/15 Examples Of Male Directors And Actors Alleged Abuse Of Women On Set, Because We Need To Stop Celebrating These People

15 Examples Of Male Directors And Actors Alleged Abuse Of Women On Set, Because We Need To Stop Celebrating These People

It’s time to re-examine the legacies of these men.

Last month, Charisma Carpenter opened up about the alleged abuse she faced on the set of Buffy and Angel by Joss Whedon.


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Sources such as The Guardian have reached out to Joss’ representatives for comment, but there hasn’t been a response. Joss has also been accused of abusive behavior by Ray Fisher when he directed the actor in Justice League. According to Variety, Whedon had no comment, though he did later deny Fisher’s claims that Joss had ordered one of the characters’ skin tones to be altered, stating that there were many people responsible for the coloring of the film and that adjustments also had to be made to match Zack Snyder’s shots, which were shot on film while Joss’ were shot in digital. Warner Bros. has commented more broadly on the allegations against Whedon, Geoff Johns (DC Entertainment’s president at the time), and producer Jon Berg after they launched an investigation, saying they were “committed to investigating any specific and credible allegation of misconduct, which thus far Mr. Fisher has failed to provide” and suggesting that Fisher was mostly unhappy with his storyline in the film.

These allegations were met with shock and disappointment. But Charisma certainly isn’t the only female actor to allege abuse at the hands of male filmmakers, directors, and stars.


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And women have been speaking out about it for just as long. Take Marilyn Monroe, who published the essay “Wolves I Have Known” about the horrible sexism and abuse in Hollywood.


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“The things a gal has to think up to outwit these predatory males! Girls in every walk of life have to take great care that they don’t find themselves just another scalp on some man’s belt. But in Hollywood we have to work overtime to outwit the wolves,” Monroe wrote in Motion Picture Magazine. “Once you’re fairly established as a film actress, it’s open season on you.”

While the recent #MeToo movement has been a positive reckoning in the industry, there is still so much work to be done. We need to stop celebrating ALL filmmakers and directors who have been abusing women on their sets.


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Here are just some of the many examples of abuse that women allegedly faced on the sets of famous male filmmakers, showrunners, and stars.

1.

Uma Thurman in Kill Bill


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In an interview with the New York Times about Harvey Weinstein, Uma Thurman talked about her experience with director Quentin Tarantino in Kill Bill and Pulp Fiction. She says that Tarantino both choked her and spit on her for different shots in the films; Tarantino confirmed these allegations but defended the reasoning behind his actions.

2.

Tippi Hedren in The Birds


Universal Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

Hedren says that in the scene where Melanie is viciously attacked by birds in a bedroom, mechanical birds were apparently not working, so Alfred Hitchcock elected to use live birds. Hedren endured five days of live birds being thrown at her, and even birds being tied to her that were trained to peck her. Hedren also recounted how Hitchcock tried to kiss her and made innapropriate remarks on the set of Marnie. When she refused his sexual advances, he allegedly promised to ruin her career. He then kept her under contract so she couldn’t work with another studio and refused to offer her large projects.

3.

Ellen Burstyn in The Exorcist


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In one scene in the film, Burstyn is thrown to the ground. According to Burstyn, she was pulled using a wire connected to her from the ground. After doing the stunt once, Burstyn says she told director William Friedkin that she was being pulled too hard, and that he replied, “it has to look real.” Burtstyn says she warned him she could get hurt and that he told the person pulling the wire not to do it so hard, but that she suspects he canceled that request, because she saw the two exchange a look and then she was smashed just as hard into the floor. Burstyn says Friedkin had the cinematographer focus in on her instead of yelling cut: “I was so furious and said, ‘Turn the effin’ camera off!’ Because I couldn’t stand that he was willing to just get a quick shot of it before they called the ambulance.” This incident resulted in a permanent back injury, according to Burstyn. Friedkin responded to this claim, saying Burstyn was hurt but that he doesn’t consider it an injury, as Burstyn didn’t take time off or file an insurance claim. He said, “If I hadn’t let the stuntman do that with the force that he did it, she would have had to do it over and over and over again…I would rather have had one [take] that risked hurting her a little.”

