Casey Affleck is currently the favourite to bag an Oscar for his role in Manchester By The Sea when the ceremony takes place in Hollywood later tonight.
After his big win at the Baftas earlier this month, Casey is flying and it should be a time for him to celebrate a career high.
Metro.co.uk called his performance in Manchester By The Sea ‘exceptionally controlled’ and ‘probably his best to date’.
But there’s another, less discussed side to Affleck’s transformation into a Hollywood darling.
Seven years ago, he reached an out-of-court settlement after being sued for sexual harassment by two women with whom he worked with on the movie I’m Still Here.
Cinematographer Magdalena Gorka and producer Amanda White allege that they ‘received near daily barrage of sexual comments, innuendo and unwelcome advances’ and Gorka claimed that at one point Affleck crawled into her bed and when she woke she found ‘he had his arm around her, was caressing her back, his face was within inches of hers and his breath reeked of alcohol’.
White said she received ‘uninvited and unwelcome sexual advances’ from Affleck, who also allegedly grabbed her ‘viciously’ and locked her out of a hotel room while he was entertaining another woman.
Affleck, who was married to Summer Phoenix at the time, denied all the claims but settled out of court.
The sums paid to the women have never been disclosed and no one has spoken publicly about the settlement.
There has been a steady growing backlash online and within film communities against Affleck – most notably, when he failed to win the Best Actor award at the Screen Actors Guild awards, an organisation where the awards are chosen by peers – but how do we separate a potential award-winning performance from the acts of an individual?
And should we?
‘I very rarely feel conflicted as a critic, as my job is to judge based on performance,’ a member of the London Critics Circle told Metro.co.uk.
‘An award or a positive review for a performance is not an award for the way the actor lives their life, and in no way is it a sign of approval of it. This is not a personality contest. Making it so doesn’t help the readers of my reviews, or my editors, and everyone involved in making the film. For all these people, I have a responsibility to give a film a fair hearing.’
Judging a person by their past, whether they are famous or not, is a fine line – ‘I can appreciate Roman Polanski films without endorsing his past, but it does trouble me and I do think about it’ the LCC member told us – but perhaps privilege and narrative also play a role in how we perceive actors.
The 2017 awards seasons kicked off with the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and for months you couldn’t move in film circles without hearing about The Birth Of A Nation, an unflinching account of the true story of Nat Turner, the enslaved man who led a slave rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia, in 1831.
Directed and starring Nate Parker, it was critically acclaimed, but by August 2016 media attention was shifting focus to an 1999 alleged rape charge against Parker and the co-writer of the film Jean McGianni Celestin.
Both Parker and Celestin denied the allegations and claimed the encounter was consensual and Parker was acquitted of all the charges; Celestin was convicted of sexual assault but in 2005 had his conviction overturned. The alleged victim committed suicide in 2012.
The significant press coverage meant that any chance Parker had of awards success was gone, and there’s a good chance his career may never recover from the scrutiny.
That’s partly because Parker’s image was so tightly constructed around The Birth Of A Nation (which has a brutal rape scene within it despite not appearing in any historical records), so when the charges and the trial came to light, despite Parker being found innocent, his image became centred around the claims.
Affleck however has been known for years as Ben Affleck’s younger, more press-shy brother, the actor who likes to take on small indie films and supporting roles.
‘I have so many close friends and family who are not only talented, but very successful,’ he acknowledged in 2016.
‘It just so happens the person I married was a super-talented actress. And her brother, Joaquin, happened to be incredibly talented. My brother is Ben. I grew up a block away from Matt Damon. It’s just a tight circle of people who have had some success.’
That privilege, that circle of friends and knowledge of how to manipulate the press and fans, meant that Affleck was able to position himself during this year’s awards season as an every day man, the man you want to be buddies with.
Parker had none of that.
And there’s also the race issue to consider. Hollywood is notorious for its blatant racism and misogyny (#OscarsSoWhite springs to mind very quickly) but it’s shocking that almost no entertainment publications have thus far heavily focused on Affleck’s case or the decision to settle rather than fight his innocence.
Deadline for example, have a charming headline about Affleck which reads: ‘The Actor’s Side: Casey Affleck The Role Of His Career & Why He Likes Conflict, Chaos & Uncertainty.’
‘Fox Searchlight, Nate Parker Confront Old Sex Case That Could Tarnish The Birth Of A Nation.’
When an actor with a troubling personal life wins an award, everyone should feel concerned, as we live in a world where actors and musicians and artists and TV stars influence their fans, whether they want to be role models or not.
It’s why it’s so hard to hear Chris Brown make an absolute banger of a dance floor song, or enjoy a Woody Allen film, because the decisions they have made are morally reprehensible yet they are still allowed to continue their careers, and annoyingly, entertain us.
Claims and convictions must always be covered by the press – and the fact that no industry publications are openly criticising an industry darling committing alleged crimes about industry peers but is more than happy to slam someone for a claim they were found not guilty of before they were a mmeber of the indistry is frustrating as all hell.
But as the LCC board member concluded, ultimately, ‘it’s always up to audience’.
What decision would you make?
Don’t forget Metro.co.uk is live in Los Angeles with all the action so stay with us for regular updates.