Hollywood was bubbling with intrigue on Tuesday after Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron revived accusations that “a famous director” sexually harassed her early in her career.
Theron, promoting her new film Bombshell, which details sexual harassment at Fox News under the late CEO Roger Ailes, told how she herself had been subjected to harassment.
Theron told NPR radio that playing former Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly allowed her to explore what she called the “grey area” of sexual harassment.
“It’s not always physical assault. It’s not always rape,” she said. “There’s a psychological damage that happens for women in the everyday casualness of language, touch or threat — threat of losing your job. Those are things I’ve definitely encountered.”
She told how, in 1994, she had just moved to Los Angeles when a “famous director” invited her to an audition at his home one Saturday night.
When she showed up, the director opened the door in his “Hugh Hefner pyjamas” and touched her leg as she sat on the sofa: she apologised and left in a hurry.
She told the radio station that, driving away, she became angry with herself.
“I just kept hitting the steering wheel,” she said. “I put a lot of blame on myself, that I didn’t say all the right things, and that I didn’t tell him to take a hike, and that I didn’t do all of those things that we so want to believe we’ll do in those situations.”
The South African-born actress first told of the incident in 2009, speaking to OK! Magazine. She mentioned it again in April this year, while promoting Long Shot, telling radio host Howard Stern that she had been shocked by the encounter.
“I had just turned 19, I might have still been 18. I had never been out for an audition,” she told Stern.
“I asked this modelling agent if she’d heard of anything. She said, ‘Yep. Go to this guy’s house. It’s on Saturday at 9pm.
“He had a very healthy ego, he felt very good about himself.
“There was some kind of muzak playing in the house. He sat very close to me. That was strange. The drinking bothered me. I was like, ‘This doesn’t feel right.’”
Theron said she kept asking if he wanted her to read the pages of a script she had been given, to which he replied they were just going to talk.
“And then at one point, he put his hand on my knee,” she said. “You just go blank. Like you don’t know what to do, but I left.
“I don’t even know how I got out of the house, but I left. It would have ended really badly.
“I was driving my Ford Fiesta, that I was renting, up Laurel Canyon and I was so angry with myself that I didn’t say something.
“I was like, I’m not that kind of girl. Why did I not tell him to go **** himself? It made me so angry.”
She described him to Stern as a producer, and said: “He was a very big deal and is still a big deal.”
She told Stern that, eight years later, after making her name, she confronted him. She said he had no recollection of meeting her.
“I had my moment,” she said.
Theron has been a strong supporter of the #MeToo movement, and, in an interview with The New York Times, published earlier this month, told how Harvey Weinstein used his power to manipulate women. She said he lied about having sex with her, in order to entice other women to sleep with him.
“Pitting women against each other? Weinstein was really, really good at that,” she told the paper.
“There was a lot of, like, ‘Well, I’m talking to Gwyneth for this movie …’
“One of his lines was that Renée [Zellweger] and I slept with him to get jobs. There was no limit to him. Even in the sexual favours, he would still pit us against each other.”
Weinstein, who goes on trial in January for sexual assault and rape, has always denied accusations of non-consensual sex.
Zellweger, through a spokesman, denied in 2017 that she had slept with Weinstein to further her career.
Theron, 44, has also spoken while promoting the film about how her mother killed her father in front of her, describing him as an alcoholic and a "very sick man."
She told how, in 1991, he tried to get into the house – belligerent, drunk and armed with a gun. Theron and her mother, Gerda, tried to stop him.
"Both of us were leaning against the door from the inside to have him not be able to push through,” she told People.
“He took a step back and just shot through the door three times.
"None of those bullets ever hit us, which is just a miracle. But in self-defence, she ended the threat."
She said that she was “not ashamed” to speak about her traumatic childhood, and said she wanted to end the stigma surrounding abusive families.
“I do think that the more we talk about these things, the more we realise we are not alone in any of it,” she said.
“I think, for me, it’s just always been that this story really is about growing up with addicts and what that does to a person.”
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