“Manchester By The Sea” director Kenneth Lonergan defended his film’s star, Casey Affleck, in an open letter to Wesleyan University’s student newspaper, the Wesleyan Argus.
Lonergan, a Wesleyan alumnus, criticized a student op-ed that accused the university of being complicit in Affleck’s alleged sexual harassment by congratulating Lonergan for winning the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay last week.
Affleck’s victory in the Best Actor category at the Oscars was met with criticism due to his sexual harassment lawsuits back in 2010. The lawsuits, which were filed by the producer and cinematographer of the mockumentary “I’m Still Here,” were settled out of court and have resurfaced in the news following Affleck’s performance as Lee Chandler in “Manchester.”
Affleck addressed the issue in The Boston Globe after his win, but that did little to diminish the scrutiny.
In his op-ed, Argus assistant editor Connor Aberle stated his belief that Lonergan was complicit in Affleck’s past actions by choosing to cast him in the lead role of his film rather than an actor who was not accused of sexual harassment. In addition, Aberle wrote that Wesleyan University was also complicit in “the success of a perpetrator of sexual violence” by associating itself with Lonergan.
“Lonergan essentially won Affleck his Oscar by handpicking Affleck for his movie,” Aberle wrote. “A famous actor’s connections enable them to continue their success, and we must be cautious about praising enablers, especially when they help sexual harassers. Wesleyan cannot have it both ways; it can either be true to its progressive brand or it can indiscriminately praise every semi-notable success from alumni.”
In his response, Lonergan argued that Affleck was not found guilty of any crime and called Aberle’s column a “tangle of illogic, misinformation and flat-out slander that only the author’s presumed youth can possibly excuse his deeply offensive display of ignorance, and warped PC-fueled sense of indignation.”
“Like most civil suits, this one was settled out of court by mutual consent on undisclosed terms. In other words nothing was proved or disproved,” Lonergan wrote. “So how does Mr. Aberle dare to write as if he knows who was telling the truth and who was not?”
“Anyone can sue anyone for anything in this country; the unsubstantiated details go in the public record and stay there. Somebody as interested in actual as opposed to merely vocalized social justice as Mr. Aberle presumably is, should unwind his tangled, immoral chain of reasoning and start over at the fundamental precept that an allegation is not an indictment.”
Read Lonergan’s full letter here.