Jessica Chastain is one of Hollywood’s most vocal advocates of gender equity. So many on Twitter reacted with alarm at the fact that Matthew Newton, named as the director of her upcoming movie “Eve,” has a history of physical assault accusations, including against two ex-girlfriends.
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.”
A spokeswoman for Newton declined to comment for this story. A rep for Chastain did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and the actress has not responded publicly to fans on Twitter who called for her to cut ties with Newton.
On Wednesday, it was announced that Chastain would star in and produce “Eve,” with Newton directing based on a script he wrote. His other recent credits include “From Nowehere” and “The Sideways Light.”
Newton’s history caught attention on Twitter. One fan wrote, “I just did my research and matthew newton has a long history of domestic violence against women,,,,,, cancelled.” Another commented: “she’s chosen matthew newton to direct??? as in matthew newton who has a long history of domestic violence??? why not a director who’s never assaulted anyone? or a female director? incredibly disappointing.”
Some fans voiced their disappointment 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.
Newton, the son of Australian media personality Bert Newton and singer Patti Newton, was charged with two counts of common assault, one count of stalk/intimidate with the intent of causing physical/mental harm and assault occasioning actual bodily harm against actress Brooke Satchwell, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. The paper said he assaulted and intimidated her on two occasions in 2006 after they broke up.
According to The Daily Telegraph, Newton pleaded guilty to one count of common assault and prosecutors agreed to drop the other charges. In July 2007, the conviction was overturned due in part to a letter from Newton’s psychiatrist that outlined his mental illness and said he was unlikely to offend again, according to The Daily Telegraph.
But in 2010, Taylor took out an Apprehended Violence Order against Newton, citing what she said were two violent assaults in Rome. The Daily Mail said court documents “revealed at the time that Taylor was allegedly left with injuries consistent with having her head ‘bashed against the floor and walls.’”
“After much consideration and struggle I have made this personal decision to send a clear public message that violence, threats, abuse and intimidation are not acceptable and should be dealt with by the full capacity of the law,” Taylor said in a statement. The actress is perhaps best known for her role as Trish Walker on Netflix’s “Jessica Jones.”
According to the Herald Sun, Newton was charged with assaulting a Sydney taxi driver in December of 2011. In April 2012, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, Newton was arrested in Miami for trespassing and resisting officers. The same outlet reported he was arrested in Miami again in April 2012 and accused of punching a hotel receptionist in the face and resisting arrest. He was charged with simple battery and resisting arrest.
On April 23, 2012, Newton’s lawyer, Chris Murphy, tweeted: “Can’t cure mental illness with ‘You stop that!’ Bipolar sufferers need patience & support. Matthew Newton has mine. Treatment continues.”
In September 2012, a Sydney magistrate agreed to drop charges in regards to the taxi incident under a national mental health law that makes provisions for people dealing with mental health issues. Newton reported that he had undergone intensive treatment at the Betty Ford rehab clinic to address drug addiction.
In November 2012, the charges were dismissed for the Miami incidents, under the condition that he would pay $11,500 and complete 50 hours of community service, according to News.com.au. He was also ordered to attend an anger management course and write a letter of apology to the hotel clerk that he assaulted.
Here are some tweets about the situation.
Matthew Newton?!?! Wtf why is @jes_chastain working with a man who has so savagely beaten up TWO of his ex-girlfriends?! In Australia he’s well known for being a violent abuser, how is he still allowed to associate with women?
— Jayme. (@pointlesswords) August 2, 2018
The silence from American media about Matthew Newton and Jessica Chastain's casting is deafening. It's literally in a whole section of his Wikipedia.
— Andrew F – AACTA Voting Open Soon (@TheCurbAU) August 3, 2018