A-list actress and anti-sexual harassment activist Jessica Chastain is being slammed for working with film director Matthew Newton who has been repeatedly accused of domestic violence.
Chastain has agreed to co-produce and star in the action film Eve, which Newton wrote and is set to direct, but critics say that the actress and producer is a hypocrite for working with a man accused of violence despite her activism for women’s rights.
Newton has accusations of violence against him that date back to 2007, including a guilty plea to physically assaulting his then-girlfriend, actress Brooke Satchwell. Newton was convicted in 2007 of one count of assault, but the conviction was overturned after a judge took his mental state and his accomplishments into account.
By 2010, another actress, Rachael Taylor, had taken out an order of protection against Newton alleging that he had acted violently toward her, including physical and verbal abuse. Newton was also arrested for attacking a 66-year-old taxi driver in 2011 — the charges were dismissed — and in 2012 he violated his court order to stay away from Taylor. The 41-year-old was also arrested for hitting a hotel clerk and was sentenced to community service for the attack.
Newton was assigned mental health treatment for a number of these incidents.
As to Chastain, the Miss Sloane star has fashioned herself as a women’s rights activist when she launched her all-female production company, Freckle Films. Freckle is set to co-produce Eve Indeed, Chastain has been quoted saying that she “makes sure” that there are no abusers on her projects.
“I’ve always made choices, in all the work that I’ve done, to make sure that on any film set that I’m working with people that there isn’t a question about whether or not abuse has taken place,” she said according to The Guardian. “It’s very important to me that I practice what I preach, and that my actions follow my words.”
But many are criticizing Chastain for consorting with a man with a long and well-known history of such troubles.
In January, I asked Jessica Chastain about making choices when there's been allegations of abuse. She said this. https://t.co/cJatBvDVOx I have trouble seeing how she can justify working with Matthew Newton. https://t.co/SRNTS0zjjd
— Marc Fennell (@MarcFennell) August 4, 2018
— Fiona Thatcher (@fiona_thatcher) August 6, 2018
she's chosen matthew newton to direct??? as in matthew newton who has a long history of domestic violence??? why not a director who's never assaulted anyone? or a female director? incredibly disappointing https://t.co/HXAPMYjKPF
— Andrea (@bethwoodvilles) August 2, 2018
Matthew Newton?!?! Wtf why is @jes_chastain working with a man who has so savagely beaten up TWO of his ex-girlfriends?! In Australia he’s well known for being a violent abuser, how is he still allowed to associate with women?
— j a y m e (@pointlesswords) August 2, 2018
wow okay so i come back to the news that jessica is working with known abuser matthew newton and let me just say that i have never been so disappointed in my life. i sincerely hope she has some kind of explanation for this or that it’s somehow a mistake…
— ً (@chastainsgadot) August 3, 2018
The actress and producer has yet to respond to the criticism.
Kelly Carmichael, a Freckle Films executive and co-producer on Chastain’s new film, released a statement justifying the work saying that Newton is a “wonderfully adept” artist and they are “thrilled to be partnering with him” on the film.
The questions to Chastain is not the only criticism Newton has faced from the #MeToo movement. In February, South by Southwest was criticized for including Newton’s film, Who We Are Now, in its festival.
In response to the criticism, Newton released a statement reading: “It is absolutely intolerable to harm women, it is intolerable to harm men, it is intolerable to harm anyone. I had done these things, and I utterly regret it, and I have to live with this responsibility every day. I had a severe problem with substance and alcohol abuse then, and for almost six years now I have actively worked every single day, one day at a time, to remain sober and live a clean, upstanding life.”
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.