The speculation began almost immediately after Harvey Weinstein was expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences: Was Bill Cosby next? Why should the Academy stop at Weinstein when it still counts sexual predators like Roman Polanski and Stephen Collins among its 8,427 members?
An avalanche of sexual harassment and assault allegations against Weinstein has prompted calls for an industry-wide purge of sexual misconduct.
Filmmaker Cameron Bossert is making a name for himself with his petition for the Academy to disinvite Casey Affleck to this year’s Oscars because the actor was accused of sexual harassment in 2010. Its signatory count ballooned from 500 to over 8,000 on Tuesday when media outlets began writing about it.
As the most recent best actor recipient, Affleck is slated to present the best actress award this year in keeping with Academy tradition.
“With so many credible accusations against him, the Academy should take action against Affleck and ban him from participating in the ceremony,” the petition reads.
When Bossert writes “so many credible accusations,” he’s referring to sexual harassment allegations made by two women who worked for Affleck on his 2010 “mockumentary,” I’m Still Here. Affleck denied the allegations at the time and threatened to countersue before reaching a settlement with his former employees.
Bossert, 33, credits comedian John Oliver for inspiring him to create and begin circulating the petition two weeks ago, when Oliver sarcastically congratulated the Academy for expelling Weinstein but not other convicted and alleged sexual predators like Polanski, Cosby, and Affleck.
Change.org reached out to Bossert early last week and volunteered their site as a platform for his petition.
Bossert argues that the news of Affleck’s alleged misconduct should have prevented him from winning an Oscar last year.
“I don’t believe in separating artists from art,” he told The Daily Beast in a phone interview on Tuesday afternoon. Bossert cited the Jean Hersholt Award for an individual whose “humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry” as sufficient reason for the Academy to consider candidates’ personal behavior and reputation when voting for awards like best actor.
“The Oscars are very discretionary in many ways, and one way to use discretion is to look at the behavior of intended award recipients,” he said. “If it doesn’t meet the standards of the behavior we want to see in the industry going forward, we should use that discretion to withhold awards.
“Witch-hunt culture is terrible,” he added without irony. “But this is a cultural moment right now and I think it’s appropriate for someone like Affleck to be a scapegoat.”
Asked if he’s avoiding watching any Weinstein-produced films, Bossert said: “Yes, for the time being I won’t patronize [sic] anything that he produced. There are plenty of films to see.”
Having read the lawsuits detailing Affleck’s alleged misconduct, Bossert found the plaintiffs’ accusations to be “credible”—a hunch that was solidified by the viral #MeToo movement on social media.
“It was very visceral for me to see how widespread this behavior is,” said Bossert, who worked as an assistant to John Turturro, the actor and director, before striking out on his own three years ago. Last year, he co-wrote and directed his first feature film.
Bossert was also troubled by Affleck’s non-denial denial when asked about the allegations in his first post-Oscars interview last year. (Speaking to The Boston Globe, Affleck said neither party could speak about the lawsuits but reiterated his belief that “any kind of mistreatment of anyone for any reason is unacceptable and abhorrent.”)
Bossert doesn’t believe that “everyone accused of anything” in the industry should necessarily be cast out. But he also couldn’t articulate where to draw a line when it comes to punishing offensive behavior or misconduct.
“All I’m saying is that this is a cultural moment and we have to look at these things on a case-by-case basis,” he said.
Bossert thinks that Affleck should volunteer to bow out of presenting the best actress award at this year’s ceremony.
“Whoever wins will be in fantastic position to embarrass him if he doesn’t. So I think it would be smart for him to say, ‘You know what? The allegations have been settled out of court, but I think it’s best for everyone that I sit this one out.’”