Hollywood Has Welcomed Jeremy Piven Back But His Accusers Haven’t Forgotten
After Jeremy Piven was accused of sexual assault, harassment, and misconduct by eight women in 2017 and 2018, the Entourage actor took a step back from the spotlight. Now, more than five years later, he’s starring in his first noteworthy film since his sexual-assault allegations were made public. Sweetwater — also starring Eric Roberts, Richard Dreyfuss, Kevin Pollak, Robert Ri’chard, and Everett Osborne — is a biographical movie about basketball player Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton, who became the first African-American to play in the NBA. Piven plays New York Knicks coach Joe Lapchick in the film.
The film, written and directed by Martin Guigui, is scheduled for an April 14 theatrical release and Hollywood seems more than ready to welcome Piven back into the fold. In February, he even sat courtside at the Celebrity Game during NBA All-Star Weekend in Salt Lake City; he was photographed with former NBA players Carmelo Anthony, Allen Iverson, Tracy McGrady, and he was also captured shaking hands with Shaq.
While the world of entertainment is increasingly opening its arms to Piven, his accusers haven’t forgotten about their past traumas involving the actor. Three women who came forward with allegations in 2017 and 2018 spoke to Rolling Stone saying they’re disappointed Piven skirted accountability and instead took a five-year hiatus from the industry in hopes that he could resurface without ever apologizing or acknowledging his past wrongdoings.
“I’m moving on with my life and what he’s done to me is in the past, even though it still affects me on a daily basis,” says Amy Meador, who has accused Piven of assault. “He blew the whole thing off. He thought, ‘I’m going to ride it out,’ and kept his head down for a little while until the storm had cleared and then came back.”
When she watched the trailer for Sweetwater, Meador says, she felt physically sick. She says she still deals with post-traumatic stress disorder from when Piven allegedly attacked her, and whenever she sees him on television it has a physiological effect on her.
“What he did will never be gone,” Meador says. “The memory of this stays with me and I physically and psychologically react to it, and he gets to go on doing pictures and making all of this money and acting like he’s never hurt anybody.”
As far as whether or not there’s room for redemption for a Hollywood figure like Piven who’s been accused of sexual assault, Meador thinks it depends on how someone tries to redeem themselves.
“I would’ve liked to have seen him take some accountability in some way,” Meador maintains. “If Jeremy [Piven] came forward and made an apology, even saying something along the lines of, ‘If I didn’t realize I did something to someone and I did and I made them feel bad, I really didn’t mean to,’ that wouldn’t be specific enough but it would be a start.” (Jeremy Piven’s team did not respond to multiple comment requests for this story.)
In October 2017, Ariane Bellamar tweeted that Piven groped her in his trailer on the Entourage set in 2005. Piven “unequivocally denied” Bellamar’s claims, but Bellamar’s tweet inspired other women to come forward with their experiences, all of which Piven denied.
Smallville actress Cassidy Freeman wrote about Piven’s alleged “predatory behavior” in an Instagram caption: “I know what you did and attempted to do to me when I was far too young. THAT I know. And you know it too. Unless there were so many of us, that you can’t remember.” Freeman also appeared in CBS’ Wisdom of the Crowd with Piven before the show was canceled in Nov. 2017 following the allegations made against him.
Tiffany Bacon Scourby told People magazine Piven pinned her down, exposed his genitals, and masturbated on her in a New York City hotel room in 2003.
Two new allegations came in November 2017. Entourage background actor Anastasia Taneie told BuzzFeed News that while she was on set in 2009, Piven forcefully pushed her up against a wall in a dark hallway and grabbed her breasts and genitals. Amy Meador said she fought Piven off when he pinned her down in her Los Angeles home in 1995.
Piven vehemently denied all of the allegations made against him and threatened to pursue legal action. “Let me be absolutely clear, this simply did not happen,” he told BuzzFeed News in a statement through his lawyers at the time. “I would never force myself on a woman. I cannot speak as to why a person would create a story like this.” Representatives for Piven also provided BuzzFeed News with the results of a polygraph test. In the test, he said he never used force to take sexual advantage of a woman and he never grabbed a woman’s genitals without her consent.
Then, in January 2018, BuzzFeed News published another story featuring stories from three more women who shared alleged incidents of sexual misconduct and inappropriate behavior by Piven.
