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The Atlantic Crossword
Some of the Hollywood victims of casting couch behaviour
Over time, the phrase has become emblematic of the way that sexual aggression has been normalized in an industry dominated by powerful men. How did this seemingly innocuous phrase become so ensconced as a standard show-business trope? The casting-couch tradition originated in theatrical productions on Broadway well before the Hollywood film industry became the new locus of the entertainment world. The phrase casting couch became linked to the Shuberts, at least in retrospect, as the etymologist Peter Tamony discovered. By then, however, the idea of the casting couch had moved out west to Hollywood. But in , a silent stag film may have been responsible for introducing the expression to a wide audience. The film was titled The Casting Couch , and it featured the stereotypical scenario of an actress auditioning for a role and giving in to the salacious demands of the casting director. Five years later, in , casting couch was considered a harmless enough phrase that it could be casually dropped into a newspaper column about Hollywood. Despite these public appearances, the notion of the casting couch may still have been something of a Hollywood in-joke.
It was, and still is, a toxic culture among film producers, directors and other power players in the industry. She accused him of raping her. Nearly a century later Harvey Weinstein stands accused of sexual harassment by 32 women, many of whom are in the film industry. The majority of the accusations come from women who were either looking for a role in a Weinstein production or already had one. Whether they have had contact with Weinstein or not, actors and actresses in all areas of the film industry almost uniformly report to have experienced or heard about the casting couch mentality throughout their careers. The presence of this despicable behaviour in the industry has survived so long for a number of reasons. In part, the victims feel trapped into silence.
Veteran actor Michael Caine has said the casting couch was an open secret in Hollywood. The year-old actor said though he knew about producers like Harvey Weinstein asking for sexual favours from aspiring starlets in return for a role, he did not know the extent of the problem. It was almost a joke. We knew it existed.