Casey Affleck Is Mounting a Comeback Despite Sexual-Harassment Claims
The Oscar winner settled two women’s civil suits in 2010. He’s since been able to move on from the scandal without much public atonement, while the women have remained silent.
Casey Affleck’s slow and steady ascent to household name, much like his older brother Ben, seemed as though it was about to finally take hold in 2016, with his critically lauded film Manchester by the Sea. Eyes fixed on a shiny golden Oscar, Affleck hit the awards press circuit hard, appearing on almost every red carpet, doing interviews with major publications, and roping in big bro and longtime family friend Matt Damon to ultimately nab the Academy Award for Best Actor.
Yet as Affleck attempted to dazzle his way onto the Hollywood A-list, disturbing sexual-harassment allegations against him resurfaced. Affleck, now 45, had settled two civil lawsuits in 2010 from women who worked on his mockumentary I’m Still Here, starring his then brother-in-law Joaquin Phoenix.
The women, cinematographer Magdalena Gorka and producer Amanda White, sued Affleck for $2.25 million and $2 million, respectively. Gorka claimed in her suit that the treatment she endured while working under Affleck was “by far the most traumatizing of her career.” Almost “immediately” after joining the project in 2008, Gorka claimed in court papers that “Affleck and other members of the production team made lewd comments, they discussed in engaging in sexual activity with [Gorka] and they suggested that she have sex with the camera assistant.”
One of the final straws for Gorka, she claimed, occurred in mid-December of 2008 after the crew traveled to New York for the film and were put up in Phoenix and Affleck’s apartment. Gorka was given Phoenix’s private bedroom to rest, but claims she awoke in the middle of the night to Affleck “curled up next to her in the bed wearing only his underwear and a T-shirt,” her suit stated. “He had his arm around her, was caressing her back, his face within inches of hers and his breath reeked of alcohol.” When Gorka demanded that he get out of the bed, Affleck allegedly asked why, and if she “was sure,” angrily slamming the door on his way out when she rebuffed his advances.
Gorka said she resigned over the incident, but rejoined the film in January 2009 when White convinced her to return, believing the environment would be safer with another woman now working on the film. However, Gorka claimed the harassment continued, and that she was “subjected to a near daily barrage of sexual comments, innuendo and unwelcome sexual advances by crew members, within the presence and with the active encouragement of Affleck.” She also claimed she was berated and verbally attacked by Affleck after she refused his alleged sexual advances.
She said she left the film for the final time due to the “harassment and abuse.” She claimed in her suit that Affleck retaliated against her, refusing to honor the terms of their agreement, including payment and crediting her as “director of photography” on the film.
Just days before Gorka filed suit, White filed her own complaint, going into greater detail about the comments and conduct that Affleck and the crew allegedly inflicted upon the women. She claimed that Affleck once “grabbed in a hostile manner in an effort to intimidate her into complying” after she refused to stay a night in a hotel room with the married actor.
On another occasion, “Affleck instructed a crew member to take off his pants in order to show [White] his penis, even after [White] objected,” her complaint claimed. She claimed Affleck remarked “isn’t it about time you get pregnant?” when he learned of her age, as well as allegedly referred to women as “cows” and discussed his and other celebrities’ sexual exploits.
At the time of the suits, Affleck denied any wrongdoing, characterizing it as a contract dispute gone awry, and his powerhouse lawyer Marty Singer threatened the women with a countersuit. Both women settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.
The Daily Beast reached out to Gorka and White for comment.
But when the allegations resurfaced in 2016, while Affleck was vying for his Oscar, they were ignored by much of the entertainment press, who conducted softball interviews with the actor. He alluded to the suits briefly in glowing profiles, telling Variety that “people say whatever they want. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how you respond… I guess people think if you’re well-known, it’s perfectly fine to say anything you want.” Affleck went on to win Best Actor, gracing the Oscar stage in February of 2017 to give an acceptance speech (much to presenter Brie Larson’s chagrin).
Months later, the #MeToo movement ripped through Hollywood, gaining worldwide attention due to damning exposes about mega-producer Harvey Weinstein, who was accused of sexual assault and harassment by dozens of women.
Affleck retreated from public view (even bowing out of presenting the award for Best Actress at the next Oscars, a tradition for the previous year’s Best Actor). In his first interview after the #MeToo movement in August 2018, Affleck apologized and admitted he “behaved in a way and allowed others to behave in a way that was really unprofessional.”
“First of all, that I was ever involved in a conflict that resulted in a lawsuit is something that I really regret,” he said. “I wish I had found a way to resolve things in a different way. I hate that. I had never had any complaints like that made about me before in my life and it was really embarrassing and I didn’t know how to handle it and I didn’t agree with everything, the way I was being described, and the things that were said about me, but I wanted to try to make it right, so we made it right in the way that was asked at the time. And 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.”
Of course, Affleck revealed his real motivation for doing the interview earlier on during the conversation. “If I’m not promoting a movie, I’m not going to do any press, so that’s why you haven’t heard from me,” he said.
The following year, while on a press campaign for his feature directorial debut, Light of My Life, Affleck offered a different take on why he didn’t speak out sooner in support of #MeToo, saying he figured “the best thing to do was to just be quiet so I didn’t seem to be in opposition to something that I really wanted to champion.”
“Who would not be supportive of the #MeToo movement,” he asked. “That there are some people saying we do not believe in equality and we think the workplace should be a dangerous place for certain people and not for others. That’s preposterous.”
It’s now 2021, more than a decade since the civil suits were settled, and it seems Affleck has rebounded from the claims against him. He has a new movie out, Every Breath You Take; recently starred in Our Friend alongside Dakota Johnson and Jason Segel; and produced and starred in The World to Come, a critically acclaimed drama opposite Academy Award nominee Vanessa Kirby. He also has a number of other projects in various stages of production, including his sophomore effort behind the camera.
The allegations have been almost completely sidestepped in recent interviews with the actor. One publication referenced how he skipped the Oscars in 2018, yet breezed by why, while another asked him to reflect on his choices over the course of his 25-year career, prompting Affleck to discuss wanting to direct more.
By largely ignoring the previous claims, Affleck has been allowed to come across as an insightful, brooding artist on a journey of self-discovery and on the precipice of reclaiming his delayed stardom. And while it can be argued that the settled lawsuits are more than a decade old and that Affleck has acknowledged them, there hasn’t been a true examination of his efforts to right his wrongs, or an in-depth interview with Affleck probing the allegations. .
It’s really only his side that the public gets to hear, too. It’s impossible to truly know if either Magdalena Gorka or Amanda White agree with Affleck’s previous characterization of everyone just wanting “to move on” out of respect for their privacy, as neither has ever spoken out about their experiences since signing confidentiality agreements back in 2010.