As did just about anyone who has actually been on a movie set, I knew that Arnold Schwarzenegger’s implicit excuse that the film sets on which he groped unwilling women were “rowdy” (and hence allowed that sort of behavior) was complete bullshit.
Sexual harassment happens just about everywhere, true–offices, locker rooms, the Army. And it happens in studios and on sets, too.
But it isn’t condoned. Some powerful people get away with harassment when they can. And the most powerful man on the set (always Arnold Schwarzenegger when he’s been on a set for the past decade or more) can get away with it to the same degree as the CEO or the highest-producing salesman in other environments. People are afraid to object not because of the “rowdy” environment, but because they might as well shoot themselves in the foot. It’s a Hobson’s choice: Risk crippling your career, or endure the humiliation?
Sherry Lansing, head of Paramount, probably gets herself into trouble in the following L.A. Times story. It isn’t smart for her to speak out against one of the biggest action stars in the industry. My guess is that her board of directors isn’t happy about it. Her action is a measure of how full of shit Arnold’s “rowdy movie sets” claim is:
Film Sets Loose, but Barbarian Behavior Rare, Insiders Say
Schwarzenegger’s defense against women’s accusations invokes the anything-goes myth.
When Arnold Schwarzenegger found himself facing accusations that he had touched women’s bodies without their consent, he apologized, saying he had been on “rowdy movie sets.”
But his explanation set off a furor in Hollywood on Thursday, where a wide variety of filmmakers, executives and crew members disputed his implication that this sort of behavior is common.
“Grabbing someone’s boobs or pinching their ass is absolutely not the way people behave on a movie set,” said Sherry Lansing, chairwoman of Paramount Pictures. “Women work alongside men and are treated with the utmost respect. Moviemaking is a very gender-blind business. No one tolerates that kind of behavior.”
Schwarzenegger’s defense evoked a long-held myth about Hollywood: Anything goes on a movie set. Industry veterans admit there’s some truth to that image — but only up to a point.
“Affairs happen all the time among the cast, among the crew and among the townspeople with the cast and crew, but it’s always consensual,” said Rob Harris, a publicist with numerous major movie credits (“The Perfect Storm,” “Gladiator”). “Stars often act playfully and often act petulantly, but when it comes to sexually groping, I’ve never, ever seen that.”
As Paramount’s Lansing put it: “The most outrageous behavior I have ever seen on a movie set is two people yelling at each other.”
The Times reported Thursday that six women said Schwarzenegger had touched them in a sexual manner without their consent. In some cases, the women said others had witnessed the incidents but had not intervened.
Hollywood veterans acknowledge that many movie sets are self-contained societies that don’t always reflect the standards of everyday life.
What’s more, $20-million movie stars can be so pampered and coddled that they may often seem out of touch with reality. It is not uncommon for such celebrities to insist that crew members not look them in the eye, or they may demand multimillion-dollar perks packages that are so specific as to include the thread count in their sheets.
“The problem with some stars is that they lose perspective about correct adult behavior,” said Gary Goetzman, the producer of “The Silence of the Lambs” and “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” “People laugh at everything they say and do. Nobody says, ‘Chill out, man, that’s out of line.’ So it gets to the point where some think they can do anything. It’s not an atmosphere that necessarily promotes self-control.”
Actors wield so much influence on movie sets that crew members say it’s difficult to blow the whistle on a star’s misconduct.
“When you are a below-the-line crew member like myself, you would have to think twice about complaining over a star’s behavior,” said David Goldstein, a set painter with a 20-year list of credits. “You have to worry about keeping your job. If the star wants to get you off a movie, they can do it.”
Attorney Gloria Allred agreed. “There are a lot of people in Hollywood who lead such privileged lives and have an entourage of people who say yes to them all the time. They think that they can do whatever they want and whatever they want is appreciated and welcomed.”
However, she took issue with the notion that outright harassment is absent from movie sets. “We get complaints from Hollywood on a daily basis,” she said, adding that many women choose not to pursue their cases because of retaliation concerns.
“The fear of never working again may be higher among women in Hollywood. They do feel it is a small world and that they will be blackballed. It is a very difficult decision for them to make.”