- George Clooney and Matt Damon say they were unaware of sexual abuse allegations by dozens of women against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.
- Both actors, whose careers Weinstein helped launch, say they thought Weinstein was a “womanizer,” but not a predator.
- Clooney argued that Hollywood must make it safe for victims to speak out, in part by enforcing a zero tolerance policy for sexual abuse.
After more than three dozen women have come forward to accuse Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault and harassment, George Clooney and Matt Damon have spoken out about the powerful Miramax head who helped launch their careers.
The actors say they knew Weinstein was a “womanizer,” but had no idea of the extent of his alleged abuses.
“You had to spend about five minutes with him to know that he was a bully, he was intimidating — that was his legend, that was his whole kind of M.O.,” Damon said of Weinstein during a sit-down interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Monday. “So when people say everybody knew, like, yeah I knew he was an a–hole. He was proud of that.”
“I knew he was a womanizer,” Damon went on. “But this level of criminal sexual predation is not something that I ever thought was going on. Absolutely not.”
Damon said that he never witnessed any of the behaviour that the women describe, saying that Weinstein “didn’t do it out in the open,” but that he knew about Gwyneth Paltrow’s claims that Weinstein had acted inappropriately with her when she was a 22-year-old.
Ben Affleck, who worked closely with Weinstein and Damon, dated Paltrow in the late 1990s and told Damon about the incident while he and Paltrow were filming 1999’s “The Amazing Mr. Ripley” with Weinstein.
Damon said that he thought Weinstein and Paltrow, who went on to win an Academy Award for her starring role in Weinstein’s “Shakespear in Love,” had come to an “agreement” and said that he believed Weinstein treated Paltrow only with respect.
“I knew that … they had come to whatever, you know, agreement or understanding that they had come to, she had handled it,” Damon said. “She was, you know, the first lady of Miramax. And he treated her incredibly respectfully.”
Damon has come under fire following allegations made by a former New York Times reporter that may have been used by Weinstein in an attempt to bury allegations against Weinstein in 2004. Both Damon and The Times have denied the former reporter’s claims.
Clooney also said he was unaware of the allegations, but that Weinstein had boasted to him about sexual relationships he claimed to have had. He added that he didn’t believe all of Weinstein’s stories because that would have required him “to believe the worst of lots of actresses who were friends of mine.”
“The idea that this predator, this assaulter, was out there silencing women like that, it’s beyond infuriating,” Clooney said. “The fact that the story is coming out now, and the more it comes out, I want to know all of it.”
Clooney argued that there has to be “a comeuppance” for all of those who enabled the film mogul’s alleged abuses.
“We have to make it safe for people to feel that they can talk about this,” Clooney said. “And in doing that I think that will scare away that kind of behaviour. But more than that, you’re gonna have to have a warning shot … that you will be outed, and you’ll be out of the business, and you might be prosecuted.”
He argued that the silver lining of this scandal is that Hollywood is being forced to have a conversation about how to deal with sexual abuse in the industry.
“Many, if not most, women have at some point in their life faced this kind of behaviour,” Clooney added. “I think that’s a little bit of a surprise to some of us, that it’s this big, that it’s this prevalent. And maybe that’s something else that’s good that comes out of this is that we’re going to have these discussions, we’re going to have this conversation and again we’re going to make it harder for it to happen.”
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