George Clooney: Post-#MeToo, ‘being a jerk at work is now not okay’

65th BFI London Film Festival: The Tender Bar - American Express Gala, Royal Festival Hall in South Bank, London

When the stories about Harvey Weinstein began to come out in 2017, I remember George Clooney very quickly made a lengthy statement about Weinstein, who was a frequent producer of George’s films. George acknowledged that he had known some of the Weinstein stuff, from Weinstein cheating on his wife and sleeping with actresses, but denied knowledge of the assaults, harassment and rapes. Clooney’s mind immediately went to problem-solving and I remember he was basically the first person to say: actresses should not be forced into meeting producers in hotel rooms. I mean, I’m not giving him a medal for that, but it was an immediate change and it was something which really bugged him, the reality that it was super-normal to send actresses to Harvey Weinstein’s hotel room for “meetings.” George talked about what other changes have been made in Hollywood and a lot more in a recent Times interview:

How Hollywood changed after #MeToo: “It’s changed in this way… On top of the terrible things Weinstein did, being a jerk at work is now not OK. Just because you’re a boss, it doesn’t mean you get to sh-t on people. I’ve been the boss and the guy being sh-t on. You can’t get away with being a d-ck any more – you’d get ratted out. Now there’s sometimes an overcorrection, where everyone points fingers, but that will settle. It always does. And I can’t imagine some producer having a casting session alone in his hotel room with a young girl any more. It’s moving in the right direction.”

People still need to feel safe enough to speak up: “We’ll know when we see how wrong something else goes. I’m sure there’s more and someone will tell us, then we’ll have to pay attention to it.”

Turning 60: “Turning 60 is a bummer. But it’s that or dead…I said to Amal, knock on wood, I’m healthy. I still play basketball with the younger gang. I feel good. But in 20 years I’m 80 — and 80 is a real number. I said the next 20 years are halcyon and we need to celebrate that, we should focus on the work we do being just the stuff we have to, that we feel in our chest.”

On his motorcycle accident in Italy: “I was waiting for my switch to turn off… I’m fine now.” The actor also recalled a crowd gathering around him following the crash, noting that some were even filming him for the “likes.” “If you’re in the public eye, what you realize when you’re on the ground thinking it’s the last minute of your life is that, for some people, it’s just going to be entertainment for their Facebook page. I’m a pretty positive guy, but that told me — clearly — that you really are here just for their entertainment.”

He’s glad he only found fame in his 30s: “I’m lucky I got famous when I was 33, not 23. I’d have been shooting crack into my forehead if I had been 23 and given money and success. You’re not prepared for it. You need to have failed a s–tload – If you have you never trust success. Every day I think, ‘If all hell broke loose, I have a couple of houses I paid cash for, I could sell one.’ My mentality is still that. Failures teach you everything — you learn nothing from success.”

[From The Daily Mail & People]

“I’d have been shooting crack into my forehead if I had been 23 and given money and success” is just a great sentence. I don’t think he would have been that crazy with early success, but becoming successful later than most actors did inform the man he is today. He still has that thing where he wonders every single day what he would do if he somehow lost his fortune and lost his fame.

As for what he says about bosses not being allowed to be a–holes and bullies anymore… I don’t agree. I think Hollywood is still rife with emotional abuse and toxic personalities in positions of power. Is it different now? Perhaps. I think women in the industry know now that if they want to speak up, people will listen to them and take their stories seriously. But, as George said, the proof of that will come when someone low on the Hollywood chain speaks out about a powerful man now, years post-Me Too.

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33 Responses to “George Clooney: Post-#MeToo, ‘being a jerk at work is now not okay’”

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  1. Bettyrose says:

    He was 33 years on Facts of Life? No. He just means he wasn’t famous then. Doing the math … he was known in his 20s just not famous like he was from 1994 onward.

    I agree that Hollywood hasn’t cured it’s toxic masculinity problem. But men can no longer assume they’re protected by a code of silence. The Clarence Thomas hearings didn’t cure sexual harassment but they gave it a name.

    • Kitten says:

      Yeah he was like 25, right? I was only 6 but it seemed to me that FoL was kind of his breakthrough role. Maybe he considers ER the point where he got really famous….

      • Boxy Lady says:

        I remember him recurring on 3 different shows before ER: The Facts of Life, Roseanne, and Sisters. His character on Sisters was killed off so he could be on ER. ER is definitely what made him super famous. Everyone was copying his haircut! And he was already a divorced man by the time he booked ER but since he wasn’t *really* famous before, there are plenty of people who think Amal is his first wife. (His ex is remarried so maybe she prefers that, ha.)

      • lucy2 says:

        He was a working actor, but didn’t become a celebrity until ER.

