Michael Douglas Accused of Harassing, Masturbating in Front of Former Employee
A few weeks ago, Basic Instinct star Michael Douglas tried to get out ahead of a looming The Hollywood Reporter story accusing him of sexual misconduct by issuing a preemptive denial to Deadline Hollywood. That THR story dropped on Friday and consists of sexual harassment claims made against Douglas by author Susan Braudy from when she ran the New York office of Douglas’s production company Stonebridge Productions. At the time, Douglas was approaching the height of his career and was one of the most famous and powerful men in Hollywood, thanks, in part to the acclaim over his Wall Street and Fatal Attraction performances.
Braudy said that she kept records of her tenure working for Douglas, including detailed notes of alleged inappropriate incidents, paperwork verifying her employment as well as a letter from the California Women’s Law Center responding to an inquiry she made in 1993 regarding how to handle workplace harassment. Outside of the paper trail, Braudy said she told several acquaintances about the incident who were willing to go on record to bolster her story, but she was too intimidated at the time to follow through on any formal action against her employer.
According to THR, Douglas’s alleged harassment of Braudy included “near-constant profane and sexually charged dialogue, demeaning comments about her appearance, graphic discussions regarding his mistresses and more”. Filed under “more” is an incident where Braudy said that Douglas masturbated in front of her without her permission. From THR:
To stop his commenting about her body, “I began wearing long, loose layers of black,” she writes. “He asked a producer, ‘Why does Susan dress like a pregnant nun?’ Another time I laughed loudly and he shouted to a group of agents, ‘Oh yeah, she’s a screamer! I bet she screams in the sack.’ I protested, ‘Please, don’t talk like that. It’s inappropriate.’ This made him laugh until he got pink splotches on his cheeks.”
At script meetings in his apartment, “Michael was usually barefoot, his blue oxford shirt unbuttoned to his navel,” she writes. “I sat across the room on the yellow silk couch taking notes.” Then one afternoon in early 1989, as they brainstormed an idea about an E.T.-like character, she recalls him sliding down the back of his chair and onto the floor. “Michael unzipped his chinos and I registered something amiss. Still complimenting my additions to our E.T. imitation, his voice lowered at least half an octave. I peered at him and saw he’d inserted both hands into his unzipped pants. I realized to my horror that he was rubbing his private parts. Within seconds his voice cracked and it appeared to me he’d had an orgasm.”
Braudy said that she was so horrified that she ran out of the meeting back to her apartment.
Michael ran barefoot after me to the elevator, zipping his fly and buckling his belt. ‘Hey, thank you, you’re good. You helped me, thank you, thank you.'”
Braudy says she jogged 13 blocks home, locked her front door, got into bed and crawled under her quilt: “I vowed I’d never be alone with him again.”
Braudy said that she was fired six months later after dodging attempts by Douglas to sign a confidentiality agreement.
In the process of getting ahead of Braudy’s story, Douglas told Deadline that he barely remembered working with her and fired her because her work was subpar. Douglas said his attorney was approached by both THR and Variety for comment on reports regarding sexual misconduct, an accusation he vehemently denies.
“Finally, masturbating in front of her? I don’t know where to begin,” Douglas told Deadline. “This is a complete lie, fabrication, no truth to it whatsoever.”
Douglas then said the claims have no merit because he and his wife, actress Catherine Zeta-Jones are supporters of women’s causes. From Deadline:
I pride myself of being so supportive of the women’s movement. My mother was an actress, and I myself married to an actress and have been supportive of this movement wholeheartedly, through all my years. I was forced to look over my past. I’ve had up to 20 female executives who worked at my company in different areas over the years. Over 20 producers I partnered with on pictures have been women. Not to mention all the actresses I’ve worked with and the hundreds of performers. How am I, in a 50 year career in this industry, dealing with an employee 33 years ago who perhaps is disgruntled that I let her go, even though I have never heard from her in 32 years. And a legitimate trade publication is going to try and print this story?
Earlier this week, Zeta-Jones told Entertainment Tonight that both she and her husband are emphatic supporters of the #MeToo movement encouraging women to speak out about surviving sexual assault or abuse.
“My reaction was that as two people who have been in this business — him longer than me — was that we support ‘Me Too’ and the movement more than anybody, anybody – me as a woman, him as a man,” Zeta-Jones said. “There was no other way than to be preemptive in a story that had to be watched. He did a statement, he did it. I think it’s very clear the way that he stands. I cannot elaborate on something that’s so very personal to him.”
Braudy credits the post-Weinstein reckoning for convincing her to finally tell her story publicly.
“These are some reasons why so many women don’t come forward with their stories,” She told THR. “Lord knows it’s taken 30 years and a movement for me to gather my courage.”