Amid Oscar Buzz, Sexual Harassment Lawsuits Against Casey Affleck Resurface

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Casey Affleck has emerged as a likely Oscar nominee for Best Actor for his role in Manchester by the Sea. But critical acclaim for Affleck's portrayal of a struggling janitor living outside Boston has also raised scrutiny over whether his past off-screen behavior should factor into his Academy Award consideration. In 2010, Amanda White and Magdalena Gorka filed separate lawsuits against Affleck, suing him for $2 million and $2.25 million, respectively. Both suits alleged sexual harassment, breach of contract, and emotional distress, among other things, centered around the 2009 production of mockumentary I'm Still Here, directed by Affleck and starring Joaquin Phoenix. White was a producer and Gorka worked as worked as director of photography on the project. White's and Gorka's legal complaints include a number of allegations involving sexual harassment, intimidation, and creating a hostile working environment. For instance, in addition to ordering camera assistant Anthony Langdon to flash his penis to White, she claimed Affleck spoke disparagingly of women and asked her, “Isn’t it about time you get pregnant?” after learning her age. Cinematographer Gorka described her experience working on I'm Still Here as a "near daily barrage of sexual comments, innuendo and unwelcome advances" and "the most traumatizing of her career," The Daily Beast reports. White and Gorka also alleged that Affleck withheld payment and film credits from them in retaliation for their refusal to submit to his unwanted sexual advances. In response to White's lawsuit, Affleck's lawyer filed a motion characterizing her claims as "fabricated" and "a devious attempt to extort a better production deal." That motion was filed before Gorka had filed her lawsuit. Ultimately, the cases were settled out of court. Although financial details weren't disclosed, the parties issued a joint public statement the disputes "have been resolved to the mutual satisfaction of the parties," The Los Angeles Times reported. Following the settlement, White and Gorka filed court requests for the lawsuits to be dismissed. But now, with Affleck's star on the rise, details of the lawsuits have resurfaced. In an October cover story in Variety about his "role of a lifetime" in Manchester by the Sea, Affleck briefly addressed the impact of the litigation. “People say whatever they want," he told Variety. "Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how you respond...I guess people think if you’re well-known, it’s perfectly fine to say anything you want. I don’t know why that is. But it shouldn’t be, because everybody has families and lives.” So far, White and Gorka haven't made any public statements about the revived interest in their claims. In September, Mashable writer Josh Dickey questioned why the civil suits hadn't sparked scrutiny similar to that of fellow Sundance darling Nate Parker. Nate Parker's 1999 criminal rape charge become a media focal point leading up to the premiere of Birth of a Nation, which Parker directed and starred in. "Both actors were accused of behavior toward women that was sexual in nature, legally actionable in stature and not widely discussed or contemplated when first reported," Dickney wrote, noting the major legal distinction between Parker's criminal case and Affleck's civil suits. Though applied for vastly different circumstances, concerns over both actors' offscreen lives underscores "the conflict between art and artist, and whether they should or can be separate." A major indicator of where Hollywood stands on the matter will be the 2017 Academy Award nominations announcement on January 24.
A representative for Affleck offered no comment upon request. Correction: An earlier version of this article did not include a response from Affleck's lawyer to the various 2010 lawsuits. That has been added.

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