Back in 2020, during the 45th César Awards (France’s equivalent to the Oscars) famous—and highly controversial—movie director Roman Polanski won the César for best director for his movie An Officer and a Spy. This contested honour resulted in a number of film industry nominees and recipients leaving the room in protest and, subsequently, riots in Paris.
The fact that Polanski—who was accused of drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl in 1977, pleaded guilty to the ‘lesser offence’ of unlawful sex with a minor in 1978 only to then flee from his US sentencing—was recognised despite this was outright proof that sexual predators were still tolerated (if not rewarded) in the country’s respected film industry.
In 2023 however, it seems like things are about to change for the better as it’s just been announced that actors, directors, producers and any artists who have been charged or convicted of sex crimes will not be allowed to take the stand at the show, which is set to take place on 25 February.
Unfortunately, they are still eligible for awards, but if they do win, “no one will be allowed to speak on their behalf,” a statement from the César Academy read.
This decision comes shortly after the French news media revealed that Sofiane Bennacer, who was considered a favourite for a César for his lead role in the movie Forever Young, was under police investigation on rape charges and that rumours about the accusations had circulated in the film industry for months.
The César Academy was sharply criticised for seemingly ignoring the allegations and thus eventually dropped Bennacer from the list after it emerged publicly that the actor had been indicted.
Over the years, the French film industry has been notoriously slow for addressing matters of sexual assault and demands from the #MeToo movement. Polanski and Bennacer are only the tip of the iceberg as countless accusations remain unsolved.
Among the major names who are still under police investigation are actor Gérard Depardieu, who has been accused of rape and sexual assault, and Dominique Boutonnat, a producer whom the French government reappointed in July 2022 as President of the National Centre for Cinema and the Moving Image despite allegations that he had sexually assaulted his godson.
It’s clear that much still needs to be done. Why not start by banning all sexual offenders from both attendance and nominations?
Following that incident at the Oscars over the weekend, the discourse surrounding the 2022 ceremony has been inescapable. With a plethora of opposing takes being made (we’re not even going to get into that) something has arisen that is even more cause for concern—a public notion is in the air to strip Will Smith of his first Academy Award. The calls to do this—especially some eyebrow-raising remarks by the likes of director Judd Apatow in since-deleted tweets claiming The Fresh Prince star “could have killed” comedian Chris Rock on stage—felt like white Hollywood throwing tomatoes at a black man while their own counterparts remain guilty of even worse.
Many made known on Twitter the unadulterated hypocrisy of such an industry to revoke a black man’s award while several accused abusers, sex offenders, predators and paedophiles continue to have their shelves adorned with golden figurines. And it should come as no surprise that they’re all white, duh.
Here is a breakdown of the five men we believe should have their title stripped—and Will Smith is not on the list:
Throughout his career, American filmmaker, writer, and actor Woody Allen has received a considerable number of awards saluting his work as a director, screenwriter and actor. Among these, Allen has won three Oscars for Best Original Screenplay for Annie Hall, Hannah and Her Sisters and Midnight in Paris as well as one for Best Director for Annie Hall.
What many—including the Academy Awards—seem to have forgotten about is the man’s controversial past of sexual abuse allegations. In August 1992, Allen was accused by his adoptive daughter, Dylan Farrow, aged seven at the time, of having sexually molested her in the home of her adoptive mother, American actress and former model Mia Farrow.
At the time of the allegation, Allen and Farrow had been together for 12 years and had three children: two adopted, Dylan and Moses, and one biological child, Satchel, who is now known as Ronan Farrow. But that’s not all—the sexual abuse was alleged to have taken place about eight months after Farrow had learned that the filmmaker had a ‘romantic’ relationship with another of his adoptive daughters, Soon-Yi Previn, who eventually ended up marrying the sexual predator in 1997.
Born in South Korea, Previn was adopted in 1978 by Farrow and her then-husband German-American musician André Previn. Though no one had recorded her exact date of birth, a bone scan at the time of her adoption put her age at between five and seven.
In 1979 however, Farrow’s marriage to André Previn ended and the actress began a long-term relationship with Allen. This means that Soon-Yi must have been between six and eight years old when she first met the man who would end up becoming her husband. Are you spotting a pattern here?
Though Previn has previously said that Allen “was never any kind of father figure [to her],” adding that she “never had any dealings with him” during her childhood, considering the accusations the notorious filmmaker faced later on in 1992 from his other adoptive daughter, it seems hard to ignore the clear signs of predatory behaviour. But hey, not for the Academy, as long as Allen never hit anyone.
Perhaps the most obvious and egregious example of an individual who undoubtedly deserves his Oscar title removed is Polish-French director Roman Polanski. Polanski, who has been awarded six big-time awards throughout his career (including two Golden Globes, two BAFTAs and the Palme d’Or) was found guilty in 1977 of engaging in unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor—a young girl named Samantha Geimer, who was just 13 years old at the time.
Upon discovery that he would face severe prison time, the filmmaker fled the US in 1978, where he used to reside, and has mostly lived in France since then—avoiding any countries that could extradite him back to the US. His accused crime involved the use of drugs and champagne which left Geimer disoriented. She repeatedly attempted to resist him to no avail as he continued to perform sex acts on her—despite being asked to stop. An accusation he denies. Oh no, he doesn’t deny ‘sleeping with her’ he just refutes the non-consensual nature of her claim—insisting in his autobiography that she was enjoying it.
In 2017, an in-depth Vox article detailed a fifth accusation of sexual assault against a child levied at the director. In it, the publication cites his bold candidness in said autobiography in which he openly discusses his attraction to younger girls and admits bedding 15-year-olds as a grown man. “Judges want to fuck young girls,” he said in 1979, “Juries want to fuck young girls—everyone wants to fuck young girls.”
