Reese Witherspoon: ‘I dealt with sexual harassment in my own way’

The Independent Entertainment 3 weeks ago

Reese Witherspoon has spoken about experiencing sexual harassment in the film industry, and said she dealt with it “in my own way”. 

The actor and producer appeared on the NPR podcast Fresh Air Weekend to discuss her new series The Morning Show, which also stars Jennifer Aniston (also co-executive producer) and Steve Carell.

The Morning Show stars Witherspoon as Bradley Jackson, a field reporter whose haphazard style of reporting brings her into a new world of TV journalism. 

This takes place as she falls into a rivalry with top news anchor Alex Levy (Aniston), who is dealing with the fallout from a sexual misconduct scandal involving her former partner of 15 years, Mitch Kessler (Carell), who has just been fired.

“Sometimes the world is so crazy, TV shows and movies are a great way to understand where we’re at,” Witherspoon told host Terry Gross of the show’s themes. 

The actor says that acting in the scene where she has sex with Leonardo DiCaprio on a bed of money was really painful in The Wolf of Wall Street. “I got a million paper cuts on my back from all that money! It's not as glamorous as it sounds,” she said. “If anyone is ever planning on having sex on top of a pile of cash: don't. Or maybe real money is a bit softer, but the fake money is like paper, and when I got up off the bed, I turned around to get my robe and everyone gasped. I said, 'What is it?' And they said, 'You look like you've been whipped a million times. Your back is covered in a thousand red scratches.”
During the filming of the sequel to Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, cast members were terrified when real hammerhead sharks started circling them in the sea. The trouble was that their screams went unheard. The crew didn’t think they were in real danger to start with because it was written into the script that they yelled for help at that point.
The fourth in the Rocky film franchise to focus on the boxing career of the fictional Rocky Balboa, played by Sylvester Stallone, has some gripping and authentic-looking fight scenes. It’s no wonder then that during filming, Stallone actually asked Dolph Lundgren, who plays his opponent, Ivan Drago, to try to knock him out for real. But Lundgren hit him with such force that he was sent to the hospital and was in intensive care for over a week.
Brando was infamous for his bad on-set behaviour. That is one reason why Paramount was nervous about getting him involved in Francis Ford Coppola’s mafia film. It didn’t start well, when on the first day of shooting, the actor who played the patriarch in the family, Vito Corleone, missed his overnight flight from LA to New York. His scene was rescheduled for the next day, but it cost producers $40,000.
In his autobiography, rapper Gucci Mane said he was so tired on set of Harmony Korine’s crime film Spring Breakers, that he fell asleep during his big sex scene. The rapper, who plays Big Arch, a rival drug dealer of James Franco’s Alien character in the film, is seen having sex with one woman, while another sucks his toes. “I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I was knocked out, snoring . . . Harmony kept having to wake me up for takes.” In another interview, he explained why he was so exhausted. “I had a concert down there in St Petersburg, Florida, one of the days I had to shoot a scene. Same night. We started shooting at 10 o'clock in the evening until 1 or 2 o'clock.”
The action star broke his ankle while doing his own stunt on set of the sixth Mission Impossible. The scene sees Cruise completing a fast rooftop jump from one building to another, when his foot slams into the side of the wall. But instead of collapsing in a heap, he keeps going as if nothing has happened, until the end of the scene when he can be seen hobbling away. He said: “I knew instantly my ankle was broken and I really didn’t want to do it again so just got up and carried on with the take. I said, ‘It’s broken. That’s a wrap. Take me to hospital’ and then everyone got on the phone and made their vacation arrangement.”
Caplan was nervous when she had to take her clothes off in front of co-star Sheen in the TV series. It made her feel better that they were both shaky. But then disaster struck. “And we complete the scene, I place the hand on my breast and they yell “Cut” and he immediately walks over to a garbage can and throws up.“ Turns out Sheen had eaten something that upset his stomach, but Caplan didn't know that. She said: ”My whole self-confidence plummeted to the ground and I realised that I'm a monster and anybody who touches me will immediately start vomiting and that’s just the way it's going to be.”
