Everyone has heard the infamous stories of the “casting couch,” but actress Thandie Newton, along with the OneBillionRising campaign, is doing her part to try to put an end to female exploitation and abuse in Hollywood.
In a recent interview, the Crash star spoke candidly with CNN’s Max Foster about her own personal experiences as a young starlet in a largely sexist industry.
“I found, when I was a 16-year-old, fresh from boarding school, going out I was definitely objectified to an extreme,” remembers Thandie, who went on to detail one incident that would forever change her.
According to Thandie, a casting director asked her to strip naked and spread her legs in front of a camera while another woman watched.
“It was a screen test. There were two other people in the room: The director, who I’d seen previously, and the casting director, who was a woman. The director asked me to sit with my legs apart, the camera was positioned where it could see up my skirt, [he then asked me] to put my leg over the arm of the chair, and before I started my dialogue to think about the character that I was supposed to be having this dialogue with, and think about how it felt to be made love to by this person. I was thinking this is so strange.”
Thandie was barely a legal adult at the time and believed that what was being asked of her was normal. However, she quickly learned that boundaries had been crossed, and the incident wasn’t easy to erase, not for her or those who had watched the humiliating video.
“Three years later we were at the Cannes Film Festival and my husband and I bumped into this rather drunk British producer who mentioned the director that I had this audition with, and he looked very sheepish and walked away. My husband grabbed him and said, ‘Why did you start to say something and then didn’t?’ It turned out the director…who I had auditioned for, used to show that video late at night to interested parties at his house, a video of me touching myself with a camera up my skirt,” she said.
Thandie stressed the importance of older men and women taking a stand to prevent situations like that and protect young, innocent wannabe actors and actresses who might not know any better.
“(Me) as an 18-year-old girl, perhaps the old woman in the room should have put her job on the line and said ‘I don’t condone this behavior.’” She continued, “It’s not just about the person that’s been abused, it’s about the people around, the people that witness. How much are they perpetrators of the crime?”
As a part of the OneBillionRising campaign to stop such abuse, Thandie expressed optimism in the program’s effectiveness and even seemed a bit surprised to learn just how many men were joining the fight against abuse and sexism.
“What’s been really interesting about OneBillionRising is it’s not just women standing up; it’s men,” noted the acclaimed actress.
Thandie hopes to make eliminating violence against women a number one priority, and usher in a new standard of equality in the entertainment industry, which is largely run by men.
See the full interview below.