Second woman suing Casey Affleck over harassment on documentary

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Second woman suing Casey Affleck over harassment on documentary

Fri Jul 30, 2010 @ 12:41PM PST

By Matthew Belloni

Affleck,casey EXCLUSIVE: Another female worker on Casey Affleck's upcoming Joaquin Phoenix documentary is suing the filmmaker/actor, this time claiming Affleck climbed into bed with her and groped her as she slept. 

In a $2.25 million lawsuit being filed this afternoon in Los Angeles Superior Court (read the complaint here), cinematographer Magdalena Gorka says Affleck engaged in a pattern of harassing behavior and refused to pay or credit her when the abuse forced her to leave the project. The allegations mirror a separate lawsuit filed last Friday by Amanda White, a producer who says she left the movie after witnessing shocking behavior and after refusing to sleep in a hotel room with Affleck.

A spokesman for Affleck said a statement is forthcoming. Affleck has strenuously denied the allegations in the White case, threatening to countersue the producer and filing court papers this week to move the case to private arbitration. Affleck attorney Marty Singer told THR yesterday that White has "continuously used different threats and outrageous demands in order to request compensation she was not legally entitled to receive."

According to the new Gorka lawsuit, when production on "I'm Still Here: The Lost Year of Joaquin Phoenix" began in New York in mid-December, she was the only woman on the team. Phoenix and Affleck, who is married to Phoenix's sister, decided that the crew would stay at Phoenix's apartment instead of at a hotel. Phoenix allegedly told Gorka she could sleep in his bedroom and he would sleep on the couch. 

"During the middle of the night, [Gorka] awoke to find Affleck lying in the bed next to her," the lawsuit alleges. "Unbeknownst to [Gorka], Affleck had entered the bedroom while she was asleep and crawled into the bed. When she woke up, Affleck was curled up next to her in the bed wearing only his underwear and a t-shirt. He had his arm around her, was caressing her back, his face was within inches of hers and his breath reeked of alcohol."

Gorka says she was shocked because she didn't know how long Affleck had been there or where she had been touched. She says she immediately told him to get out of bed. "Affleck responded by asking 'Why?,'" according to the lawsuit. "[Gorka] said 'because you are married and because you are my boss.' Affleck, undeterred, asked if [Gorka] 'was sure.' [Gorka] said she was sure and insisted that he leave the room. He left and slammed the door in anger."

According to the complaint, Gorka confronted Affleck the morning after the incident, then got on a plane for Los Angeles, consulted with her agent and left the project. Unable to find work, however, she says she returned several weeks later once a female producer, White, had joined the project and assured her she would be present. 

But the lawsuit says the abuse continued. "[Gorka] was berated and verbally attacked by Affleck after she refused his sexual advances in New York, and was criticized constantly for refusing to be submissive in response to his rants and derisive comments," the complaint says.

Gorka says she ultimately left the project again, after which Affleck allegedly refused to honor their oral agreement that she would be paid a $300 per-day fee and a deferred $700-a-day fee when the film sold to a distributor (Magnolia bought the film in July and plans to release it in the fall). She says she's also been stripped of her "director of photography" credit.

The new case continues a recent trend of sexual harassment claims in Hollywood. In the past few months charges have been levied against "Bones" star David Boreanaz and Viacom's Sumner Redstone, and ABC is reportedly investigating at least one claim against former president Stephen McPherson.

Reached for comment, Gorka attorney Brian Procel says the decision to file the lawsuit was not easy for his client.

"In her 16 years of working in the entertainment industry she has never accused anyone of sexual harassment," Procel says. "Ms. Gorka knows there will be repercussions, and that she will be exposed to attacks mounted by Affleck's high-paid publicists and 'bulldog' attorneys.  She ultimately decided that the truth needs to come out.  We look forward to our day in court."

The Gorka complaint alleges causes of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress, constructive discharge in violation of public policy, breach of oral contract, negligent infliction of emotional distress, unjust enrichment and negligence. 

Gorka is represented by Procel, Skip Miller and Mira Hashmall at L.A.'s Miller Barondess firm, which also represents White. Defendants are Affleck and Flemmy Prods.  

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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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