Casey Affleck has told an interviewer he regrets “unprofessional” behaviour that led to settlements with two women alleging sexual harassment on the set of 2010 mockumentary I’m Still Here.
Talking exclusively to Associated Press, the Oscar-winning star of Manchester By The Sea addressed his past against the backdrop of the #MeToo movement and why he bucked tradition by not appearing at this year’s Oscars telecast to present the best actress award.
“First of all, that I was ever involved in a conflict that resulted in a lawsuit is something that I really regret,” said Affleck, who settled out of court with both women.
“I wish I had found a way to kind of 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 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 sort of try to put it behind us and move on with our lives, which I think we deserved to do, and I want to respect them as they’ve respected me and my privacy. And that’s that.
‘I’ve been trying to find my own culpability’
“Over the past couple of years, I guess I’ve been listening a lot to this conversation, this public conversation, and learned a lot. I’ve kind of moved from a place of being defensive to one of sort 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.
“I was a boss. I was one of the producers on the set. This movie was [shot in 2008, 2009] and I was one of the producers and it was this kind of crazy mockumentary, very unconventional movie where the cast was the crew and the crew was kind of the cast and it was an unprofessional environment and, you know, the buck had to stop with me being one of the producers and 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 behaviour from other people and I wish I hadn’t and I regret a lot of that. I really did not know what I was responsible for as the boss. I don’t even know if I even thought of myself as the boss, but I behaved in a way and allowed others to behave in a way that was really unprofessional and I’m sorry.”
The old civil lawsuit involving his accusers resurfaced during the Oscar campaign for Manchester By The Sea, and a year later the actor elected to stay away from this year’s Academy Awards. Speaking to that decision, he said, “I think it was the right thing to do just given everything that was going on in our culture at the moment. And having two incredible women go present the best actress award really felt like the right thing.”
The Old Man & The Gun co-star Robert Redford ’was lovely with me’
Affleck gave the televised interview with AP while promoting upcoming Toronto world premiere The Old Man & The Gun, which Robert Redford has said will be his final acting role.
“ I love David [Lowery],” said Affleck of that film’s director. “I love working for David and it’s my third movie with him and… he always assembles a really nice group of people around him…. It’s always such a nice experience to watch one of his movies. They all have a really gentle quality to them… And Robert Redford, what is there to say? He’s a legend, an incredibly sweet guy, just sharp as a tack and he was lovely with me.”
The Oscar-winner said he wanted his sons to grow up in a world where grown men “model compassion and decency and also contrition when it’s called for.”
He said over the past eight years he has witnessed women coming forward to complain about unacceptable behaviour and is trying to be as supportive and open-minded as he can at his company Sea Change Media, which he runs with Whitaker Lader.
“The bigger picture [is that] in this business women have been under-represented and underpaid and objectified and diminished and humiliated and belittled in a bazillion ways and just generally had a mountain of grief forever and no-one was every really making too much of a fuss about it, myself included, until a few women with the kind of courage and wisdom to stand up and say, ‘You know what? Enough is enough.’
“Those are the people who are kind of leading this conversation and should be leading the conversation and I know just enough to know that in general I just 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. And we do that at our production company and I try to do it at home, and if I’m ever called upon by anyone to help in any way and contribute, I would be more than happy to.”
When asked to comment on Manchester By The Sea writer-director Kenneth Lonergan’s comments that Affleck had been treated unfairly during the entire process, the actor declined to elaborate.