Actor Morgan Freeman is being accused of sexually harassing and behaving inappropriately toward a number of women he has worked with, from production assistants on movies in which he has starred to employees of his production company to journalists covering the release of his films.
Eight people told CNN that they directly experienced harassment or inappropriate behavior by Freeman, and eight others said they had witnessed such conduct by the Oscar-winning actor. NPR has not independently confirmed the allegations.
One of those journalists who says Freeman made sexual comments and stared at her intently was CNN entertainment reporter Chloe Melas, one of the authors of the report on Freeman's conduct that CNN published Thursday. She said it was her experience with Freeman that drove her to find out whether he had harassed other women.
Melas was six months' pregnant when she met Freeman, 80, to interview him about the release of his movie Going In Style last year.
"Right when I walked into the room, he began making sexually suggestive comments to me," she said in an interview with HLN. "As an entertainment reporter for over a decade, it was unlike anything I truly have ever experienced. One of those comments was caught on tape. In this comment that's on tape, he says to me, 'Boy, do I wish I was there,' while looking me up and down."
Melas says Freeman's co-stars, Alan Arkin and Michael Caine, were seated on either side of Freeman and looked at him when he made the comment. She says he made other comments to her that weren't on tape, including, "You are ripe."
Many of the complaints about Freeman in the CNN report describe his conduct at Revelations Entertainment, the production company he co-founded with producer Lori McCreary. The company has made movies including Invictus and Along Came A Spider and the CBS political drama Madam Secretary.
One former male employee at Revelations said that Freeman acted like a "creepy uncle" at the office and that he witnessed the actor massaging the shoulder of a clearly uncomfortable intern. "The intern got visibly red and wiggled out of his grasp, it was awkward," he said.
A former production assistant on Going In Style told CNN that she experienced unwanted touching and comments about her clothes and body almost every day from Freeman — an experience she says frequently left in her tears and led her to leave the movie business.
She said Freeman "kept trying to lift up my skirt and asking if I was wearing underwear."
In a statement to NPR, Freeman apologized to anyone he made uncomfortable.
"Anyone who knows me or has worked with me knows I am not someone who would intentionally offend or knowingly make anyone feel uneasy. I apologize to anyone who felt uncomfortable or disrespected — that was never my intent."
Freeman is one of America's best-known actors, starring in 1989's Driving Miss Daisy and 1994's The Shawshank Redemption. He is known for his deep voice and often plays characters of gravitas and great moral rectitude. He portrayed Nelson Mandela in Invictus, the president of the United States in Deep Impact and God in Bruce Almighty.
The CNN report also includes allegations involving McCreary, Freeman's business partner — sometimes as victim, sometimes as perpetrator. Speaking at a conference in 2016, Freeman said of McCreary, "She wants to be thought of as serious. But you can't get away from the short dresses."
The moderator asked Freeman whether his comments could be seen as sexist and misogynistic. "Sexist? Yeah," Freeman replied, "but I'm not misogynistic."
But former employees at Revelations told CNN that McCreary was part of the problem, making comments such as, "she'll never be able to do a good job, she has a family" and mocking women who left work early for family commitments.
Employees reportedly formed a "survivors club" to commiserate about what they experienced at Revelations.
The actor's power and stature allowed him to behave inappropriately out in the open and without consequence, according to an unnamed production assistant who worked with Freeman on The Dark Knight.
"Morgan did things in a way that an older more established person can get away with because they have that power," the woman told CNN.
"They can't be replaced, but you can be replaced very easily, that's just kind of the dynamic on set. PAs can be replaced, grips can be replaced, electricians can be replaced, but the actors — once they're in, they're in. ... [I]f you report somebody like Morgan Freeman that the movie would lose a lot of money by replacing them or getting them in trouble, then you're the troublemaker and you'll get fired because you're just a PA."