*The #MeToo movement has set its sights on Morgan Freeman.
CNN reporters An Phung and Chloe Melasis report that eight women have accused the veteran actor of inappropriate behavior on movie sets, at his company and during interviews.
A young production assistant said she endured several months of harassment on the set of “Going In Style,” a bank heist comedy starring Freeman, Michael Caine and Alan Arkin. She alleges that Freeman subjected her to unwanted touching and comments about her figure and clothing on a near-daily basis. Freeman would rest his hand on her lower back or rub her lower back, she said.
In one incident, she said, Freeman “kept trying to lift up my skirt and asking if I was wearing underwear.” He never successfully lifted her skirt, she said — he would touch it and try to lift it, she would move away, and then he’d try again. Eventually, she said, “Alan [Arkin] made a comment telling him to stop. Morgan got freaked out and didn’t know what to say.”
The alleged inappropriate behavior wasn’t just on that movie set, according to other sources who spoke to CNN. A woman who was a senior member of the production staff of the movie “Now You See Me” in 2012 told CNN that Freeman sexually harassed her and her female assistant on numerous occasions by making comments about their bodies.
“He did comment on our bodies… We knew that if he was coming by … not to wear any top that would show our breasts, not to wear anything that would show our bottoms, meaning not wearing clothes that [were] fitted,” she said.
In all, 16 people spoke to CNN about Freeman, 80, as part of the investigation, eight of whom said they were victims of what some called harassment and others called inappropriate behavior by Freeman. Eight said they witnessed Freeman’s alleged conduct. These 16 people together described a pattern of inappropriate behavior by Freeman on set, while promoting his movies and at his production company Revelations Entertainment.
Read the full story at CNN here and view excerpts below:
Three entertainment reporters who spoke to CNN said Freeman made inappropriate remarks to them during press junkets, which are publicity events for journalists who cover new films, typically attended by the movie’s biggest stars.
One of the three, CNN entertainment reporter Chloe Melas, the co-author of this article, says she was subjected to inappropriate behavior by Freeman more than a year ago, when she interviewed him at a press junket for “Going in Style.” According to Melas, who was six months pregnant at the time, Freeman, in a room full of people, including his co-stars Arkin and Caine, shook Melas’ hand, not letting go while repeatedly looking her up and down and saying more than once a variation of, “I wish I was there.” She says he also said to her, “You are ripe.” Cameras were on and recording during one of Freeman’s remarks to Melas — “Boy, do I wish I was there” — but not for the rest. As is common practice with such junkets, Melas was the only CNN employee there at the time.
Afterward, Melas reported what had happened to her supervisor, who instructed her to inform CNN human resources. According to Melas, she was told that CNN HR contacted their counterparts at human resources for Warner Bros., which produced and distributed the movie, and which like CNN is owned by Time Warner. Melas said she was also told that Warner Bros. HR could not corroborate the account because only one of Freeman’s remarks was on video and the Warner Bros. employees present did not notice anything. Melas and her supervisor agreed that she would not cover the movie.
After the encounter with Freeman, Melas started making calls to see if other women had experienced anything similar, or whether this was an isolated incident. She soon learned that other women had similar stories — and so she, and later her co-author, began this months-long reporting process.
But former staffers who spoke with CNN say that behind the façade of a progressive and artistic agenda the company’s two founders created what one called a “toxic” work environment. Six former staffers said they witnessed Freeman’s questionable behavior around women, which they said included sexual comments and one said included an incident of unsolicited touching. One female former staffer said she was the target of sexual comments by Freeman.
The female former employee at Revelations told CNN that Freeman was flanked by a group of men on the set of “Through the Wormhole” when she met the actor for the first time. He “looked me up and down,” she said, and then asked her, “How do you feel about sexual harassment?”
“I was stunned,” she told CNN. “This is the person that I worked for, this is his company, I didn’t expect it at all … I said timidly, ‘I love it’ in a sarcastic way hoping to make light of the situation because I was so confused and then he turned to the guys on the crew … and said, ‘See guys, this is how you do it.'”
One woman who was a manager at Revelations told CNN that sometimes Freeman would “come over to my desk to say hi and he’d just stand there and stare at me. He would stare at my breasts.”
“If I ever passed him he would stare at me in an awkward way, would look me up and down sometimes stopping and just staring,” she said. “One time he stopped, looked me up and down as I walked into a room of people, and everyone burst out laughing. And I literally froze feeling very uncomfortable and one of the people in the office said, ‘Don’t worry, that’s just Morgan.'”
“That sort of interaction was when I stopped wearing a skirt around the office when he was there,” said the former manager. “I can’t say it was an accident that I’d be wearing a potato sack and a ponytail on certain days when he was there and do my best to avoid him when he was in the office.”
Freeman was not in the office on a daily basis, the former employees said. But when he did show up, he behaved like a “creepy uncle,” in the words of a male former employee. “One time I witnessed Morgan walk up to an intern and start massaging her” shoulder, he said. “The intern got visibly red and wiggled out of his grasp, it was awkward.” The incident stood out to him because Freeman was using only one hand to touch the intern, as his other was injured in a 2008 car accident that was widely covered by the press. Another former employee told CNN she was present when the male former employee told several people about this incident shortly after it occurred.
An entertainment reporter who is a member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association said Freeman made comments about her skirt and her legs during two different junkets. Much like many of the women in this report and those who declined to go on the record, the reporter said Freeman’s fame and power kept her from speaking out.
“I was just trying to do my job and I brushed it off,” said the reporter, who did not want to be identified for this story because she’s fearful of losing out on interviews with other celebrities.
“You don’t want to put him on the spot because one, he’s famous and two, it’s on camera and three, you just want to do your job.”