Casey Affleck sued for sexual harassment

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Casey Affleck sued for sexual harassment

Fri Jul 23, 2010 @ 02:59PM PST

Affleck_casey_341 By Matthew Belloni

UPDATE: Casey Affleck intends to countersue

EXCLUSIVE: A producer of Casey Affleck's upcoming documentary about Joaquin Phoenix has dropped a bombshell $2 million lawsuit on the filmmaker/actor, claiming she was subjected to lurid sexual harassment and denied her producing fee after she refused to spend the night in a hotel room with him.

Amanda White alleges in a lawsuit being filed this afternoon in Los Angeles Superior Court that she was forced to endure debauched behavior during production of "I'm Still Here: The Lost Year of Joaquin Phoenix," including "uninvited and unwelcome sexual advances in the workplace" and an impromptu shoot in a Las Vegas hotel room filled with hookers and transvestites.

White, who worked on "Good Will Hunting" with Affleck and brother Ben and later collaborated with producer Chris Moore on several projects, says she agreed orally to a $50,000 fee to help produce the unconventional documentary about Phoenix's attempts to reinvent himself as a rap artist. But the offensive behavior allegedly began almost immediately.  

"On one occasion, Affleck instructed a crew member to take off his pants in order to show [White] his penis, even after [White] objected," the complaint alleges. "Affleck repeatedly referred to women as 'cows;' he discussed his sexual exploits and those of other celebrities that he allegedly witnessed; and asked [White], after learning her age, 'Isn't it about time you get pregnant?'"

The complaint also says White was prevented from going to her bedroom during shooting in Costa Rica because "Affleck and Phoenix locked themselves in her bedroom with two women," the lawsuit says. "Affleck also attempted to manipulate [White] into staying in a hotel room with him, and when she resisted, he grabbed her in a hostile manner in an effort to intimidate her into complying."

A rep for Affleck, who is married to Summer Phoenix, declined to comment on the lawsuit. (UPDATE: Affleck's attorney Michael Plonsker has issued a terse statement denying the allegations and vowing to bring cross-claims against White. Full statement here.)  Neither Joaquin Phoenix nor Magnolia Pictures, which recently picked up distribution rights to the film and plans to release it in September, are named as defendants in the suit. 

The case signals a recent Hollywood trend, of sorts. Yesterday, actor David Boreanaz and "Bones" producer Twentieth Television were sued for sexual harassment by a female extra on the show. That case comes on the heels of Nicollette Sheridan's $20 million assault and harassment lawsuit against ABC Studios and "Desperate Housewives" creator Marc Cherry, which ABC is vigorously defending.  

White includes this tale of what she and female cinematographer Magdalena Gorka allegedly endured:

"One afternoon, [White] produced a shoot at the Palazzo Hotel where Phoenix performed a set as a rap artist," the complaint reads. "Following the set, Affleck told [White] that he and Phoenix wanted to shoot another sequence in their hotel suite that evening. [Affleck] procured the services of several prostitutes, including male transvestites, for the evening shoot. [White] was not aware of what Affleck planned for that shoot." 

Then, when White and Gorka arrived at the shoot, "there were approximately 35 people at the hotel suite including prostitutes that had been procured for Affleck," according to the lawsuit. 

Judging by the pre-release press and Phoenix's infamous David Letterman appearance, it's not surprising that production of the film would include some odd and offensive behavior. But White says that "none of the conduct that occurred in the hotel suite is in the version of the film that will be released to the public." Instead, she believes that Affleck orchestrated the shoot "for his personal gratification and unfairly subjected [White] and Gorka to the conduct involving the prostitutes for reasons having nothing to do with the purpose of the project." 

The complaint doesn't reveal what exactly went on in the hotel. But it does discuss an alleged encounter between White and Affleck when the production moved to San Francisco. 

She says Affleck asked her to share a hotel room with him, and when she declined and told Affleck she needed to return to Los Angeles, "Affleck became hostile and aggressive," according to the complaint. "He violently grabbed [White's] arm in an effort to intimidate her into staying." When she refused, "Affleck continued his abusive conduct by sending her abusive text messages and calling her profane names for refusing to stay with him," White alleges.

White says she repeatedly informed Affleck that she was upset and that she would stop working on the film if she didn't get her $50,000 producing deal in writing. Shortly thereafter, the production's attorney David Weber (of the talent firm Sloane Offer Weber & Dern), allegedly entered into settlement discussions with her. But in September 2009, Weber allegedly began taking a more negative tone with her. White says she then realized she wouldn't be paid and quit the movie. 

"Affleck refused to compensate [White] as agreed because she objected to his harassing and abusive conduct, and because she refused to share his hotel room during the shoot in San Francisco," the complaint alleges. "Affleck encouraged and participated in the harassment of [White] and Gorka for his own twisted gratification; indeed, on information and belief, virtually none of the acts complained of herein are contained in the film that will be shown to the public." 

The 19-page lawsuit, filed by attorneys Skip Miller and Brian Procel of L.A.'s Miller Barondess firm, demands at least $2 million on causes of action for sexual harassment, retaliation, failure to prevent harassment/retaliation, constructive discharge in violation of public policy, breach of oral contract, unjust enrichment, and negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Defendants are Affleck and production company Flemmy Prods. 

Affleck was recently cast in the Fox Searchlight romantic comedy 'The F-Word.'

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The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to [email protected]

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