By Amy Solov
Casey Affleck, younger brother of Ben Affleck, was awarded the Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role this past week for his role in Manchester by the Sea. A true underdog in the world of Hollywood, Affleck shocked many when he received the coveted Oscar. Affleck beat many front-runners for the award, including Denzel Washington for his role in Fences, Andrew Garfield for his role in Hacksaw Ridge, and Ryan Gosling for his role in La La Land.
As Affleck stood on stage, thanking the Academy and citing Denzel Washington as his role model, older brother Ben Affleck and life-long friend Matt Damon watched misty-eyed from the audience. However, not everyone was moved by the underdog’s story of triumph.
Casey Affleck, who received the highest recognition any actor could obtain during his career, sits quietly on two cases of sexual harassment that date back to 2010. Both stem from a mockumentary-style project Affleck worked on, I’m Still Here, chronicling the fictitious life of his then-brother-in-law Joaquin Phoenix as he transforms into a rap star.
In the first case, Magdalena Gorka agreed to serve as the Director of Photography for Affleck’s project in 2008. During filming, the crew decided to stay in Affleck and Phoenix’s apartment instead of a hotel. Phoenix told Gorka she could sleep in his bedroom, and he would sleep on the couch in his living room. During the night, Gorka says she woke up to Affleck sleeping next to her in the bed, touching her back and attempting to make sexual advantages toward her. She demanded that he leave the bedroom immediately, and said his breath smelled of alcohol. The next morning, Gorka confronted Affleck about the inappropriate advances he made toward her and explicitly stated that they were unwelcome. She left the project, only agreeing to return weeks later when another female crew member, Amanda White, joined the team and requested her back. For the remainder of filming, Gorka was “subjected to a daily barrage of sexual comments, innuendo and unwelcome advances by crew members, within the presence and with the active encouragement of Affleck.”
In Affleck’s second case against him, Amanda White, who agreed to serve as Producer on Affleck’s project, I’m Still Here, claimed numerous unwanted sexual advances and comments toward her during filming. White stated that Affleck forced a crew member to show her his penis despite her objections. She also cited many circumstances in which Affleck made inappropriate comments toward her, including a time that Affleck referred to women as “cows” and a time that he suggested her and a fellow crew member have a child together. Affleck also attempted to convince White to sleep with him in a hotel room, and when she declined, he “grabbed her in a hostile manner in an effort to intimidate her into complying.”
When both women attempted to speak out, they claimed that Affleck’s harassment would only get worse. In White’s case, she claimed that Affleck’s harassment was a part of “his own twisted gratification.” They ultimately filed lawsuits against him, Gorka’s for $2 million and White’s for $2.5 million. Initially, Affleck was outraged, denying all allegations and threatening to countersue. After the hearings, however, Affleck settled both cases out of court, and although it was not released exactly how much, both women were compensated for their distress.
Nearly seven years later, Affleck is back in the spotlight, this time to receive honor for his work in film. He has rave reviews for his heart-wrenching performance in Manchester by the Sea, including a cover story on Variety, a write-up in the New York Times, and praise-worthy critic reviews from the Wall Street Journal. However, his sexual harassment allegations are barely touched upon, if at all, in each review. Both cases in their entirety can be read about after conducting a quick Google search, yet they seemingly play no role in his rise to acclamation in Hollywood.
Many took to Twitter to agree with celebrities that expressed backlash for Affleck’s award. Most notably, people pointed out Chrissy Teigen sleeping on her husband John Legend’s shoulder as Affleck made his acceptance speech, and Brie Larson refusing to clap as Affleck ascended onto stage.
Despite the post-award turmoil, Affleck is ecstatic. After an interview with the Boston Globe, he says he is “incredibly proud of the fact the Academy honored me in this way.” But what about the outrage over his allegations and their lack of recognition? Although Affleck cannot explicitly comment on the cases, he says, “I believe that any kind of mistreatment of anyone for any reason is unacceptable and abhorrent, and everyone deserves to be treated with respect in the workplace and anywhere else… There’s really nothing I can do about it.”