George Clooney and Matt Damon Say They Knew Weinstein Was a Womanizer, Not a Predator
"You had to spend about five minutes with him to know that he was a bully," said Damon, later adding, "But this level of criminal sexual predation is not something that I ever thought was going on."
George Clooney and Matt Damon are shedding more light on what it was like working with ousted Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, who helped launched both actors to stardom in the late '90s.
The pair, during their press tour for the Clooney-directed film Suburbicon, sat down with ABC's Michael Strahan to clarify what they knew about Weinstein's alleged history of sexual harassment prior to the media firestorm that erupted after the publication of two exposés, by The New York Times and The New Yorker, which detailed decades of harassment and assault allegations against the disgraced mogul.
"You had to spend about five minutes with him to know that he was a bully, he was intimidating — that was his legend," said Damon, who first worked with Weinstein on Good Will Hunting and was subsequently signed to a three-picture deal. "When people say everybody knew, yeah I knew he was an asshole. He was proud of that."
Damon revealed that he had heard of Gwyneth Paltrow's encounter with Weinstein from friend Ben Affleck, though he had been under the impression that Paltrow had come to "an agreement or understanding" following the incident.
Paltrow was one of the first Hollywood actresses to come forward and accuse Weinstein of sexual harassment. She previously disclosed to the Times that the producer made unwanted advances to her early in her career, summoning her to his hotel room and suggesting the two of them head to the bedroom for massages.
"I knew he was a womanizer. I wouldn't want to be married to the guy, but it's not my business," Damon said, explaining his thinking back then. "But this level of criminal sexual predation is not something that I ever thought was going on."
Clooney noted that he similarly had an inkling of Weinstein's alleged behavior around women based on conversations he had with the mogul.
"Harvey would talk to me about women that he'd had affairs with," said Clooney. "I didn't necessarily believe him quite honestly, because to believe him would be to believe the worst of some actresses who were friends of mine."
Telling Strahan he now knows the truth behind what Weinstein had described as an "affair," he added, "The idea that this predator — this assaulter — was out there silencing women like that ... it's beyond infuriating."
Clooney called for a change in Hollywood and an end to victim shaming, saying, "There has to be a comeuppance for all of this. All of the people who were part of that chain. And then, we have to make it safe for people to feel that they can talk about it."
The Suburbicon director, noting that wife Amal Clooney has also been subject to harassment in her line of work, encouraged women to continue coming forward and so that men may be warned that "you'll be out of the business, and more than that, you might be prosecuted."
On the topic of harassment in Hollywood, he added, "We're going to have these discussions, and we're going to make it harder for it to happen."
The disgraced film mogul has since been terminated as co-chairman from his own company, expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and is under investigation by the LAPD, NYPD and London police.