Of the 13-year-old he was found guilty of raping, whom he met on a photoshoot, he wrote, “We weren’t saying much now, and I could sense a certain erotic tension between us.” This convicted crime and vulgar confession did nothing to slow his career.
With one user writing, “Just remember they gave Roman Polanski an Oscar in absentia after he fled the country to avoid the paedophilia conviction.” This refers to his Academy Award for Best Director in 2003 for his film The Pianist, an award that was accepted on his behalf by Harrison Ford —since, you know, he’s a fugitive from the US. It’s unbelievable, right? It is, without doubt, one of the ugliest stains on Hollywood’s film history and yet one that has the support of some of your favs.
In 2009, a petition was signed by over 100 people in the industry demanding the “immediate release of Roman Polanski” including the likes of: Woody Allen (of course), Wes Anderson, Darren Aronofsky, Monica Belluci, Adrien Brody, Penélope Cruz, Harrison Ford, Natalie Portman (who later apologised and expressed regret for her signature), Martin Scorsese, Harvey Weinstein and Emma Thompson (who also later asked her name to be removed).
Though we won’t be going into all of the sordid details we’ve gathered on Jared Leto’s history of paedophilia and predatory behaviour—we’ve already done that in a previous SCREENSHOT article—we can’t stress enough how important it is for everyone to educate themselves on how problematic the actor is.
Next up on this list is none other than Harvey Weinstein. The long list of documented cases against the film producer are endless, and a central part of the #MeToo movement, seeing as he dominated the Hollywood film industry for decades. Along with all of his Academy Awards dotted among numerous films he has produced, there lies a brutal and sordid history attached to them—though he is now most definitely expelled from his Oscar membership. He became the second member to become expelled by the Academy after Carmine Caridi in 2004 for copyright infringement.
After retreating from the public eye, he was dismissed from his company The Weinstein Company (TWC) as well as The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences’ Board of Governors—which includes industry heavyweights such as Steven Spielberg, Whoopi Goldberg and Tom Hanks. The governing board held a special meeting in Los Angeles in October 2017 and made the decision to revoke Weinstein’s membership following the lengthy list of sexual assault and harassment allegations made against him.
The decision was celebrated by the industry with many actors, celebrities and prominent members of Hollywood coming forward to praise the decision. On their action, which made waves in the film industry and signalled to other sectors that stances and action needed to be taken, the board stated: “What’s at issue here is a deeply troubling problem that has no place in our society. The board continues to work to establish ethical standards of conduct that all Academy members will be expected to exemplify.”
At the time, Weinstein originally faced over 20 women coming out with allegations over a period of 30 years—ranging from sexual misconduct to sexual assault and even three cases of rape—against him. Eventually, a sum of over 80 women (though some counts estimate closer to 100) had made claims against the film producer. Criminal investigations into the allegations raised by at least six women were conducted and in May of 2018, Weinstein was arrested in New York and charged with rape and several other offences. Later in February 2020, at the end of a seven-week trial, Deadline reported that the disgraced media giant was found guilty of rape in the third degree and criminal sex acts in the first degree. He was sentenced by New York Supreme Court Judge James Burke on Wednesday 11 March to 23 years in prison for his crimes.
After Weinstein was outed and ousted—as much as he could be, given that his successful track record with the Academy awarded him 341 nominations and 81 wins, for films either produced or distributed by Weinstein under both Miramax and TWC—the dam was broken and floods of allegations against powerful men came to light. Unveiling the seedy underbelly of Hollywood, the exposing of Weinstein led to what’s known as the Weinstein effect, where the sexual misconduct of powerful men is uncovered. It would be pretty symbolic to take those awards away, just saying…
Caleb Casey McGuire Affleck-Boldt, more commonly known as Casey Affleck—yes, Ben Affleck’s younger brother—was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford in 2008 and although he didn’t win it at the time, he then went on to win Best Actor for Manchester by the Sea in 2017. What’s now well known about the actor’s private life is that he has settled not one but two sexual harassment lawsuits out of court for an undisclosed amount of money.
In 2010, two women who had worked on the lesser-famous Affleck’s film from that same year, I’m Still Here, filed sexual harassment claims against him. Among them was Amanda White, one of the movie’s producers, who initially sued the actor for $2 million with multiple complaints including sexual harassment and breach of oral contract. White revealed she had been victim to Affleck’s “uninvited and unwelcome sexual advances” multiple times in the workplace.
Meanwhile, the film’s cinematographer, Magdalena Gorka, sued Affleck for $2.25 million with multiple complaints including intentional infliction of emotional distress and breach of oral contract. Gorka told the court that she had been subjected to “routine instances” of sexual harassment by crew members that included actor Anthony Langdon, “within the presence and with the active encouragement of Affleck.”
At first, Affleck denied all claims made by the two women—his lawyer described them as “total fiction” and “completely fabricated.” With the claims settled out of court, Affleck finally addressed the situation in a 2018 Associated Press interview. “Over the past couple of years, I’ve been listening a lot to this conversation, this public conversation, and learned a lot. I kind of moved from a place of being defensive to one of a more mature point of view, trying to find my own culpability,” said the actor, who went on to say he accepted that as the producer it was his responsibility to create a safe set.
“I contributed to that unprofessional environment and I tolerated that kind of behaviour from other people and I wish that I hadn’t. And I regret a lot of that,” he continued. However, it may seem to some that such remorse over how he had previously conducted himself was a result of the backlash against his Oscar win that previous year.
Eliana Dockterman for Time Magazine succinctly wrote, “Many critics argued that giving Affleck an Oscar would lead to the actor gaining more power, money and influence in Hollywood. Rewarding men who abused women, they said, perpetuates a cycle of sexism in the industry.”