It’s been a while since a major Hollywood player got ensnared in the Harvey Weinstein scandal’s fall-out.
That streak ended recently with an alarming story from CNN. Screen legend Morgan Freeman allegedly harassed a number of women over the years. The incidents involved improper touching and unwanted sexual banter.
A woman who was a senior member of the production staff of the movie “Now You See Me” in 2012 told CNN that Freeman sexually harassed her and her female assistant on numerous occasions by making comments about their bodies.
“He did comment on our bodies… We knew that if he was coming by … not to wear any top that would show our breasts, not to wear anything that would show our bottoms, meaning not wearing clothes that [were] fitted,” she said.
Sixteen people spoke to CNN for the report. What sparked the story? A female CNN entertainment journalist received a flurry of sexually aggressive comments from the actor during the promotion for “Going in Style” last year.
The Oscar winner quickly rushed out a statement following the CNN expose, offering the by now standard non-apology apology.
“Anyone who knows me or has worked with me knows I am not someone who would intentionally offend or knowingly make anyone feel uneasy,” Freeman said in a statement obtained by Variety. “I apologize to anyone who felt uncomfortable or disrespected — that was never my intent.”
What happens next is uncertain. The 80-year-old star is still in demand and has multiple projects at the moment, including the third film in the “Olympus Has Fallen” franchise, “Angel Has Fallen.”
Other industry-related connections appear more tenuous.
SAG-AFTRA is having second thoughts about giving Freeman its Lifetime Achievement Award earlier this year. The actor’s gig as a Visa spokesman is no more. Will other punishments follow?
Freeman’s story has an unexpected wrinkle to it. In addition to the harassment claims made about his on-set behavior, other female entertainment journalists say he treated them in a similar fashion.
Tyra Martin, an entertainment producer at Chicago’s WGN-TV, says Freeman made repeated sexual comments to her over a series of press interviews.
Martin told CNN that she was “in on the joke” until one incident where Freeman went too far.
“When I stood up, I pulled my skirt part of my dress down and he did say, ‘Oh, don’t pull it down now.’” Martin said. “That gave me pause but I never felt uncomfortable.”
Celebrities routinely meet with journalists to drum up interest in their films. This reporter has found stars to be on their very best behavior during these encounters over my 15-plus years interviewing actors, partly to parlay their chats into positive press. Freeman apparently didn’t care if his flirtations negatively impacted the ensuing press reports.
Now, Freeman is left wondering if his behaviors will mean the end of a remarkable career, or just another chapter in Hollywood’s pathetic treatment of women.