  2. Kasalvy says:

    The problem I have with his statement about being a bully at work is that it was NEVER ok, me too era or not. I work in production and recently called out a producer to his face about a statement he made in front of our producers team. He looked 100% shocked that a female did that in front of an entire room of people that basically were my employers, but took the hint and has never disrespected me or my team since. He did turn bright red for a minute but didn’t fight back.

    I also still have my job without retribution.

    • PeacefulParsley says:

      Good for you, and for your sake, I hope you have the next job too, because the threat of retribution sadly doesn’t end with the assignment.

      • KASalvy says:

        Thanks – I actually (this morning!) found out I’ve been promoted and my place in the company is secure. I have never stood for someone belittling me in front of colleagues, consequences be damned. He also apologized and we’re on good terms, but it was a good lesson learned for him.

    • Ana170 says:

      I think I get what he means. He was one of the first to speak out about David O. Russell. Russell was berating an assistant on the set of Three Kings and George stepped in to defend him. Except for a few people who thought it was funny that Russell head-butted Clooney, there was no response from Hollywood. Russell continued to get work and accolades despite his reputation for bullying actors and crew. (His victims include Lily Tomlin and Amy Adams.) He was also under investigation at one point for sexually harassing his niece. It wasn’t until after #MeToo that he started to see any consequences. That alone probably feels like a victory to Clooney: no one cared before if an Oscar-nominated director bullied an actress because the art created in the end was worth it (or something).

  3. Kitten says:

    “If all hell breaks loose I have a couple houses I could sell”. Must be nice to have that security.
    Like, I know this is his reality and that of every wealthy person in this country but whew, that’s still a pretty stunning thing to say, given the current state of the world.

    Ah, well. At least he seems like he has gratitude…..

    • TIFFANY says:

      Clooney has never shied away from talking about his money insecurities though.

      This is the same man who, when comfortable enough, bought homes for his long time assistants so they can have asset security.

      That’s why I took the comment for what it was.

    • Paintergal says:

      Kitten- His Aunt Rosemary Clooney was very famous and successful in the ’40’s but she fell out of style and lost everything. One day she was rich, then it was gone. She instilled in him to be grateful but to know it may not last forever.

  4. jferber says:

    Bettyrose, yes, but then Clarence Thomas’ beer buddy who is not just a sexual harasser, but a sexual assaulter, got on the Supreme Court. So toxic masculinity is alive and well, unfortunately.

    • Bettyrose says:

      Baby steps. Very very small baby steps. Imagine working in the Mad Men era when the men could harass you all day without repercussions. I spent years in a workplace (in the 00s) where sophomoric male behavior was tolerated. More hostile workplace crap than sexual harassment. Isn’t it great we have words to distinguish between the two? 🤦🏻‍♀️

  5. Izzy says:

    It was never okay, George. It was simply tolerated. Now women are pushing all the way back.

    • Bobbie says:

      I know you aren’t saying this, but I think it’s important to remember men are not the only people who can be toxic. Lots of women are abusers as well.

      • bettyrose says:

        Women can definitely be abusers, and when they are it’s generally by supporting a structure that allows other women to be abused, but there hasn’t been a systemic issue as old as humanity of women abusers being protected by other powerful women while the victims remained voiceless. Ghislaine Maxwell is the ultimate example of this. She was an abuser, as bad and in some cases worse than the men involved, but it wasn’t a system of women protecting abusers. It was one woman upholding a system that protected the male abusers.

      • Merricat says:

        I like that he mentioned his realization that he really isn’t a person to most of the people who want to take his photo, just walking entertainment that they might make a buck off of–we expect a lot from people who act in movies.
        Hmm, I meant this comment to stand alone, not as a reply. Sorry!

  6. Mac says:

    As someone who lived through the highs and lows of the dot com bubble, I’ve seen the pitfalls of too much, too soon first hand. I get what George is saying.

  7. It seems more and more that in the movie industry, people who like to work with certain people are getting all the work. Nobody wants to work with or for a pain. Ideally work is fun your doing what you enjoy, and thing go smoothly vs. problems over people acting like they are the main player. And That hopefully is spreading to corporate cultures although that’s a bit more David vs Goliath!

  8. Cava 24 says:

    Interesting he’s only naming Weinstein, who is in jail and likely won’t get out of prison in his lifetime. George could mention, by name, Scott Rudin, Shia LeBeouf etc but he won’t. He wants to preserve his relationship with them and the industry at large but still claim to be a “good guy”. One of his closest friends, for years, was Les Moonves. I believe in the idea that public figures can effectuate change but so many of them do not walk the walk. If you want these toxic people pushed out of the industry, powerful people, like George, are going to have to put pressure on specific people. Not just vaguely acknowledge culture shifts.

