If the allegations against Harvey Weinstein, which first went public almost one year ago, marked the opening of the floodgates that eventually ushered in the #MeToo movement, then it’s hard to really give men credit for taking so long to comment on the movement. This is especially true of Casey Affleck, who was sued for sexual harassment in 2010, and would presumably have had plenty of chances to speak up. Thursday marks one of the few times he’s spoken about the lawsuit in public as well as one of the first times he’s tied it to the #MeToo era.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Casey acknowledges that he regrets ever being “involved in a conflict that resulted in a lawsuit.” He has previously admitted that the lawsuit prohibited both sides from commenting on the issue, and he hints that this resolution is something he is grateful for.
Affleck was sued by two women who worked with him on the set of I’m Still Here for a total of $4.25 million dollars. The allegations involve Affleck crawling into bed with one of the women without her consent, physically forcing another to stay in his hotel room with him, and goading another employee to expose himself to one of the women.
“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,” he said. Still, he insists he’s grown and learned from the movement that has swept Hollywood up and promises a less discriminatory work environment for women.
His words appear to echo his decision to refrain from presenting the Best Actress Award at this year’s Academy Awards ceremony. At the time, he decided against doing so in an attempt to not become a “distraction,” though he did not specifically mention #MeToo or the Time’s Up movement, both of which had their eyes squarely set on the Oscar’s as a place where the whole industry gets together.
“I kind of moved from a place of being defensive to one of a more mature point of view, trying to find my own culpability. And once I did that I discovered there was a lot to learn,” Affleck said. He then spoke about the “unprofessional environment” that surrounded the sexual harassment allegations against him.
“I have to accept responsibility for that and that was a mistake. And I contributed to that unprofessional environment and I tolerated that kind of behavior from other people and I wish that I hadn’t,” he said, hinting to one of #MeToo’s greatest issues: the systemic sexism present within the industry that keeps men in positions of power, allowing them to behave badly since women depend on them for jobs.
That's a reality that Casey would like to change, especially for his two sons as they grow up. "I want to be in a world where grown men model compassion and decency and also contrition when it’s called for, and I certainly tell [his sons] to own their mistakes when they make them," he said.
“No one was really making too much of a fuss about [harassment], myself included, until a few women with the kind of courage and wisdom to stand up,” Casey added, directly addressing the #MeToo movement. “Those are the people who … should be leading the conversation. And I know just enough to know that in general I need to keep my mouth shut and listen and try to figure out what’s going on and be a supporter and a follower in the little, teeny tiny ways that I can.”