Polley on the set of “Take This Waltz
”: Magnolia Pictures
Actress, writer, and director Sarah Polley
is sharing her story about Harvey Weinstein
. The producer propositioned Polley, the “Stories We Tell
” helmer writes in an opinion piece for the New York Times. Weinstein suggested that a “very close relationship” with him would mean more acting work for her. “I indicated that he was wasting his time,” Polley recalls. “I just didn’t care that much about an acting career. I loved acting, still do, but I knew, after 14 years of working professionally, that it wasn’t worth it to me, and the reasons were not unconnected to the tone of that meeting.”
As she hints, that encounter with Weinstein was not the first time Polley came up against Hollywood’s misogyny. But she didn’t realize how much show business normalizes predatory behavior until she started directing her own projects.
“Shortly afterward, I started writing and directing short films. I had no idea, until then, how little respect I had been shown as an actor. Now there were no assistant directors trying to cajole me into sitting on their laps, no groups of men standing around to assess how I looked in a particular piece of clothing,” Polley details. “I could decide what I felt was important to say, how to film a woman, without her sexuality being a central focus without context.”
After having a positive, collaborative experience with Julie Christie
on the set of her directorial debut, “Away From Her
,” Polley decided to return to acting. But while she was more confident in her abilities and voice, Hollywood’s treatment of women was the same as ever. “This industry doesn’t tend to attract the most gentle and principled among us,” Polley says of the alpha male directors and producers she’s worked with. “I had two experiences in the same year in which I went into a film as an actor with an open heart and was humiliated, violated, dismissed and then, in one instance, called overly sensitive when I complained.”
“For a long time, I felt that it wasn’t worth it to me to open my heart and make myself so vulnerable in an industry that makes its disdain for women evident everywhere I turn,” Polley emphasizes. Her ambivalence about the craft is understandable: female actors endure an unbelievable amount of shitty treatment and face a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation when they consider speaking out.
Hopefully, as Polley mentions in her piece, the Weinstein case will mark a turning point. “I hope that the ways in which women are degraded, both obvious and subtle, begin to seem like a thing of the past,” she writes. Amen.
Polley received an Oscar nomination in 2008 for writing “Away From Her
,” which stars Christie as a woman living with Alzheimer’s. Polley’s other directorial credits include the infidelity drama “Take This Waltz
” and “Stories We Tell
,” a documentary about her own family and parentage. She also penned the upcoming Netflix miniseries “Alias Grace
,” an adaptation of Margaret Atwood
Quote of the Day: Sarah Polley
on How Directing Made Her More Aware of Hollywood’s Sexism was originally published in Women and Hollywood on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.