Photo by Jemal Countess/.
Round up every actress in Hollywood, and you may find that most of them have a story about being put through the sexist audition ringer. Alison Brie was once asked to take her top off in an audition for no reason. Emmy Rossum was told she got the part, but first had to strut into the director’s office in a bikini. Now Oscar-nominated actress Glenn Close has shared her own story about the horrors of the casting couch, recalling the time she went into an audition to meet with another actor—and there was a bed in the room.
Close, who is promoting her upcoming film The Wife, shared the disturbing anecdote with the Guardian. She began by remembering when an actor on one project inappropriately touched her thigh: “I did feel there was a collusion between him and the director,” she said.
Then Close told another story, one that goes even further.
“I was asked to come in and read with an actor who was huge at the time, and I walked in and there was a bed,” she said. “I had the pages with me, but he didn’t know any of his lines and didn’t have them with him. So it was horrible. I realized afterwards that it was like putting a dog in with a bitch to see if he wanted to jump on her. If I had just forgotten the lines and worked at seducing him then I probably would have gotten the part.”
It’s a disturbing remembrance, one that sounds all too similar to countless stories actresses have told throughout the years—overt tales of breathtaking sexism, as well as smaller injustices like fighting for a role that’s essentially a support prop for the male lead, or getting paid half as much as their male colleagues. Last year, Emma Stone spoke candidly about the bias that persists on movie sets, where actresses who want to contribute to the film’s narrative are made to feel small and awkward. “There are times in the past, making a movie, when I’ve been told that I’m hindering the process by bringing up an opinion or an idea,” Stone says. “I hesitate to make it about being a woman, but there have been times when I’ve improvised, they’ve laughed at my joke and then given it to my male co-star. Given my joke away.
“Or it’s been me saying, ‘I really don’t think this line is gonna work,’ and being told, ‘Just say it, just say it, if it doesn’t work we’ll cut it out’—and they didn’t cut it out, and it really didn’t work!”
At this point in her career, you would think people would listen to Stone when she has a suggestion—but being a woman in Hollywood often means fighting to be heard, a fact that is multiplied for actresses of color. While steps have been taken to help combat the lopsided, male-dominated industry—like Ryan Murphy’s Half initiative and Disney’s commitment to hiring more female directors—it will take a lot of work to ensure that the up-and-coming actresses of the future don’t come close to have Glenn Close-esque stories of their own.
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