As the daughter of two screenwriters and the granddaughter of famed Hollywood director Elia Kazan, Zoe Kazan has been in and around Hollywood her entire life.
On the heels of her wonderful starring role in the romantic comedy “The Big Sick,” she’s not holding back about the industry’s shortcomings.
“I have a lot of girlfriends who are amazing actors, and many times we’ve talked about having to go into a room and give ‘blowjob eyes,’” she continued. “You know, be flirty with a director or a producer. It’s the sense that your sexuality is somehow baked into this situation. Or there’ll be auditions where they’ll say, ‘Wear something body-conscious’ and then you’re aware that they’re checking out your body. You leave the situation feeling not good about what just happened, but you don’t really have the language for why. You feel like, if you said something, it would reflect badly on you.”
Kazan made clear that people were “super respectful” during her time on the set of “The Big Sick,” which she stars in alongside Kumail Nanjiani of “Silicon Valley.” But other times, that hasn’t been the case.
“I had a producer ask me on set once if I spat or swallowed,” she said. “At work. He’d say, ‘Oh, it’s a joke, ha ha.’ But he was also paying my cheque and then watching me from the monitor as I made out with another actor — so when he tells me I look good, it feels different.”
She added, “It makes you feel guilty, and bad, as if it’s somehow your fault — that you’re somehow giving that person the signal that it’s OK to treat you that way.”
Kazan said her boyfriend of a decade, actor Paul Dano of “There Will Be Blood” fame, sometimes has had difficulty grappling with the stories she tells him. But sexual harassment remains a rampant problem for women throughout the U.S. economy ― a 2015 Cosmopolitan of 2,235 full-time and part-time female employees found that one-third of them had been sexually harassed at work at one point.
The situation might be even worse within the entertainment industry, where men continue to hold a tight grip on powerful positions, like director or producer. Prominent actresses, including Emmy Rossum, Ashley Judd and Chloe Sevigny, have detailed the harassment they and others have faced in the industry.
“You’d be shocked how often these claims [of sexual harassment] are brought in the entertainment business,” attorney Lisa Maki once told The Hollywood Reporter.
She added, “It’s pretty rampant.”