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As if the mental state of a young actor or actress wasn’t fragile enough already, what with the stress of putting on a good performance compounded by the always judgmental juggernaut that is Internet and print media, the ever-present reality of “casting couches” on the ladder to success can make the emotional anguish even worse for women. The shame usually felt in admitting such an experience keeps a lot of these stories on the rumor-level, but the lurid facts do come out occasionally.
Doing her part for a London protest against violence towards women, BAFTA-winning actress Thandie Newton recently spoke with CNN’s Max Foster about some of the more depraved audition processes she experienced as a young actress starting out. Beyond just verbal and suggestive methods of exploitation and objectification, Newton recalls a specific incident that exemplifies the kind of seedy behavior sometimes shown from those in a position of power.
For an audition callback, an unnamed director had Newton perform her scene sitting with her legs apart in front of a camera positioned and aimed to see up her skirt. She was asked to drape a leg over the arm of the chair she was in, and was told to visualize making love to the person she was having the dialogue with. As if this wasn’t bad enough, Newton found out years later from an intoxicated producer at Cannes Film Festival that the same director used to show Newton’s video to guests at his dinner parties. Though it takes a lot to shock me, and I’m not even surprised that these things probably happen on a regular basis, the uncouthness of these details is still rather surprising. One would hope that director’s name would get secretly leaked, and a resurgence of tar-and-feathering punishments would begin. Hear Newton's take on the awful experience below.
Newton is currently filming DirecTV’s first foray into original programming, the crime drama Rogue, and was in London Thursday showing her support for One Billion Rising, a campaign raising awareness for the all-too-common negative and violent treatment of women.