Matt Damon and George Clooney added their voices to the particularly prominent dialogue surrounding sexual harassment culture. Their input was prompted by the continuously growing number of allegations being brought to light within the industry, primarily against their former colleague Harvey Weinstein.
At the premiere of “Suburbicon” Sunday night in Los Angeles, Clooney addressed past sexual harassment cases, specifically those involving Bill Cosby and former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, which didn’t ignite change quite the way they should have.
“We hope this is a watershed moment for us as a society, where women feel safe enough to talk about this issue, feel believed, and where men who are committing these crimes, these violations, don’t feel safe, and feel as if, if they do these things, they’re going to be outed, they’re going to be sued, they may even get litigated, maybe go to jail for it,” he told reporters on the red carpet.
Clooney continued, “If we can get to that point, we’ve actually succeeded and this thing won’t just end up being Harvey Weinstein jokes in three months.”
He also responded to Woody Allen’s comments to the BBC, in which Allen warned against a “witch hunt” around Weinstein.
“That’s a stupid thing to say,” Clooney said. “The reality is, it’s not a witch hunt to these women who are trapped in a hotel room and told they’re going to get a part and, suddenly, here comes Harvey Weinstein in his birthday suit. That’s not a witch hunt; that’s an assault.”
Clooney commended Hollywood’s response to the scandal, namely stripping Weinstein of his membership in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
“I’m surprised, since we haven’t seen that happen before,” he said. “We’ve seen some pretty bad behavior by some people before, and we haven’t seen it.”
Clooney went on, “I’m glad it happened, it’s long overdue. I think once people knew, that was the only decision they could possibly make. If they didn’t do it, it would be a terrible mess.”
The slow unraveling of events, however, disappointed Clooney.
“It’s also infuriating when I read stories about reporters who did investigations and said, ‘I had a story and didn’t print it for 10 years,'” he said. “You go, ‘Why wouldn’t you print that story?’ I would have liked to have seen it. And I’d like to know who brought actresses up to Harvey Weinstein’s room and left. I’d like to know that.”
Moving forward, he added, “Maybe don’t do meetings in hotel rooms. How about that?”
Damon, who stars in the film, said the fallout of Weinstein “remains to be seen.” Still, he’s confident there will be “massive systemic change.”
“The fact that somebody that powerful, his career has been completely ruined, that’s a real message to anybody who would behave like this,” Damon said.
Damon pointed to social media movements for providing a platform where conversation can prosper.
“Social media has given everybody a voice,” he said. “Women realize that they’re not alone and that their voice matters. That means behavior is going to change. It has to change.”
Damon expressed his optimism about this being an inflection point in the culture of sexual harassment.
“Maybe I’m totally naive, I just don’t see how somebody could even think they could get away with this anymore in this day and age,” Damon said.
Damon recently denied claims that Weinstein asked him to help kill a 2004 New York Times story about the mogul’s history of sexual harassment.
Clooney’s producing partner, Grant Heslov, said the swift decision to expel Weinstein from the Academy shows the industry is moving in the right direction.
“I’m just surprised more people haven’t been kicked out,” Heslov told Variety. “He’s not the only person who has done dastardly things.”
The silver lining in all this, Heslov said, is “the ballon has been burst.”
“It’s going to be much harder for people to use their power because people will speak up and hopefully feel safe,” he said. “These idiots and animals, whoever is doing this, hopefully they get found out.”