4.

The female cast and crew members of One Tree Hill


Warner Bros. / Courtesy: Everett Collection

After One Tree Hill writer Audrey Wauchope posted a Twitter thread detailing unwanted touching and inappropriate comments received from a male showrunner she’d worked with, 18 cast and crew members (including Bethany Joy Lenz, Hilarie Burton, and Sophia Bush) sent a letter to Variety bolstering her claims and accusing Mark Schwann (One Tree Hill’s showrunner) of sexual harassment. Burton (who played Peyton) in particular has spoken about Schwann and said that he forced himself on her twice. Entertainment Weekly reported that they’d reached out to Schwann’s representatives for a comment on the allegations and did not receive an immediate response. Schwann has not spoken publicly about the allegations.

5.

Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz


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Judy Garland’s experience starring in the classic The Wizard Of Oz is now infamous. She was allegedly put on amphetamines and barbiturates and starved by the studio, and it’s also been alleged that MGM’s studio head, Louis Burt Mayer, sexually harassed her.

6.

Shelley Duvall in The Shining


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In Vivian Kubrick’s The Making of the Shining, Duvall talks about being in ill health due to the stress of the filming. At one point, she begins brushing through her hair and pulling out clumps, telling director Stanley Kubrick her hair is falling out from the stress. He walks away and tells crew members, “Don’t sympathize with Shelley.” In a tribute to Kubrick, Jack Nicholson admits Kubrick was an entirely different director with Duvall than he was with Nicholson. The tribute then shows a clip of Kubrick getting angry with Duvall on set, saying she’s wasting everyone’s time, and Duvall said “he can do some pretty cruel things when you’re filming.” Kubrick had her perform the baseball bat scene 127 times — Duvall has since called the process “almost unbearable,” though it appears she doesn’t hold ill will toward the director. It’s been reported that Kubrick also refused to praise her work and intentionally isolated her from the crew, but this hasn’t been confirmed.

7.

Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos in Blue Is the Warmest Color


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After French film union Spiac-CGT released a statement on director Abdellatif Kechiche’s labor law–violating schedule and bullying on set, stars Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos talked with The Daily Beast about the horrible shooting conditions and revealed that their famous sex scene took 10 days to film. Exarchopoulos said that Kechiche was a genius, but tortured, and that “sometimes there was a kind of manipuation.” In the fight scene, they were really hitting each other, with Kechiche screaming “Hit her!” At one point, Seydoux had to push Exarchopoulos out a glass door, and says Exarchopoulos got cut and was bleeding everywhere and crying, but Kechiche just said, “No, we’re not finished. We’re doing it again.” Later, Seydoux told the Independent that filming the sex scenes was humiliating. Kechiche responded to these claims on numerous occasions, calling Seydoux an “arrogant, spoiled child” and criticizing her for speaking out about how difficult filming was: “How indecent to talk about pain when doing one of the best jobs in the world…How, when you are adored, when you go up on red carpet, when we receive awards, how we can speak of suffering?” He accused her of radically changing her attitude towards him after filming, saying she appeared quite happy at Cannes: “If Seydoux lived such a bad experience, why did she come to Cannes, try on robes and jewelery all day? Is she an actress or an artist of the red carpet?”

8.

Maria Schneider in Last Tango in Paris


Courtesy Everett Collection

In the film, there is a scene where Marlon Brando’s character rapes Maria Schneider’s character using a stick of butter as lubricant. Schneider told the Daily Mail in 2007 that not only was the scene not in the original script when she signed on to do the project, but she was not told about the butter at all. Schneider described feeling humiliated and “a little raped,” calling director Bernardo Bertolucci manipulative. Bertolucci later admitted to not telling Schneider about the butter because he wanted Schneider’s humiliation to appear real, and he said he felt guilty but didn’t regret his actions because “you have to be completely free” as a filmmaker.

9.

