Susan Sarandon on why Harvey Weinstein’s behaviour went unchecked for so long

Posted by
Moya Crockett
backgroundLayer 1
Add this article to your list of favourites

In a new interview, the actress criticises people in the producer’s circle who turned a blind eye to his behaviour. 

Susan Sarandon has spoken about Hollywood’s longstanding culture of sexual harassment, and criticised people who facilitate abusive behaviour by looking the other way.

Speaking to The Guardian, Sarandon said that she believes many people in Harvey Weinstein’s circle were complicit in allowing him to prey on women for decades.

“I think the big question here is that if Harvey Weinstein exposed himself to you when you were on a yacht in Cannes and you told everybody – this is Angie Everhart’s story – and everyone said: ‘Well, that’s just Harvey’ and it wasn’t a big deal – those are the people who are perpetuating it, too,” Sarandon said.

Sarandon, 71, was referring to her fellow actress Angie Everhart, who said in October that she tried to speak out after Weinstein masturbated in front of her on a boat at the Venice Film Festival.

Everhart claimed that she reported the incident to several other people on the boat at the time, but “nobody wanted to do anything about it because everyone was terrified of Harvey.”

Susan Sarandon with director Wong Kar Wai (centre) and Harvey Weinstein (right) in 2008

Attitudes towards sexual harassment have changed immeasurably in recent decades, Sarandon said. When she was a young woman, she added, sexual harassment was so common that women didn’t even necessarily recognise it as a problem.

“There [was] just a culture, starting in the Sixties and Seventies, where there was a certain amount of liberation that made it possible for those things to happen without even seeing yourself as a victim,” she said.

Sarandon said she did have to handle some unfair treatment based on her sex: “Certainly, I experienced both having people come on to me and being told that I wasn’t interesting enough to get a part, or sexual enough, once they found out I was married.”

However, she acknowledged that she had been fortunate: whenever men attempted to ‘come on to’ her, she managed to remove herself from the situation without any trouble.

“In my case, I just said no, in many clumsy, stupid ways, but the people didn’t push on. They didn’t show up in my room. They didn’t corner me, or batter me, or get on top of me. 

“It was an invitation: ‘Yeah, why don’t you spend the night now that you’re here in the middle of nowhere on location?’ And I said: ‘No, I gotta get back to my room.’”

“There is definitely more power in the hands of women than there was”: Sarandon in 1978

Women have increasing creative and financial influence in Hollywood, Sarandon said, and this can be crucial in enabling them to reject the advances of powerful men.

“More and more women are able to greenlight their own projects… There is definitely more power in the hands of women than there was – the Reese Witherspoons, who are getting books, putting together projects, telling women’s stories,” she said.

She added: “Until you get women to have an economic power base – I mean, look at Brit Marling’s article [in the Atlantic], where she talks about being able to walk out of an uncomfortable situation with Harvey [Weinstein] even though she hated herself for going in the first place, because she knew she could write and produce and direct.

“So when people see themselves as having their own power base, it becomes imaginable that you could turn somebody down and still survive.”

Images: Rex Features