Background actor Susan McCain Olson said in the summer of 1985 Piven followed her into a trailer on the set of the film Lucas and pinned her down on a couch. Diane Gonzalez, a background extra who met Piven on the set of the Ellen sitcom, said in 1996 when she visited his Los Angeles home, Piven exposed himself to her and became physically aggressive, making her feel threatened. Another woman who asked not to be identified said around the year 1994 Piven tried to force himself on her in a Montreal hotel room and pushed her against the wall.
Piven again denied the allegations made against him. “These allegations, which in one case goes back more than 30 years and the two others more than 20 years ago, are false,” Piven said in a statement. “As evidenced by the lie detector test I took and passed, I have never forced myself on anyone, nor have I ever exposed myself or restrained anyone against their will. To the contrary, if any woman ever said no, I stopped.”
Lawyers for Piven also described the allegations as “works of fiction” and said the January 2018 story was “conjured up in an opportunistic effort to capitalize on the current media storm in order to obtain attention and/or money.”
The press tour for Sweetwater has already commenced with Piven giving interviews on Good Morning America and Sherri Shepherd’s daytime talk show Sherri. Piven told Lara Spencer on Good Morning America that he’s “proud to be a part of” Sweetwater and when he was asked if there’s an Entourage reboot in the works, Piven coyly mentioned how fans of the HBO series tell him they miss the show when he’s on the road doing stand-up comedy. “We may have to give the people what they want,” he said. Neither Spencer nor Shepherd asked about Piven’s allegations.
Since 2017, the actor has appeared in small-budget films like My Dad’s Christmas Date (2020), Last Call (2021), American Night (2021), The Walk (2022), and The System (2022). He’s also toured the country doing stand-up comedy and hosted a podcast called “How U Livin J Piven,” where he interviewed celebrities like Jamie Foxx, Common, Tiffany Haddish, as well as his Entourage co-stars Kevin Connolly, Rex Lee, and Constance Zimmer. (Connolly has also been accused of sexual assault and denied the allegation.) He even interviewed Entourage creator Doug Ellin and spoke about wanting to do a reboot of the HBO series.
Diane Gonzalez says that the allegations against Piven should have been taken more seriously by Hollywood because some of the alleged incidents occurred on television and film sets, making this a workplace issue. She says she felt like her story, as well as other women’s, were “dismissed because we were just extras and we’re made to feel like we’re not worthy of having a reaction to this bullshit.”
“He gets to move on just simply by saying, ‘Nope, I didn’t do it.’ I think Hollywood is very, very forgiving because box office money takes precedence over what’s morally acceptable,” Gonzalez says. “This is why a lot of people don’t speak up because people think, ‘Why bother? Nothing’s going to change.’”
“He took a little hiatus and then is sweeping everything under the rug, and five years later is hoping everybody’s over it,” Gonzalez adds.
In October 2017, there was a massive shift in the reporting on the entertainment industry when it was revealed by The New York Times and The New Yorker that Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein was a sexual predator, with more than 100 women ultimately accusing him of sexual assault and misconduct. The investigations into Weinstein and public outcry about his behavior inspired dozens of subsequent reports about other men in Hollywood, including Piven; women felt emboldened to open up about their assaults at the hands of powerful men at a time when these conversations were happening en masse. In 2020, the former producer was sentenced to 23 years in prison in New York after being found guilty of rape and sexual assault. Then, in Feb. 2023, Weinstein was also sentenced to 16 additional years for his rape and sexual assault conviction in Los Angeles.
Some of the men who were accused back then have recently, and sometimes quietly, returned to Hollywood. For example, James Franco was accused of sexual misconduct in January 2018 by his former NYU students and, after settling a $2.2 million lawsuit, it’s been reported he’s involved in three upcoming films.
In June 2018, a woman filed a report with Las Vegas police saying Jamie Foxx hit her in the face with his penis after she refused to perform oral sex on him at a party at his house in 2002. Foxx vehemently denied the allegation and police closed the case because the statute of limitations expired. Foxx never stopped working — he appeared in Just Mercy in 2019, Soul and Project Power in 2020, Spider-Man: No Way Home in 2021, and Day Shift in 2022.
After co-founder and head of Pixar John Lasseter was forced to resign from Disney because of allegations of misconduct, he was hired to run Skydance Animation and is now making films for AppleTV+.
In Nov. 2017, Louis C.K. was accused of sexual harassment by five women. The comedian admitted to the behavior in his apology, saying he “wielded [his] power irresponsibly.”
“At the time, I said to myself that what I did was OK because I never showed a woman my dick without asking first, which is also true,” he said in a statement. “But what I learned later in life, too late, is that when you have power over another person, asking them to look at your dick isn’t a question. It’s a predicament for them. The power I had over these women is that they admired me.”
