It’s Oscar season again and once again we are caught up in an Oscar “scandal,” or maybe just a proto-scandal that some on social media would like to blow up into a full-fledged uproar.
The target de l’année is Casey Affleck, nominated for best actor for his moody role in melancholy Manchester by the Sea.
Already nominated once before for best supporting actor (in 2008 for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford), Affleck’s performance in Manchester has been critically acclaimed (“extraordinary” and “phenomenal,” according to USA TODAY’s review) across the board.
He’s already won a Golden Globe and a New York Film Critics Circle award and appears headed to join the Oscar pantheon that already includes big brother Ben Affleck and their Boston childhood pal Matt Damon.
What could go wrong? Here’s a rundown of why Affleck, 41, is being pilloried and praised this Oscar season:
What’s the beef against Affleck?
In 2010, two women who worked for Affleck on his experimental film (about the supposed “breakdown” of brother-in-law Joaquin Phoenix), I’m Still Here, filed two lawsuits accusing him of repeated sexual harassment and disparagement. One woman, a cinematographer, claimed Affleck drunkenly crawled into bed with her without her consent while she was asleep. The other, a producer, alleged Affleck grabbed her “violently” to intimidate her into staying with him in his hotel room.
The two lawsuits say the plaintiffs were forced to endure daily unwanted sexual advances and hear disparaging comments about women. The lawsuit says Affleck once directed another crew member to expose his penis to make one of the plaintiffs uncomfortable. It also alleges Affleck routinely referred to women as “cows,” and openly bragged about his sexual exploits. At one point in Costa Rica, the suits say, Affleck and Phoenix locked themselves in the women’s hotel room to have sex with two other women, invading the plaintiffs’ privacy and personal space as part of his “campaign of abuse and harassment.”