Tom Hanks on sexual harassment in Hollywood: “There are predators everywhere”

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Moya Crockett
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The actor says he isn’t surprised by allegations of sexual misconduct, but is hopeful that things will change. 

Tom Hanks has spoken out for the first time about the sexual misconduct scandals currently engulfing Hollywood.

During a round table discussion for The Hollywood Reporter, the Oscar-winning actor said he was not surprised by the recent outpouring of allegations about sexual predators in the film industry, and observed that many people start working in Hollywood for the wrong reasons.

“Look, there’s a lot of reasons people do this for a living,” Hanks said. “Making a movie is a life experience that can create an awful lot of joy. You can meet the person you fall in love with, you can laugh your heads off. That’s the good stuff.”

However, “bad stuff can happen on a movie as well”, he added.

“There are some people who go into this business because they get off on having power,” he said. “And the times they feel the most powerful, which is why they went into the business, are when they are hitting on somebody who’s underneath them, [and] I don’t necessarily mean completely sexually.

“There are predators absolutely everywhere.”

Tom Hanks with wife Rita Wilson in November

Hanks said he was aware of two main types of sexual misconduct that took place in Hollywood. The first was when actors or crew were made to feel uncomfortable by behaviour while shooting a film, but didn’t feel like they had the right to speak out because of the informal nature of life on set.

“There’s stuff that happens on a set that can be really inappropriate,” he said. “There can be that type of predatory aspect on a set because you think, ‘Well, we’re in the circus and we’re on the road, so therefore the rules don’t really apply.’”

The second kind of abuse, Hanks said, was when powerful figures in Hollywood subjected actors and other film industry workers to sexual harassment – or assault – under the guise of advancing their careers.

This was the kind of behaviour allegedly displayed by disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, who has been accused of regularly inviting women to meet him on professional pretences before greeting them naked or asking them to massage him or watch him shower.

Watch: Hollywood actors discuss the sexism they’ve encountered

Hanks continued: “The other aspect is, ‘Come try to get this job from me. You want me to give you a job? Come prove to me that you want this job.’

“That’s a sin and that’s against the law and that is a degree of harassment and predatory behaviour that goes against an assumed code of ethics.”

However, Hanks said that he remains hopeful that we are witnessing a sea change in how harassment cases are treated in Hollywood.

“I think eventually everybody who has a production office is going to have a code of ethics and behaviour,” he said. “[The rule will be], if you don’t follow these, you will not work here.”

He added: “Somebody said, ‘Is it too late to change things?’ No, it’s never too late. It’s never too late to learn new behaviours. And that’s a responsibility of anybody who wants to obey a code of professional ethics.”

Images: Rex Features