Sordid

Gwyneth Paltrow, Charlize Theron, and More Casting Couch Horror Stories

Bryan Singer is accused of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old, after promising him a role in one of his films. See other actors' horror stories.

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Bryan Singer's Alleged Victim, Gwyneth Paltrow, Charlize Theron, and More Casting Couch Horror Stories

On Wednesday, Michael F. Egan III of Nevada filed a lawsuit in Hawaii against Bryan Singer (X-Men: Days of Future Past) alleging that the A-list filmmaker sexually assaulted him when he was 17, and allegedly coaxed him with the promise of a role in one of his films. But the Hollywood "casting couch" is nothing new. From Gwyneth Paltrow to Corey Feldman, read stars' casting couch horror stories.

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Thandie Newton

Thandie Newton, the striking English actress who's starred in films like Crash, The Pursuit of Happyness, and more, opened up to CNN last February about being sexually abused by a casting director during her teen years. "The director asked me to sit with my legs apart, and the camera was positioned where it could see up my skirt," said Newton. "[He asked me to] put my leg over the arm of the chair, and before I started my dialogue, think about the character I was supposed to be having the dialogue with and how it felt to be made love to by this person." Newton further claimed that the director requested that she touch herself before focusing his camera between her legs, and also that the unnamed perpetrator allegedly circulated the video at parties. In 2013, Newton led a protest on behalf of One Billion Rising in London calling for an end to violence against women, and for gender equality.

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Susan Sarandon

In the November 2012 issue of Elle, Susan Sarandon revealed she had a “disgusting” casting-couch encounter when she was just starting out as an actress. “It was not successful—for either of us,” the 66-year-old Oscar winner told the magazine. “I just went into a room, and a guy practically threw me on the desk. It was my early days in New York, and it was really disgusting. It wasn’t like I gave it a second thought. It was so badly done.”

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Charlize Theron

At 19, shortly after moving to Hollywood from South Africa, Charlize Theron was introduced to a producer’s casting couch. “I thought it was a little odd that the audition was on a Saturday night at his house in Los Angeles, but I thought maybe that was normal,” Theron told OK! magazine in 2009. He was in his Hugh Hefner pajamas—I go inside and he’s offering me a drink, and I’m thinking, My God this acting stuff is very relaxed. But it soon becomes very clear what the situation was. I was like, ‘Not going to happen! Got the wrong girl, buddy!’

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Jenny McCarthy

Most casting-couch tales involve anonymous producers, but in 1998, Jenny McCarthy named names. In an interview with Movieline, the actress claimed she was harassed by Steven Seagal. “I went to the audition for Under Siege 2 with, like, 15 other Jenny McCarthys. These girls came in and out of his office and I was last. Steven comes out and goes, ‘Hmm, so you’re last.’ I’m thinking, ‘Shouldn’t a casting person be doing this?'” McCarthy continued, “When I said, ‘Well, I’m ready to read,’ he said, ‘Stand up, you have to be kind of sexy in the movie and in that dress, I can’t tell.’ I stand up and he goes, ‘Take off your dress.’ I said, ‘What?’ and he said, ‘There’s nudity.’ I said, ‘No, there’s not, or I wouldn’t be here right now.’ He said again, ‘There’s nudity,’ and I said, ‘The pages are right in front of me. There’s no nudity.’ He goes, ‘Take off your dress.’ I just started crying and said, ‘Rent my [Playboy] video, you a—hole!’ and ran out to the car.” A spokesman for Seagal denied McCarthy’s allegations: “Warner Brothers casting for the film Under Siege 2 has confirmed that Jenny McCarthy never auditioned for a role on Under Siege 2. Her claim is completely false.”

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Gwyneth Paltrow

During a 2010 interview with Elle, Gwyneth Paltrow was asked if she had ever had a casting-couch experience. “Yup,” she told the magazine. “When I was just starting out, someone suggested that we finish a meeting in the bedroom. I left. I was pretty shocked. I could see how someone who didn’t know better might worry, ‘My career will be ruined if I don’t give this guy a blow job!’”

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Judy Garland

While researching Get Happy, his biography of Judy Garland, author Gerald Clarke was shocked to learn that The Wizard of Oz star had been sexually molested while she was a teenage actress at MGM. “The worst of the lot,” Clarke told ABC News, “was Louis B. Mayer, the head of the studio. Mayer would tell her what a wonderful singer she was, and he would say ‘you sing from the heart” and then he would place his hand on her left breast and say “this is where you sing from.” This went on for about four years until finally Judy got up enough courage to say to him: ‘Mr. Mayer, don’t you ever do that again. If you want to tell me where I sing from, just point.” Instead of firing her or getting into a fury, Mayer sat down and cried and he said ‘How can you say that to me, to me who has treated you like a father.’”

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Megan Fox

Having achieved success does not protect some actresses from casting-couch advances. In 2009, Transformers star Megan Fox told British GQ: “Any casting-couch shit I’ve experienced has been since I’ve become famous. It’s really so heartbreaking. Some of these people! Like Hollywood legends. You think you’re going to meet them and you’re so excited, like, ‘I can’t believe this person wants to have a conversation with me,’ and you get there and you realize that’s not what they want, at all. It’s happened a lot this year actually.”

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Helen Mirren

When it comes to casting-couch experiences, actresses have long memories. In 2007 Helen Mirren lashed out at director Michael Winner for an encounter that occurred in 1964. During a TV interview with Richard Madeley and Judy Finnegan, Mirren recalled how Winner made her flaunt her body and turn around for him. “I was mortified and incredibly angry,” the Academy Award-winning actress said. “I thought it was insulting and sexist, and I don’t think any actress should be treated like that—like a piece of meat—at all.” Asked about the incident, Winner told The Guardian: “I don’t remember asking her to turn around but if I did I wasn’t being serious. I was only doing what the [casting] agent asked me—and for this I get reviled! Helen’s a lovely person, she’s a great actress and I’m a huge fan, but her memory of that moment is a little flawed.”

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Corey Feldman

Men are not exempt from the casting couch, of course. Nor are children. During an interview with Nightline last year, actor Corey Feldman said, “I can tell you that the No. 1 problem in Hollywood was and is and always will be pedophilia. That’s the biggest problem for children in this industry …  It’s the big secret.” Feldman, now in his early 40s, continued: “I was surrounded by [pedophiles] when I was 14 years old … Didn’t even know it. It wasn’t until I was old enough to realize what they were and what they wanted … till I went, Oh, my God. They were everywhere.”

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Lisa Rinna

"I lost a role on a big TV series because I wouldn't bend over a chair in a producer's office for 'just a quickie,'" Lisa Rinna told Pop Eater’s Rob Shuter about an encounter she had at 24. "'Just pull your panties down and bend over and the role is yours,' he said to me." Years later, Rinna said, she saw the man on a red carpet and confronted him about the incident. "I know everyone in this town,” she told him, “and if you ever do what you did to me again to anyone else I will tell everyone your dirty secret."

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Marilyn Monroe

Throughout her career Marilyn Monroe traded sexual favors with producers, actors, and perhaps even JFK to get ahead. But not everyone was interested at first. According to Barbara Leaming’s 1998 biography of the actress, “When Marilyn approached Howard Hawks one weekend in Palm Springs, the director made it clear that he saw nothing special about her. He thought she was stupid and told her so. He wasn’t even interested in a sexual encounter.” Years later, however, Monroe described Hollywood as “an overcrowded brothel.”