'Deal with allegations so names aren't smeared': Actors react to sexual harassment storm

Monday, 04 December 2017, 02:33:54 PM. Australia's screen actors express support for victims of sexual harassment, while wary of unsubstantiated media reports, as they step out for an industry awards luncheon in Sydney.

Red carpet shot. Photo: AACTA nominee Andrea Demetriades said theatre companies needed to address victims' claims. (AAP: Ben Rushton)

Australia's screen actors have expressed support for victims of sexual harassment, while wary of unsubstantiated media reports, as they stepped out for an industry awards luncheon in Sydney.

They were gathering for the 7th Annual Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts awards industry luncheon which celebrates skilled entertainment professionals. More awards will be handed out at the main ceremony on Wednesday night.

It is the first time the awards have been held without Geoffrey Rush, who stepped down as the organisation's president in the wake of an allegation of "inappropriate behaviour" at the Sydney Theatre Company.

Rush has denied the allegation which media reported was related to a production of King Lear in 2015.

Discussion is 'long overdue'

Man on red carpet. Photo: Actor Don Hany is nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Ali's Wedding. (AAP: Ben Rushton)

A number of Australia's leading actors spoke on the red carpet at the luncheon at The Star about the turmoil facing the industry both here and overseas.

AACTA nominee Andrea Demetriades said she had a "great time" working with the Sydney Theatre Company, where she has starred in a number of productions, but added companies needed to properly address victims' claims.

"They have got to sort it out as it happens and deal with [sexual harassment allegations] properly so people's names aren't smeared — either the victims or the perpetrators," she said.

"And if people say it happened, then it happened. That whole thing about women making stuff up — it's too much!"

Actor Don Hany, nominated for Best Supporting Actor for Ali's Wedding, said while he was "sympathetic at how difficult it was to address allegations" he said the discussion was "long overdue".

"The nature of the work revolves around a personal relationship and breaking down or disarming each other very quickly," he said.

"Unfortunately a lot of lines get blurred and lot of it hasn't been discussed for many years.

"I think anyone that encroaches on someone's comfort, their ability to work or their personal space, owes an explanation. At least take responsibility."

Some 'anxious men' out there

On the red carpet. Photo: Andrew McFarlane and Tina Bursill at the 2017 AACTA awards luncheon. (AAP: Ben Rushton)

Actor Debra Lawrence, who is nominated for Best Performance in a Television Comedy for Please Like Me, said she was curious about what would happen locally after an investigation exposed film producer Harvey Weinstein.

"I'm sure there are some anxious men out there who are frantically thinking back over their … years in the business," she said.

"Maybe that's their karma?"

Lawrence said the "elephant in the room" was that there was very little evidence of some of the claims made against men, although she and many female friends in the industry were privy to constant sexual harassment over the decades.

"I was never badly affected, not sexually assaulted or anything … [but sexual harassment] was rife," she said.

Actor Tina Bursill also said "it's been a long time coming" for the industry.

Bursill is nominated for Best Supporting Actress in a Television Drama for Doctor Doctor on the Nine Network and has a career of many decades in the local industry.

"I think it's the newer generation of women and men who are prepared to put themselves out there and are supported by so many," she said.

Lion sweeps pool in awards luncheon

The event was about more than the scandals, with 35 AACTA awards handed out to the best in the industry.

Feature film Lion dominated the awards winning Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Sound, Best Original Music Score, Best Costume Design and Best Production Design.

Seven Types of Ambiguity was the big winner on the box taking home Best Television Drama or Comedy, Best Cinematography in Television and Best Editing in Television.

Ali's Wedding, a romantic comedy about a young Muslim man trying to sidestep an arranged marriage to marry the woman of his choosing, garnered Best Original Screenplay for writer (and lead actor) Osamah Sami who co-wrote the script with Andrew Knight.

Hany, who played Sami's father in the popular comedy, said the afternoon celebrated the "nerve centre" of the industry.

"What we make in the industry is a team effort and there's so little that goes on to recognise that," he said.

"We're all proud of each other's work."

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