George Clooney knows Harvey Weinstein better than most. The two men’s careers have been intertwined for decades and, as Clooney will even admit, Weinstein is largely responsible for his success in the industry, giving him an acting breakthrough with “From Dusk Till Dawn” in 1996 and a directorial breakthrough with “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” in 2002. But not even Clooney will be coming to Weinstein’s defense in light of The New York Times article which revealed decades worth of sexual harassment accusations and coverups.
“It’s indefensible. That’s the only word you can start with,” Clooney said to The Daily Beast in an extensive interview in which he reacts to the Weinstein scandal. “I’ve known Harvey for 20 years…We’ve had dinners, we’ve been on location together, we’ve had arguments. But I can tell you that I’ve never seen any of this behavior—ever.”
Clooney’s statement echoes Meryl Streep, Kate Winslet, and Jennifer Lawrence, three actresses who won Oscars for their involvement in films produced and/or distributed by The Weinstein Company. None of these actors were aware of Weinstein’s behavior during their time working with him, but that doesn’t mean they’re taking the accusations with a grain of salt. Clooney is “disturbed” by the reports he read, especially the one from TV reporter Lauren Sivan that alleges Weinstein exposed himself and masturbated into a potted plant in front of her.
“I feel very bad for all of the victims,” he said. “I mean, cornering a young anchorwoman in the kitchen and jerking off into a potted plant? That’s not just some rumor about Harvey hitting on a woman; it’s disturbing on a whole lot of levels, because there had to be a lot of people involved in covering that up. That’s frustrating.”
Clooney also gets brutally honest when trying to figure out why the industry never stood up to Weinstein before. One reason he finds is because “a lecherous guy with money picking up younger girls is unfortunately not a news story in our society.” But he gave a more detailed response when he remembered his own history with Weinstein:
I had knock-down, drag-out fights with him over the years, but he was also making films that other studios weren’t willing to make, and he was making films that everybody loved, so you just put up with certain bad behavior because you felt like, well, if he yells and screams but he gets made, who cares if he yells and screams? But it’s a very different conversation when you say, it’s not that he yells and screams but that he’s cornering a young, scared lady in a restaurant and telling her to stand there and be quiet while he jerks off. That’s a very different kind of behavior, and had that been a public thing, I think there would have been some different results. I hope there would be.
“This isn’t a right or a left issue,” Clooney concluded. “We’re all going to have to be more diligent about it and look for any warning signs. Before, people weren’t paying enough attention to it. Now we have to. This is the moment to start scaring people like this into not acting this way anymore.”
Clooney’s latest directorial effort, “Suburbicon,” opens in theaters October 27 from Paramount Pictures. Head over to The Daily Beast for Clooney’s complete interview.