Nina Dobrev accidentally broke Paul Wesley's finger while shooting a sex scene in The Vampire Diaries. Dobrev, who plays Elena Gilbert, falls in love with the good-natured vampire Stefan Salvatore (Wesley) in the supernatural teen drama TV series. But they certainly weren’t expecting any injuries at work that day. In an interview, Wesley said: “Being the not-suave guy that I am, my thumb got bent back in a romantic scene where I slowly lowered Nina onto a bed. I was out of commission for a week.”
Obviously this could be a load of hype to promote the first erotic film in the franchise, but there were certainly a lot of terrible sex scenes in which things could go wrong. Johnson, who plays Anastasia Steele, becomes romantically linked to Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) and they act out their BDSM desires. Johnson, who wore a modesty thong glued to her body while Dornan wore a “wee bag” to protect his modesty, said: “I got whiplash once from him throwing me on the bed. So f***ing painful. I wish we had a gag reel from the shoot.”
Michael Imperioli is best known for his role as Tony Soprano’s protégé, Christopher Moltisanti in The Sopranos. During the filming of his death scene in Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas, Imperioli cut his hand on a glass and was taken to hospital, where the doctors sped in to treat his fake bullet wounds.
During the filming of Groundhog Day, Murray was more irritable than usual as he was going through a divorce and was prone to disappearing from set. He had been asked to get an assistant to ease communication between him, the director Harold Raims and the studio. He was against the idea, so he hired somebody who was deaf and spoke only in sign language, which nobody on set, including Murray, could understand. Ramis said: “Bill said, ‘Don’t worry, I'm going to learn sign language.’ And I think it was so inconvenient that in a couple of weeks, he gave that up. That’s anti-communication, you know? Let’s not talk.”
It was a small mishap for Dunham when her nude patch kept falling off in scenes that required nudity. Dunham, who plays aspiring writer Hannah in her comedy-drama TV series Girls, said: “I stopped wearing the nude patch after the first season of Girls. There’s not one guy who works on that show who hasn’t seen the inside of my vagina. You glue it over your vagina. It gets sweaty and always falls off. My male co-stars, at the end of the day, don’t care.”
In one scene of Quentin Tarantino’s 2015 Western thriller, Jennifer Jason Leigh as Daisy Domergue plays a guitar. It is a vintage Martin guitar from the 19th century, worth roughly $40,000, which had been loaned out from the Martin Museum in Pennsylvania. But a misunderstanding on Russell’s part led to an expensive mistake. The valuable guitar was meant to be swapped over with a replica prop when he snatched it from her. Russell had not read the memo, though, and smashed the antique guitar against a wall, while shouting “Music time is over”. As a result, the Martin Museum – which called the guitar a "priceless, irreplaceable artefact" – vowed never to loan guitars out to movies again.
The Twilight and Lost City of Z actor played Jerome, a limousine driver and struggling actor, in David Cronenberg’s acerbic Hollywood satire. It was while he got intimate in the back of a car with Moore’s character, a washed-up actress, that he ran into problems and started sweating profusely. “I sweat like a f***ing crazy person,” he said. “I was trying to literally catch drops of sweat to stop them hitting her back. Afterwards she was like, 'Are you having a panic attack?' It was so embarrassing.”
Hathaway accidentally stripped off too soon when she thought cameras were rolling during the filming of Love and other Drugs. She stars alongside Jake Gyllenhaal in the erotic film based on the non-fiction book Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman by Jamie Reidy. “I have to remove my trench coat and be nude underneath, and I thought we were filming,” she said. “But it turned out we were just rehearsing and I got unnecessarily naked in front of a lot of people!”
In a 2007 episode of the reboot of Battlestar Galactica TV series, Olmos’s character William Adama, the commanding officer of BS Galactica, is playing around with a model ship when he gets carried away by improvising and smashes it to smithereens. The model ship was, however, museum quality and according to Olmos, who had no idea at the time, it was worth roughly $200,000.
