Amy Zimmerman’s Daily Beast hit piece about Casey Affleck popped on 11.22 — five days ago. Thanksgiving weekend is a bad time to try and ignite discussion or gain traction. My first reaction was to leave it alone, and as of this morning I was still inclined to ignore it. But two journo pals have written me over the last two days, both asserting that “the takedown campaign has begun.” And yet so far, silence. But if others start hammering away on Monday and Tuesday, I guess there’ll be no stopping it and I’ll have to jump in whole hog. But I respectfully believe that it should stop here and now. Really. Let it go.
Affleck is described in the Zimmerman piece as having sexually harassed and intimidated to some extent I’m Not There producer Amanda White and dp Magdalena Gorka six or seven years ago. Affleck may have behaved unfortunately, but he didn’t do anything that would fall under the headings of “grotesque” or “ghastly” or “criminal.” While he may have acted in a boorish fashion, Affleck didn’t assault or hurt anyone, and while he was hit with a civil lawsuit (which he settled) he was never charged with anything. It was never on that level.
In an 11.4 N.Y. Times interview/profile of Affleck by Cara Buckley, Affleck was asked if he felt responsibility in the matter, and he replied that he did not. ‘It was settled to the satisfaction of all,’ he explained. ‘I was hurt and upset — I am sure all were — but I am over it. It was an unfortunate situation, mostly for the innocent bystanders of the families involved.'”
I believe in a separation of church (cinema) and state (personal lives of filmmakers, p.c. judgments about this or that incident of alleged bad behavior). I’ve heard stories about almost everyone in this town having acted in some kind of questionable or sleazy or abrasive manner at one time or another. It’s a slippery slope when you start saying “yeah, that’s a great film but the producer is an asshole or the lead actor betrayed his girlfriend or I got into a fender-bender with the screenwriter” or whatever.
I didn’t think that Roman Polanski‘s legal troubles in the mid ’70s should have anything to do with how good or award-worthy The Pianist was, but the online pitchforkers sure did. They tried to tar and feather Polanski that year (i.e, 2002) but he won the Best Director Oscar anyway.
The 1992 accusations against Woody Allen had no bearing in my mind (or that of anyone else with any sense or reason) upon the fact that Husbands and Wives (’92) is one of Allen’s finest films ever, and should always be celebrated as such regardless of views people might have about the hoo-hah.
I knew it was a lost cause, but I even wrote that people should judge The Birth of a Nation for its own merits rather than dismiss it because of Nate Parker‘s Penn State history.
Allegations of alleged asshole-ish behavior that don’t even approach the gravity of the Polanski or Allen allegations shouldn’t be thrown like grenades into the 2016 Oscar race. As dicey as Affleck’s behavior may have been, to hear it from Zimmerman and Daily Beast staffer Jen Yamato, who has tweeted about this in order to fan the flames, it’s even shittier, I feel, to tear the scab off some over-and-done-with business from six or seven years ago in order to diminish the acclaim for a heartbreaking, deeply effective world-class performance, which Affleck has undoubtedly given in Manchester by the Sea.
Perhaps the Daily Beast-ers aren’t deliberately trying to tarnish the exceptional work done by director-writer Kenneth Lonergan, producer Matt Damon, the crew and the cast of this landmark film, but this could happen by way of association anyway, and what a dark event that would be. What happened between Affleck, White and Gorka back in ’09 or ’10 has nothing whatsoever to do with Manchester By The Sea, and they’ve all put it behind them.
Leave it alone, separate the work from the private mishegoss, stay the hell off the slippery slope.