Following a report from Deadline that circulated on Thursday, Bustle has confirmed that Casey Affleck withdrew from the 2018 Oscars. The actor was set to present the Best Actress award, but according to Deadline's sources, he reportedly pulled out because he "did not want to become a distraction" amid the #MeToo movement. (Bustle reached out to Affleck’s rep for comment, but did not receive an immediate response.) An Academy spokesperson told Bustle via email:
"We appreciate the decision to keep the focus on the show and on the great work of this year."
The news follows the re-emergence of accusations against Affleck on the set of I'm Still Here, a mockumentary which he co-wrote, directed, and starred in. In 2010, both Amanda White and Magdalena Gorka — the film's producer and cinematographer, respectively — sued the actor for alleged sexual harassment. White claimed Affleck had allegedly physically and verbally abused her, while Gorka alleged he had climbed into her bed and caressed her back without consent. Affleck has denied their accusations, with his lawyer telling The Hollywood Reporter in 2010, "The allegations brought upon our clients are preposterous and without merit." The lawsuits for both women were reportedly settled out of court for undisclosed amounts.
At the time of the lawsuits, Affleck was a relatively underrated actor. He had appeared in several notable films (Gone Baby Gone and the Ocean's franchise, among others), but hadn't yet received much industry recognition. His breakout role in Manchester By The Sea, however, flung him into the spotlight, re-surfacing White and Gorka's allegations in the process. When he won his first Academy Award in 2017 for his performance in the movie, it only exacerbated the issue.
Following the win, Affleck told the Boston Globe that both sides in the I'm Still Here case are prohibited from commenting, but that he believes "any kind of mistreatment of anyone for any reason is unacceptable and abhorrent" and that "everyone deserves to be treated with respect in the workplace and anywhere else." He continued to the outlet:
"There’s really nothing I can do about it. Other than live my life the way I know I live it and to speak to what my own values are and how I try to live by them all the time."
Now, one year later, the controversy surrounding Affleck has only intensified. Movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp have empowered women to speak out against the inequity, abuse, and harassment still festering within Hollywood, forcing powerful men to contend with similar accusations of misconduct. In many cases, that's resulted in widespread professional fallout, but Affleck has emerged largely unscathed. Since starring in Manchester By The Sea, he's appeared in three more films, and per IMDb, is currently working on at least four more projects.
So, while it's a longstanding tradition for Best Actor winners to present the following year’s award for Best Actress, many took issue with the fact that Affleck would once again be offered time on film's biggest stage. Back in October, director Cameron Bossert created an online petition calling for the Academy to remove Affleck as a presenter. It has since accrued nearly 20,000 signatures. In November, PopSugar reported that Academy CEO Dawn Hudson said they were "giving thought" to the pushback surrounding Affleck.
Apparently, though, Affleck has made the decision for them. A rep for the actor told Variety that he won't even be attending the ceremony. As of writing, the Academy has not announced a replacement presenter. Among the nominees in the category, announced on Tuesday, are Sally Hawkins (Shape of Water), Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird), Meryl Streep (The Post), Margot Robbie (I, Tonya), and Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri).
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit online.rainn.org.