6. Roman Polanski
Roman Polanski was arrested and charged with raping 13-year-old Samantha Gailey (whose name I use because she’s spoken publicly and written a memoir about the rape). Polanski had invited her over under the pretense of photographing her, and then gave her alcohol and Quaaludes before raping her. After his conviction, Polanski fled to France and has avoided extradition.
In September of 2009, Polanski was detained at the Zurich Airport due to his 1978 U.S. Arrest Warrant. While Polanski was in custody, over 100 people in the film industry publicly called for his release in a petition, including Woody Allen, because making notable artistic contributions outweighs raping a 13-year-old. In July of 2010, Switzerland rejected the U.S. request and Polanski was released from custody.
7. Michael Fassbender
Michael Fassbender is known for being a truly excellent actor whose gritty performances elicit visceral reaction in viewers, but he also beat his ex-girlfriend, which elicits a different type of visceral response. The Frisky reports on the details of the attack:
His ex claimed he threw her over a chair, broke her nose, dragged her alongside her car, and caused her to twist her left ankle and blow out her left kneecap. In addition to a restraining order, she asked for $20,000 to cover medical expenses for her injuries.
Eventually, the woman in question dropped the charges for any number of reasons, including the possibility of being intimidated, not wanting to sabotage Fassbender’s career, or being paid off. Fassbender, for his part, has expressed a deep sadness about how much people care about his penis.
8. Sean Connery
Sean Connery has publicly admitted to beating women, and doesn’t see anything wrong with it. In this case, I think his words say a lot more than I ever could. He was quoted in a 1965 Playboy saying:
“I don’t think there is anything particularly wrong about hitting a woman - although I don’t recommend doing it in the same way that you’d hit a man. An openhanded slap is justified – if all other alternatives fail and there has been plenty of warning. If a woman is a bitch, or hysterical, or bloody-minded continually, then I’d do it. I think a man has to be slightly advanced, ahead of the woman. I really do – by virtue of the way a man is built, if nothing else. But I wouldn’t call myself sadistic.”
20 years later, he told Barbara Walters:
“I haven’t changed my opinion. […] No. Not at all. I don’t think it’s bad, and I think it depends entirely on the circumstances, and if it merits it. If you have tried everything else – and women are pretty good at this – when they can’t leave it alone and want to have the last word, then you give them the last word. But they’re not happy with having the last word, they want to say it again and get into a really provocative situation. Then, I think it’s absolutely right.”
Connery was knighted in 2000.
9. Tommy Lee
After beating wife Pamela Anderson and leaving her badly bruised, Tommy Lee was sentenced to 180 days in jail for felony spousal abuse in 1998. At the time of the beating, Anderson was holding their infant son. This wasn’t a one time offense–”Lee had been repeatedly placed on probation for a series of violent incidents dating back to 1983.” The judge in the case “faulted the justice system for allowing the rocker to believe that he could get away with behaving violently.” This is an excellent point, because it’s certainly not just public opinion that lets celebrities off the hook. The justice system is just as culpable, although serving time doesn’t necessarily do much to lower people’s opinions of celebrities (see: Mike Tyson).
10. David O. Russell
Russell is known for his violent temper and erratic behavior–anyone remember the Lily Tomlin incident while filming I Heart Huckabees? But things really took a turn for the worse in 2013, when Russell admitted to groping his 19-year-old niece (who for some reason is always referred to as “transgender niece,” when “niece” would suffice), although faced no charges. This all happened at a gym, where Russell helped his niece work out and then for some reason felt her breasts after enquiring about breast augmentation. Russell says that he did this because he was simply curious about the procedure, and also that his niece flirted. As nieces do.
This is by no means a complete list, because the number of violent people glorified by Hollywood would fill an entire website, but these are the people I forget about and have been so wholly forgiven that it amazes me what we’re capable of repressing.
I think by this point, we’re past the conversation of the ability of bad people to make great art. Of course they can. Charles Dickens was a wife-beating asshole. J.D. Salinger liked them young. Pablo Picasso was a sociopath who tormented the women in his life. Bad people make great art all the time. It’s up to individuals to reconcile that difference, because if we start saying that every bad person’s art should be disregarded, we would unfortunately be left with very little to look at.
Of course, good art does nothing to exonerate horrific behavior, and some people’s behavior is so atrocious that it’s hard to separate their work from their actions (plenty of people on this list fit that criteria). Perhaps the issue here is one of priorities–to appreciate their creations but always in the context of who they are. Maybe we should start thinking of these guys as rapists/abusers who make art, instead of the other way around.
Photos: Getty Images