Lana Turner in Ziegfeld Girl


Courtesy Everett Collection

Lana Turner allegedly became pregnant during the filming of Ziegfeld Girl. As pregnancy was said to ruin a star’s image at the time, it’s been reported that MGM head of publicity Howard Strickling arranged an abortion. A studio doctor was allegedly paid $500 (out of Turner’s paycheck) to perform the abortion on Turner while on a press tour in Hawaii. The procedure was allegedly done without anesthesia on a hotel bed, with Turner’s mother putting her hand over her daughter’s mouth to stifle her screams. She then returned to filming.

10.

Björk in Dancer in the Dark


Fine Line Features

Björk revealed in a Facebook post that a Danish director (which was assumed to be Lars von Trier, as he was the only Danish director she’d worked with) had punished her for refusing his sexual advances on set, and she detailed numerous examples of inappropriate touching and comments during the filming of Dancing in the Dark. Von Trier, all but confirming he was the man Björk was referring to, denied these allegations.

11.

Amy Adams in American Hustle


Francois Duhamel/Columbia Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection

One of the leaked Sony emails claimed director David O. Russell’s abuse of Adams during filming got so bad that Christian Bale had to step in: “His abuse and lunatic behaviour are extreme even by Hollywood standards,” the email said. Adams herself has said she was devastated on set most days, often reduced to tears, and that she probably wouldn’t work with the director again. There has been no response by O. Russell on the subject of these allegations.

12.

Lily Tomlin in I Heart Huckabees


Fox Searchlight / ©Fox Searchlight/Courtesy Everett Collection

David O. Russell has a history of verbal abuse. While filming I Heart Huckabees, O. Russell started yelling at Tomlin and calling her derogatory names while throwing things at her — it was actually caught on video. They’ve apparently since “made up.”

13.

Thandie Newton in Flirting


Samuel Goldwyn Films / Courtesy Everett Collection

Newton has stated that she was groomed and sexually abused by director John Duigan on the set of Flirting; she was 16. According to Newton, she was shamed into doing more films with him, and he would do things like lie about the framing of her shot and instead take video of her breasts. Duigan never responded to these claims and has largely retired from the business.

On the set of Crash, directed by Paul Haggis, Newton also says she was not told the details of what would be done in the sexual assault scene until directly before filming it. Upon hearing what the scene would entail, she returned to her trailer and cried because she wasn’t comfortable with the depiction.

14.

Marina Sirtis in Death Wish 3


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Sirtis says she was pressured into performing a graphic sex scene in Death Wish 3 by director Michael Winner. She said in a 2019 interview that she hopes the late director will “rot in hell for all eternity.”

15.

And finally, Sandra Peabody in The Last House on the Left


Courtesy Everett Collection / Everett Collection / Everett Collection

According to the documentary Celluloid Crime of the Century and the book Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left, Peabody (who went by the name Sandra Cassel at the time) was horribly mistreated by her male costars. Marc Sheffler admitted to threatening to throw her off a cliff to try to rile her up for a scene (though in 2018 he stated she was not in real danger), and David Hess allegedly threatened to actually assault her in a rape scene they were about to film. The documentary doesn’t directly say this, but numerous actors and crew members, including Hess himself, talk about how they believe she was scared he might actually hurt her, and how all her reactions were real. Director Wes Craven went on to have a successful career in horror.

Abuse — whether sexual, physical, or verbal — should NEVER have to be tolerated for the sake of art. The fact that we justify and brush off these allegations and statements as the price of “true genius” or being in the industry is frankly disgusting. No one should have to deal with these working conditions, and we need to stop giving awards to the people who create them.


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Referring to abuse as someone’s “directing style” and saying it produces good art isn’t an acceptable justification. There are plenty of filmmakers who do not take this approach and make wonderful art. It’s also harmful to share these facts as “behind the scenes” or funny examples of method acting. Let’s call it what it is: abuse.

It’s time to re-examine the legacies of these men through the lens of the bad things they’ve done. It’s doing a disservice to the victims to continue to praise these people without mention of the women they harmed as part of their “art.”


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Male art should never come at the cost of female pain and suffering.

We need to do better — for these women and for every future female actor who will get abused on set because it’s been so normalized.

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