    • Nocturne says:

      Yep. You see it so often once people get to a certain level of power and wealth. They just aren’t going to jeopardize their position.

      It hurts when you find out people you admire, hanging out with people who are utterly horrible. And it’s never openly publicized either.

      Power speaks to power, and everything else comes in second.

      Clooney advertises for Nestlé, ffs.

  9. Holly says:

    “Failures teach you everything — you learn nothing from success.” I really love how he put that.

  10. Nocturne says:

    When you’re at the top, it’s very hard to see the shit that’s going on at the bottom. I hope it’s improving for people, but I’m not going to think of him as an expert on this matter since he comes from a place of utter privilege.

    And I know he was specifically asked about #meetoo, but he doesn’t mention other factors such as race, class and sexuality when it comes to how people are treated. Ray Fisher anyone? And how on earth is Jared Leto the lead in an upcoming Marvel film after the shit he pulled on Suicide Squad?

    I’m more inclined to believe the opinion of someone who is working lower down on the food chain, such as one of the posters above. YOU ROCK.

    And it’s also kind of obvious that people aren’t improving their behaviour out of the goodness of their heart. They’re no longer acting like assholes because if they do, their careers will be hurt if they’re publicly shamed (Hopefully. How many times has Joss Whedon been cancelled now?). However, if people are ever in a position where they can get away with it? All bets are off.

    • lucy2 says:

      I agree, I don’t think it’s progressed as much as he may like to think. There are, for sure, still people (mostly men) abusing their position and their power. There are still massive pay gaps depending on race, gender, sexuality, etc.
      Leto is a good example. Ryan Seacrest too. Michael Weatherly is still leading a network show, despite costing them millions in a settlement. The discussion of Anthony Anderson the other day. Being a “jerk at work” isn’t always a dealbreaker. it has NEVER been OK. Hopefully fewer and fewer get away with it.

      I do agree with him that we’ll know more as time goes on, and I do think there has been significant progress. We just still have a long way to go.

  11. Nocturne says:

    Also, he claims to have not know about a lot of the shit that was going on before, but now he knows exactly what’s going on behind the scenes?

    Again, I acknowledge that there has more than likely been some improvement in the way people are being treated, but he is not an authority on this, at all.

  12. TIFFANY says:

    I always liked Clooney, but I really started to like him when he confirmed fighting and putting David O Russell in a headlock on the set of Three Kings. He not only confirmed it, he said he will never work with Russell again.

    That is how you do it.

  13. AA says:

    I understand what he’s saying about money. I grew up without a lot. My husband and I are successful, but I am paranoid about losing it all and often have thoughts of, ok, if this all goes to hell, here’s what I would do. And I know I would be okay, because I’ve had nothing before and know how to navigate it. I don’t think he’s being arrogant about the houses he’d sell; he’s trying to relay a point and I get it. He has a history of being very generous with others. PS, when I was in my 20s, we were collecting money at my employer for a charity gift for a needy kid. Guess who gave the least? The people who could most afford it (the VPS and high ups). (I was in charge of the $$.) I know they may have been giving money elsewhere, but that’s my experience in general (the ones who can afford it the most give the least).

  14. Lauren says:

    Watching Andy Cohen on CNN’s New Year’s broadcast showed me that terrible (white) men still run Hollywood.

  15. Karisma says:

    “B.S.Clooney helped blacklist me when I spoke up abt harassment on ER.’women who dont play the game lose career’ I did” Vanessa Marquez.
    So I don’t care about what he has to say on that subject to be honest

  16. eto says:

    That bit about his motorcycle accident was so grim…can’t imagine filming someone in a moment like that instead of helping.

  17. J says:

    It’s crazy what I used to tolerate at work, I’m so glad women are speaking out more and especially grateful to men who support

  18. Sweet says:

    Think actors actually feel like they’re a moving target all the time; public opinion is so whimsical and even the biggest, long-established stars can be dropped to zero overnight. So if they’re able to speak out, that’s good. You have to work with general momentum (other actors and other people in the industry) to make sure you’re not the only one speaking out, I guess.

    I think George is one of the better guys. It’s very hard to be a Keanu where you’re 100% clean (as far as we know). It’s a kiss-assing profession where you have just about no control.

    Think that’s also partly why George picked Amal. Everyone was going, “This woman is IN LOVE with herself.” That kind of confidence, plus her credentials, was probably incredibly intoxicating for George, who’s probably as insecure as any actor out there.

    Aside, Amal looks really good in that two-piece dress.

    • Sweet says:

      ^correction: “feel like they’re have a target on their backs all the time.” The “moving” is irrelevant and nonsensical in this context, actually!