Actress Ashley Judd, a vocal advocate for women’s rights, told Variety that she was once sexually harassed by a famous Hollywood studio executive.
Judd sat down for an interview with Ramin Setoodeh, the trade publication’s film editor, and talked at length about how a high-powered studio mogul (whom she did not name) harassed her while she was filming the 1997 movie “Kiss the Girls.” Read the full interview here.
The powerful executive “physically lured” Judd to his hotel room and made various requests of her — she repeatedly declined, but it wasn’t until he asked her to watch him shower that she was able to extricate herself from the situation and leave.
“I did not recognize at the time what was happening to me. It took years before I could evaluate that incident and realize that there was something incredibly wrong and illegal about it,” Judd said.
She also wrote about the shame she felt after the incident, during which she felt powerless — even when she found out that the studio executive had done the same thing to other actresses. “I beat myself up for a while . . . . We internalize the shame,” she said. “It really belongs to the person who is the aggressor. And so later, when I was able to see what happened, I thought: Oh god, that’s wrong. That’s sexual harassment. That’s illegal.”
Judd says she saw the executive a few years later at the premiere of her movie “Double Jeopardy” and tried to confront him as he avoided contact. “I was no longer that naive ingénue who couldn’t identify what was happening as it was happening,” Judd said.
The actress is the latest in a long line of stars, from Joan Collins to Susan Sarandon to Gwyneth Paltrow, who have come forward about “casting couch” stories when they were trying to break through early in their careers. The names of the executives are generally not shared.
Recently, on the heels of extreme Twitter bullying, Judd wrote a personal essay for Mic.com about being raped as a teenager, and how she was a survivor of abuse and incest. In her interview for Variety, she reiterates the importance of speaking up about assault.
“We’re individually and collectively coming to a realization and acceptance that this is an entrenched part of the reality,” she said, specifically mentioning women in Hollywood. “And I think that talking about it is essential to the process of becoming aware, accepting that this is reality and then ultimately taking action.”