Eight women have accused Morgan Freeman of sexual harassment, describing a pattern of inappropriate comments and unwanted touching in a new report by CNN. One of the article's co-writers, Chloe Melas, accused the Oscar winner of making lecherous comments to her on camera during an interview in front of his costars. Several men and women corroborated the pattern of allegations to the news network.
A production assistant who was in her 20s in 2015 recalled several months on the set of Going in Style where Freeman, now 80, allegedly subjected her to unwelcome remarks and touching. She said he commented on her figure, placed his hand on her lower back or rub it and, in one instance, repeatedly attempted to lift her skirt, "asking if I was wearing underwear," she told CNN. Co-star Alan Arkin reportedly told him to stop.
A senior production staffer for Now You See Me claimed the actor harassed her and her co-workers with observations about their bodies. "We knew that if he was coming by ... not to wear any top that would show our breasts, not to wear anything that would show our bottoms, meaning not wearing clothes that [were] fitted," she said.
Freeman even made comments about the appearance of Lori McCreary, the co-founder of his production company, Revelations Entertainment, in front of 400 people at a producers' conference. McCreary is the president of the Producers Guild of America. "She wants to be thought of as serious," the actor told the crowd, "but you can't get away from the short dresses." He shrugged off the comment as non-controversial in a Today interview where he said, "It was just something I said in jest when I first met her; it was more than 20 years ago. How is this news?"
Melas, the CNN co-writer, recalled interviewing Freeman at a press junket at a time when she was six months pregnant. He allegedly kept telling her, in front of cameras, "I wish I was there" and "you are ripe." Freeman's co-stars Alan Arkin and Michael Caine were present at the time. Melas told her supervisor, who advised her to escalate the incident to her human resources representative. That rep subsequently contacted the HR department at Warner Bros. – the studio conducting the junket – but was told they couldn't corroborate what Freeman did since only one of his comments was recorded. Melas chose not to cover the movie. Two other entertainment reporters shared stories of harassment in similar settings.
"Anyone who knows me or has worked with me knows I am not someone who would intentionally offend or knowingly make anyone feel uneasy," Freeman responded in a statement after the publication of the allegations. "I apologize to anyone who felt uncomfortable or disrespected – that was never my intent."
Elsewhere, CNN reported that there were times its reporters contacted sources and without telling them who they were investigating, the actors and crew guessed Freeman's name. Others said they never witnessed any inappropriate behavior.
Revelations Entertainment, founded in 1996, produced the Freeman vehicle Along Came a Spider and CBS' Madam Secretary, among other projects. Yet former employees said that despite the company's success, there was no formal human resources department and many incidents occurred unchecked – partially because the women feared retaliation. One woman recalled Freeman looking her up and down and asking her, "How do you feel about sexual harassment?" She told CNN that when she sarcastically replied she loved it, he turned to crew members and said, "See guys, this is how you do it." Other women reported he would stare at their breasts. A male employee described him as acting like a "creepy uncle," pointing to a time when he allegedly massaged a female intern's shoulder. Other men claimed they'd seen Freeman ask women to twirl.
At a company party, Freeman reportedly approached the female staff and stared at them, without speaking, one by one. "There were sexual undertones to it," an employee said.
Revelations employees recalled Freeman allegedly making comments to women like, "I'd like to have an hour with her." "You're just like, 'Whoa,'" one man told CNN. "It's hard because on any set, he is the most powerful person on it. It's weird because you just don't expect it from Morgan Freeman, someone who you respect."
McCreary has been outspoken in her support of #MeToo and Time's Up, presenting new anti–sexual harassment rules to the PGA. But Revelations employees have said that she allegedly looks down her nose at female candidates with families and extracurricular commitments.
The PGA says it has investigated the matter and found no merit in the allegations. "The Producers Guild of America is an Equal Opportunity Employer that does not question or consider marital or parental status in its hiring practices," a spokesperson tells Rolling Stone. "As soon as CNN notified us about the allegation, we investigated the matter and have found that it has no merit. Lori McCreary is an outstanding PGA president. In all of her work with the Guild, she has been a consistent, vocal and proactive advocate for women and all who are underrepresented in our community."
Freeman's career stretches back to the 1960s, but he became a box-office draw after the success of Driving Miss Daisy and Lean on Me in 1989. Since then, he has starred in Se7en, Invictus and played God in Evan Almighty. He won an Oscar for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role for Million Dollar Baby and was nominated four other times.