An actor known for playing bad boys and lost souls has been jailed for assaulting a female studio executive.
Emile Hirsch, 30, is best known for his turn in Sean Penn’s “Into the Wild” (2007), an Oscar-nominated film in which he played an idealistic young man so committed to living off the land that he journeyed into the wilderness — and starved to death. Since then, Hirsch has played an outspoken AIDS activist in “Milk,” Clyde Barrow of Bonnie and Clyde in a TV miniseries, and a doomed Navy SEAL in “Lone Survivor” (2013). And, perhaps one day, the world will get to see his take on John Belushi.
But on Monday, according to the Associated Press, Hirsch pleaded guilty to charges related to putting the employee of a Paramount Pictures subsidiary in a chokehold and body-slamming her during an event at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. It’s not clear what motivated the attack; Hirsch, who said he was intoxicated and doesn’t remember the incident, was sentenced to 15 days in jail and 50 hours of community service. He will also pay a $4,750 fine, and will face one year in jail if he doesn’t fulfill all the obligations of the plea deal.
“I know it was completely wrong and reckless and irresponsible,” Hirsch said, as the Associated Press reported. “I have no excuses for not remembering. I put those chemicals inside me.”
With his guilty plea, Hirsch joined a crew of male celebrities — among them Bill Cosby, Ray Rice, Dr. Dre, and even Hirsch’s onetime director Sean Penn — who are, more than ever, being called out for their alleged abuse of women. Comments by Hirsch’s victim drew attention to his attack’s brutality — and questioned whether the actor had gotten off too easy.
“It took two people to pull him off me, and if not for their intervention, the attack would have continued,” Daniele Bernfeld, an executive for the Paramount Pictures subsidiary Insurge Pictures, said in a statement. “I thought I was going to die.”
She added: “If a violent attack in front of a roomful of witnesses can be labeled a misdemeanor and dismissed, what of women who are assaulted while alone in hallways or bathrooms, or behind the closed doors of their own homes?”
A state prosecutor, however, defended the sentence.
“That was a terrifying experience,” Summit County Attorney Robert Hilder said. “I don’t think we could have given enough jail to satisfy her.” He added: “I don’t how many of you good gentleman have spent 15 days in jail, but 15 minutes is too much for me. I think he will learn from that.”
Both Hilder and the judge in the case noted that Hirsch, who checked into rehab two weeks after the attack, expressed remorse and apologized to Bernfeld.