Fast forward to 2022: Louis C.K. won a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album and was nominated for the same award in 2023. He also continues to sell out stand-up comedy shows and has personally released filmed specials titled Sincerely Louis C.K. (2020) and Sorry (2021).
Crisis PR expert Evan Nierman, who founded global crisis communications agency Red Banyan, told Rolling Stone there’s “absolutely” room for redemption for men in Hollywood who have been accused of sexual misconduct. While he said “full-stop, sexual assault and sexual harassment are wrong, it’s always wrong, there’s never an acceptable excuse for it,” Nierman also said there’s a difference between people who have been convicted of crimes in the court of law and those who have “merely been accused of bad behavior.”
As for Piven specifically, Nierman thinks the actor has been smart about his strategy; he says it was a good idea for Piven to take a polygraph exam and share his results with the press, and he also says it was helpful for Piven’s career to continue working over the last five years, even if he wasn’t booking major gigs. Nierman says the trick to “not getting canceled” is to refuse to go away completely.
“When one door closes another door opens and he kept walking through the one that opened,” Nierman says. “People that have successfully overcome cancellation have found a path forward by seeking what avenues they can pursue and then waiting for the right time to get back to their primary interest or their primary career.”
In June 2019, Piven said he’s “a case of collateral damage” in the #MeToo movement. “Who benefits from putting that story out?” he said on comedian Andrew Schulz’s podcast, referring to the media and news outlets. “The problem was it was a feeding frenzy, and the editors basically said, ‘Go out there. Get me more. Get me those Hollywood actors. Let’s round them up.’”
When BuzzFeed News published a first report about sexual misconduct allegations against Piven, he called reporters directly and commented on the “due diligence” of their reporting.
“I know this is unorthodox, I really do, and at the same time I felt this had to be done,” Piven said on the phone call. “We’re living in times where there are real victims out there and we need to focus on it, and this is a situation where I had to take matters into my own hands and I had to step up and take this lie detector test because it’s incredibly important to get the truth out.”
Piven is part of a long list of men who have been in the news for sexual harassment, assault, and misconduct. According to Gonzalez, “others have faced the music, however he hasn’t done that.”
“Whether you’re a celebrity or someone walking the street,” Gonzalez says, “I think if you acknowledge what you did was hurtful to someone and take accountability for inappropriate behavior and the lives you might’ve affected, if someone has the decency and is brave enough to say, ‘Perhaps I didn’t realize how much it affected these women, I sincerely apologize,’ for any human being to swallow their pride and say, ‘Yeah I screwed up and perhaps I didn’t approach it the right way when all these accusations were coming at me at once,’ then sure, I’m all about forgiving but not forgetting.”
Meador also thinks accountability should extend beyond the individual; she said that studios, production companies, management, and the industry at large should hold a level of responsibility in the alleged misconduct and behavior. But these systems in place are going to continue giving actors like Piven opportunities, Meador says, because they have something to gain from his professional success.
“All of these people have a vested interest in the actor working that they’re going to do whatever they have to do to continue that gravy train going because that’s how they make their money,” she says. “They’re always going to cover up for who they have to cover up for because it’s their ass as well. It’s their money that they won’t be getting if somebody isn’t working.”
For Susan McCain Olson, Piven’s lack of accountability is frustrating. She echoed Meador and Gonzalez by saying in order for redemption to be possible, she thinks Piven needs to account for his past and deliver an apology.
“He just went away for a while, but did it really affect him? Was it like he just got a time out? Does Hollywood think, ‘Okay, he did his time.’ I think it’s nuts that you can be accused of these things and what cures it is time. I look at him and think, ‘You haven’t owned any of it,’” McCain Olson says. “I don’t think that laying low for a while, relatively speaking, is more of a consequence of it coming to light as opposed to having done it. Now, what’s your consequence for having done it?”
After Meador came forward with her experience with Piven in 2017 she said she received a lot of negative feedback from other people on social media and the internet, describing t he time period in her life as tumultuous. With that said, Meador is still glad she shared her story because she found out she “wasn’t the only one who had something to say.” It felt validating for her to know she wasn’t alone.
Gonzalez also said despite receiving some backlash she’s still glad she spoke up in 2018. The whole reason she reached out to tell her story, says Gonzalez, is because Piven denied the other allegations made against him.
“I do not stand for bullies or people who lie about what’s been done,” Gonzalez says. “I have no regrets whatsoever because I wanted these other women to know that I believed them.”