Casey Affleck pulling out of the Oscars? What a difference a year makes

Previous sexual harassment settlements didn't stop Casey Affleck winning a Best Actor Oscar for Manchester By The Sea last year. His decision to remove himself from the 2018 ceremony shows just how much has changed

This time last year Casey Affleck was well on his way to winning a Best Actor Oscar for Manchester By The Sea. Ben Affleck’s normally press-shy younger brother had campaigned extensively in the months leading up to awards season – supported by Ben and his friend Matt Damon – and had already won Best Actor at the Golden Globes. In a few weeks he would fly to London to win the Best Actor BAFTA too.

Would Affleck be basking in the applause had Manchester By The Sea been released this year? Most likely not.

Last year’s decision to celebrate Affleck despite a record of alleged sexual harassment – in 2010 he settled two civil lawsuits out of court with co-workers Magdalena Gorka and Amanda White, who claimed Affleck had repeatedly harassed and intimidated them on the set of I’m Still Here – had not gone uncriticised. But unlike Nate Parker, whose Oscar run for Birth Of A Nation in the same year was brought to an abrupt halt by the revelation of a 1999 rape accusation, Affleck cleaned up, even if 2016 Best Actress Oscar winner Brie Larson – an outspoken advocate for sexual assault survivors – refused to clap when he came on stage to collect his statuette.

What a difference a year makes. It’s hard to imagine Affleck could have mingled easily at this year’s Golden Globes, surrounded by women wearing black to honour sexual harassment and assault survivors, or clapping along to Oprah Winfrey’s barnstorming speech.

Affleck might have denied any previous wrongdoing, but he also seems to recognise that a Hollywood post-#MeToo won’t simply put up and shut up. This year, unlike his other 2017 winners Emma Stone, Mahershala Ali and Viola Davis, Affleck will not be fulfilling a tradition that sees the year’s previous Best Actor winner deliver the award to the Best Actress.

Confirming that Affleck would not be attending, an Oscars spokeswoman said, ‘We appreciate the decision to keep the focus on the show and on the great work of this year.’

Affleck’s absence from the ceremony is a mark of just how much things have changed in a single year. In fact, things are changing at such a clip that James Franco can win an award at the Golden Globes wearing a TimesUp pin, only to be airbrushed from the cover of The Hollywood Reporter after allegations of sexual misconduct a few weeks later. Little wonder Casey Affleck has chosen to keep his head down on 4th March – whether he’ll ever be welcome back is another matter.

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