During a sex scene against a wall for the 2009 comedy-drama, Allison Jamey's co-star Michael Lerner went crashing to the ground. “We had to have sex up against a wall and they started spraying us with glistening stuff to make us look sweaty, but no one seemed to realise that we were standing on a marble floor,” she said. “They said ‘Action’ and he pulled me up against the wall and his feet slipped out from under him and he went crashing down on the floor. It was terrible, but it was one of those moments I'll never forget.”
The Deadpool star was taken aback when his co-star Olivia Wilde painted smiley faces on her underwear during a sex scene, that he completely forgot what he was doing. “In the scene, she’s sitting there and I take her top off and the bra off, and she has those panties on, but she’s drawn these adorable little smiley faces on them,” he said. “And I forget every line. Not just from this movie, but from every other movie I’ve done.”
Sean Connery and the American actress Lana Turner were filming a love scene when Turner’s gangster boyfriend Johnny Stompanato showed up uninvited. Turner was playing an American journalist who has a love affair with a BBC war correspondent (played by Connery). But her boyfriend was so jealous that he showed up with a gun in his hand, and threatened to kill Connery. Bravely, Connery grabbed the gun from his hand and twisted the boyfriend’s wrist until he fled off the set. Turner’s turbulent life continued when her daughter Cheryl killed Stompanato with a kitchen knife fearing that he was going to kill her mother after he showed up at their house in the US – but in the trial it was deemed as justifiable homicide.
The long-running TV show focuses more on blood and violence than sex. But during one scene between Rosita (Christian Serratos) and Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) things nearly went pear-shaped when they had to get intimate in front of 30 crew members, who were drinking coffee and eating ramen noodles. Cudlitz, who was on top of Serratos, said they were nearly naked but covered – but then as they were “humping”, the cover got knocked off, leaving Serratos practically naked. The actor said: “Then we just started laughing, because it's ridiculous. It's two people, we barely know each other, lying on top of each other naked.”
During the filming of Blazing Saddles, a man wandered into a scene of the film. He wasn’t part of the crew or cast but when the director Mel Brooks got the man moved on, he returned again, seemingly not understanding the request. Brooks then sent over a waiver for him to sign and left him in the movie for a laugh. He can be spotted at the end of the film wearing a jumper and standing on a sidewalk watching the action as people run out of the Warner Brothers studio front gates.
Not really a mishap, but it was certainly an awkward moment behind the camera for the then 17-year-old actor, who legally had to have his mother on set for his first-ever sex scene, in which he says, “It’s in. Oh, my God, it’s in.” “She got there, and I had fake sexual intercourse in front of her,” Mintz-Plasse said. “Afterwards we didn't talk about it; we still don't speak about that moment.”
Stallone and Stone had absolutely no chemistry in the 1994 American spy thriller, but when the Basic Instinct star refused to get naked for the shower scene, it was potentially a huge problem. Stallone admitted they had to get drunk on vodka for filming to even start. “Ok. Let it be known, I didn’t want this scene because Sharon was not cooperating. We get to the set and she decided not to take off her robe off. The director asks only a few of the crew to remain, and she still won’t take it off. I promised her I wouldn’t take any liberties, so what’s the problem? She said, ‘I’m just sick of nudity.’ I asked her if she could get sick of it on somebody else’s film. She was having none of it, so I went down to my trailer, bought back a bottle of Black Death vodka that was given to me by Michael Douglas and after half-a-dozen shots we were wet and wild.”
Apparently Robbie – who plays Jane - punched her Tarzan co-star Skarsgard after getting carried away during the filming of their climatic sex scene. The director David Yates asked them to be a little more violently passionate. “I didn’t injure Alexander,” she said. “And I didn’t punch him in the face, at least not hard. But he’s a pretty strong guy. He can take it. We just got carried away a bit.”
Cavill says he had to “apologise profusely” after he got aroused on set, adding that “It had only happened to him once”. “A girl had to be on top of me, she had spectacular breasts and I hadn't rearranged my stuff into a harmless position. She's basically rubbing herself all over me and, um, it got a bit hard.” He claimed there was nothing sexy about onscreen sex scenes. “All you’re doing is smacking your nuts against someone and nothing is going in.” But he added: “It’s not great when you’re in a professional acting environment and somebody gets a boner, is it?”
It’s not just Henry Cavill who got aroused during filming a sex scene. Metcalfe, who played John Rowland, experienced the same issue during his first onscreen sex scene with Eva Longoria’s Gabrielle Solis. He said: “We were rehearsing and then the director was like, 'OK, get out of bed, we have to reset the set', and I was like, 'I need a minute.'“ He added: “It doesn't happen that frequently” because ”there are a lot of people on set, and it can be very technical, but it happens from time to time."
When you see the dashing Westley (Cary Elwes) fall to the ground unconscious during a fight scene in Rob Reiner’s The Princess Bride, it really happened. Christopher Guest, who was playing Count Tyrone Rugen, knocked Elwes out by accident, when he hit him on the head with the butt of his sword. Elwes also broke his toe during the first week of filming when he was “messing around” between scenes on co-star Andre the Giant’s all-terrain vehicle. But the actor, who was in his first major role, hid the injury for the rest of the film as best he could. “I was limping a bit, you can see it in some of the scenes – you can see that I was limping into the fire swamp (during a scene with Robin Wright).”
The star was filming the scene in which he storms off after he discovers Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) has been renting out his brain to strangers. According to the director, Spike Jonze, a drunk extra then threw a beer can from a moving car at his head while shouting “Hey Malkovich, think fast!” Jonze liked the scene so much that he left it in the film. The extra had his day rate bumped up to $700 a day because he had a speaking role.
When Aragon (Mortensen) thinks that two of the hobbits are dead in a scene in The Two Towers, he lets out a gigantic primeval cry as he kicks his helmet in anger and falls to the floor. This behaviour would seem like an appropriate response to the grief his character feels but in reality, the actor had actually broken two toes while kicking his helmet.
But whatever the mishap, nothing can surely be as bad as it was on set for director Noel Marshall’s family, who were cast in his 1981 adventure comedy film Roar? During filming, his then wife Tippi Hendren and her daughter Melanie Griffith, as well as his two sons, John and Jerry, were mauled by lions. Heddren suffered multiple scalp wounds while Marshall was bitten so many times, he ended up hospitalised with gangrene.

Addressing her own experiences and how that affected her work, she said: “I didn’t know assault was happening with such frequency… I didn’t have any idea what other people’s experiences were. 

“I’d only had my own experiences, and I definitely dealt with harassment,” she continued, “and I had dealt with that privately and in my own way, with my family when I was young and starting in the business. I didn’t have any understanding of the widespread abuse that women – and many people – were experiencing.”

Of the #MeToo movement that was sparked after a wave of sexual misconduct allegations against disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein, Witherspoon said she was “blown away” when more women started to come forward with their own stories.

“When women started to gather and start talking together and sharing their stories, I was blown away,” she said. “I was in shock. I think a lot of us were.”

Also in the podcast, Witherspoon discussed her career as both an actor and a producer, and how she originally wanted to be a country singer while growing up in Nashville.

While a singing coach advised her not to pursue a musical career and go for acting instead, Witherspoon went on to star as June Carter Cash opposite Joaquin Phoenix in Walk the Line, which involved her having to sing in front of crowds of people. 

She ultimately won the Oscar for Best Actress in 2006 for her performance.

The Morning Show is available now on AppleTV+  


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