Just how much did “everyone know” in Hollywood about Harvey Weinstein? Matt Damon tells Good Morning America host Michael Strahan that he knew Weinstein was an “a*****e,” and George Clooney says he’d heard Weinstein bragging about having affairs with dozens of celebrities, which Clooney now says appalled him. But two of America’s most bankable nice-guy stars insist that they never had an inkling that Weinstein was a sexual predator — even though Damon admits that he knew Gwyneth Paltrow had been victimized:
“When people say like, ‘Everybody knew,’ Like, yeah,” Damon told ABC News’ Michael Strahan. “I knew he was an a——.”
“I knew he was … a womanizer,” Damon added. “I wouldn’t want to be married to the guy. But … the criminal sexual predation is not something that I ever thought … was going on. Absolutely not.”
Clooney told ABC News that in the past Weinstein had told him that he had affairs with “some actresses who were friends of mine,” but Clooney said that he never believed him.
“I didn’t really think that they were going have affairs with Harvey, quite honestly. And clearly they didn’t,” he added. “But the idea that this predator, this assaulter … was out there silencing women like that … it’s beyond infuriating.”
Damon insists that he knew nothing of Weinstein’s predatory behavior … except for the predatory behavior he did know about:
“I knew the story about Gwyneth from Ben because he was with her after Brad [Pitt], so I knew that story,” Damon said Monday on ABC News. “I never talked to Gwyneth about it, Ben told me. But I knew that they had come to whatever, you know, agreement or understanding that they had come to, she had handled it. She was, you know, the first lady of Miramax. And he treated her incredibly respectfully.”
Even with that wide-open entrée to question Damon’s professed ignorance, Strahan remains curiously incurious about Damon’s connection to the Weinstein scandal. Two weeks ago, former New York Times reporter Sharon Waxman (now at The Wrap) wrote that Damon helped get her 2004 exposé on Weinstein scrubbed. Waxman got calls from Damon and Russell Crowe personally to tube a story that tied Fabrizio Lombardo, then heading Miramax’s Italian unit, to Weinstein’s sexual appetite and about a payoff to a woman who had accused Weinstein of non-consensual sexual behavior. Damon claimed he was just asked to talk about Lombardo’s work for Miramax, not anything to do with Weinstein.
However, he already knew about Weinstein’s sexual harassment of Paltrow by this time. She married Coldplay frontman Chris Martin in 2003, having ended the relationship with Affleck in 2000. If Waxman was writing about Weinstein in 2004, then Damon had an important piece of information — or at least knew enough to refrain from running interference on a sex scandal at Miramax. Isn’t that the kind of conflict that a reporter would want to resolve with some questions for a man who claims to have known nothing?
Ironically, the two stars gave this interview as part of their promotional tour for Suburbicon, their new film produced by the Coen brothers, directed by Clooney, and starring Damon. It’s ironic because Suburbicon apparently falls into that tired Hollywood cliché genre that portrays suburban America — especially in the 1950s — as a seething cauldron of sexism, racism, abuse, and insanity under a deceptive veneer of prosperity and peace. The Weinstein sexual-assault scandal, along with similar emerging allegations against James Toback, allegations of pederastic molestation involving Hollywood agent Tyler Grasham, and who knows what else, makes Hollywood’s morbid fascination with the suburbs look like a bad case of projection.
Don’t believe me? Here’s the Rotten Tomatoes synopsis:
Suburbicon is a peaceful, idyllic suburban community with affordable homes and manicured lawns… the perfect place to raise a family, and in the summer of 1959, the Lodge family is doing just that. But the tranquil surface masks a disturbing reality, as husband and father Gardner Lodge (Matt Damon) must navigate the town’s dark underbelly of betrayal, deceit, and violence. This is a tale of very flawed people making very bad choices. This is Suburbicon.
Golly, we’ve never had Hollywood tell that kind of a story before. Thus far, critics aren’t terribly impressed either. It has a 41% positive rating from 51 reviews, and only two reviews out of 12 from top critics have been positive. The most telling of those reviews appeared coincidentally at The Wrap five weeks before Waxman’s revelation, in which Alonso Duralde sums up the problem:
Clooney’s directorial legacy won’t get any help from “Suburbicon,” a garish and overblown crime melodrama that combines clumsy noir with lame jabs at 1950s suburban conformity and racism, two subjects whose satirical sell-by date are now decades past.
Wake us when A-listers start making films like Hollywoodicon, in which a glamorous surface masks a disturbing reality of sexual assault, molestation, sexism, and vengeance. That’s a story that has been oddly absent from the movie theaters, while we’ve had suburban dystopias like The Stepford Wives (twice!), Pleasantville, American Beauty, Little Children, and even The Purge beat into us for decades. It’s beyond ironic that these two are trying to promote themselves as sharp-eyed social critics of suburbia and a bygone era while claiming to have seen nothing in their own backyard for the last twenty-five years.