while in a trash can with the word ‘Sl*t’ plastered across her forehead.
  • Model Jamie Peck, 2010 alleges that Richardson suggested to make tea out of her used tampon and encouraged her to take photos of Richardson while assistants photographed them. She said the encounter concluded with her giving him a h*nd job, while an assistant threw her a towel to clean up.
  • Cole Sprouse, 2014 was just 19 when Richardson  “told me to perform oral sex on him… He started aggressively kissing me. I don’t even really remember what specific things were happening at that point, but he was directing everything. Like, ‘OK squeeze my b*lls,’ ‘OK, put my d*** in your mouth,’ ‘OK, now kiss me.’ It wasn’t intimate. He also straddled me and started j***ing off on my face.” All while his assistant continued to take photos. “
  • Model Gabriella, 2005 alleges she was pressured to pose nude and on refusal, saying she was “uncomfortable” she was terminated and the case was settled.
  • Model Rie Rasmussen, 2010 told Page Six that Richardson “takes girls who are young, manipulates them to take their clothes off and takes pictures of them they will be ashamed of. They are too afraid to say no because their agency booked them on the job and are too young to stand up for themselves.”
  • Miley Cyrus, 2013 has now revealed she regrets the sexual direction of the video clip.

“He is an artist who has been known for his sexually explicit work so many of his professional interactions with subjects were sexual and explicit in nature but all of the subjects of his work participated consensually,” a spokeswoman for 52-year-old said in a statement to The Telegraph.

Personally, I see Richardson as a one-light-wonder, and as an art director I have never understood his success. I find his work degrading and insulting, and frankly am please that I won’t have to see his work in any Condé Nast International publications.

Geoffrey Rush

Just this morning I read that the much loved Australian actor and Oscar Winner, Geoffrey Rush has resigned Saturday as president of the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts amid allegations of inappropriate behaviour. Sydney Theatre Company revealed that it had received a complaint about Rush after he appeared in “King Lear” there two years ago. Neither the STC nor Rush have provided any detail of the allegations, and Rush has claimed innocence, steppig down the “clear his name”. I sincerely hope that this is not the case. I don’t want to be disappointed again that another talented artists derives pleasure through the abuse of his fame or power.

“The aesthetic alibi”

Historian Martin Jay coined the phrase above, which in many cases historically the “genius” is excused for bad behaviour, because of their work. Is Kevin Spacey less of a genius now we know of the biographical context of his work, can his body of work be separated from his misdeeds, or should his work be filed away never to be seen again?

The case of Pablo Picasso

Should we burn all Picasso’s work because: 

“he demanded submissiveness in all things, and warned one woman, Francoise Gilot, that as far as he was concerned, women were “either goddesses or doormats” — with horrific physical violence. Picasso pinned Gilot to a bridge railing and threatened to throw her into the river for seeming “ungrateful;” when she tried to leave, he held a lit cigarette to her cheek to brand her. He forced Dora Maar to physically fight Marie-Therese Walter, the mother of his child, for his affections — he stayed in the room throughout the brawl, painting — and beat Maar into unconsciousness himself on at least one occasion.” – Elle Magazine

I have a friend who was molested by a much loved politician. He knows if he came forward he would end up being blamed because so many important people knew and protected the politician’s name.

Are artists, producers and celebrities in this day and age held to the same standards as the rest of us? Why do we still protect them when we know people are still being abused by that person? How far can a man go in the name of art, fame or politics?

 

Share:

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on pinterest
Pinterest
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn