Petitioners are calling on actress Jessica Chastain to drop Matthew Newton, who has a history of physical assault accusations, as the director of her upcoming movie “Eve.”
The Care2 petition, titled “#TimesUp Activist Jessica Chastain Hires Domestic Abuser to Direct New Film,” has garnered more than 6,100 signatures as of this writing. The petition points to Chastain’s record as one of Hollywood’s most vocal advocates of gender equity, and then asks, “Despite all of this, Jessica Chastain wants to give Matthew Newton a pass? We don’t think so. #TimesUp for rich and powerful men being absolved of horrific abuse against women.”
Last week, Chastain was announced as the star of “Eve,” with Newton directing based on a script he wrote. Chastain is also producing. Newton’s other recent credits include “From Nowhere” and “The Sideways Light.”
Newton has said his history of mental illness, drugs and drinking are responsible for the charges, and he has repeatedly sought help. He pleaded guilty in 2007 to one count of common assault on his ex, Brooke Satchwell, but the conviction was later overturned after his psychiatrist said he suffered from depression and was unlikely to reoffend. But he faced more assault accusations later, involving then-girlfriend Rachael Taylor.
Given the reversal of the conviction on the common assault charge, it does not appear that he has ever been convicted. He has not had any apparent trouble with the law since 2012, the year he says he became sober. His most recent film, “Who We Are Now,” investigates the possibility and hope of redemption.
In February, when an IndieWire story noted his history, he said in a statement: “As I said in 2011, it is absolutely intolerable to harm women, it is intolerable to harm men, it is intolerable to harm anyone. I had done these things, and I utterly regret it, and I have to live with this responsibility every day. I had a severe problem with substance and alcohol abuse then and for almost six years now I have actively worked every single day, one day at a time, to remain sober and live a clean, upstanding life.”
The announcement of Newton’s hiring drew immediate backlash on Twitter, with fans appearing disappointed that Chastain, who has said the first meeting of #TimesUp was held at her home, wasn’t taking a zero-tolerant policy toward past accusations of abuse.
wow okay so i come back to the news that jessica is working with known abuser matthew newton and let me just say that i have never been so disappointed in my life. i sincerely hope she has some kind of explanation for this or that it’s somehow a mistake…
— ً (@chastainsgadot) August 3, 2018
@jes_chastain Why are you supporting a violent and abusive man like Matthew Newton who has hurt so many ex-girlfriends? Look at his convictions. Read his pathetic excuses. Aren't you meant to be an advocate? Don't you want to stop seeing abusers rewarded?
— Countess (@countess_skanky) August 2, 2018
Chastain’s reps did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and the actress has yet to comment publicly on either the petition or the initial social media backlash to Newton’s hiring.