6 Oscar Winners Who've Been "Canceled"
These once-powerful Hollywood players have faced some serious accusations.
An Academy Award is widely viewed as the film industry's highest honor, and with that prestige often comes a career filled with privilege and fulfilling creative opportunities. But even some of Hollywood's most lauded talents have seen their reputations plummet in the wake of accusations against them—whether those accusations were accompanied by criminal charges or not. Read on for six Oscar winners who have been "canceled" and the cases against them.
The director of undisputed classics including Rosemary's Baby and Chinatown, Roman Polanski has a storied career as a filmmaker—but for decades, his fraught personal life has cast a shadow over his creative work. In 1977, he was arrested and charged with raping a 13-year-old girl, among other related charges. He eventually pleaded guilty to a less serious offense (unlawful sex with a minor) and expected to serve only probation, but the judge overseeing the case reneged on the bargain. Fearing imprisonment, Polanski fled to France, where he has remained ever since.
Nevertheless, he has continued making movies, including the 2002 Holocaust drama The Pianist, for which he won the Best Director Oscar, though he skipped the ceremony, fearing arrest. In 2009, following the release of a documentary about the case, more than 100 creative luminaries signed a petition in support of the director after he was arrested in Switzerland on the outstanding warrant. In 2018, amid the #MeToo movement, Polanski was kicked out of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and other women have also come forward to accuse him of sexual assault. He's continued making movies, however, the most recent being 2019's An Officer and a Spy.
Already an Oscar winner for The Usual Suspects and American Beauty, Kevin Spacey was five seasons into headlining the Netflix hit House of Cards when his career came crashing down around him in the wake of accusations of bad behavior on set—and much worse. In 2017, actor Anthony Rapp, who was in the original Broadway cast of Rent and now appears on Star Trek: Discovery, alleged that Spacey had sexually assaulted him at a party back in 1986, when Rapp was 14 years old. Spacey was fired from House of Cards and his character was retroactively killed off.
After more than a dozen other men came forward with accusations against Spacey, his completed performance in the then-unreleased Ridley Scott film All the Money in the World was cut from the film, with Spacey replaced by Chrisopher Plummer. Though Spacey prevailed in a 2022 civil case over Rapp's accusations and he's even been cast in a few upcoming movies, his career seems unlikely to ever reach the heights it once did, as the 63-year-old may face additional sexual assault trials in the U.K.
There would be no #MeToo movement without the many cases against Harvey Weinstein. It was the accusations against the once-powerful film producer, who steered dozens of movies to Oscar glory throughout the '90s and 2000s (and won a Best Picture trophy himself for producing Shakespeare in Love), that triggered a major reckoning throughout Hollywood and other industries. In October 2017, dozens of women came forward with accusations against Weinstein in articles published in The New York Times and The New Yorker. Subsequently, the film mogul was arrested and ultimately convicted of rape. After being sentenced to 23 years in prison, he was then sentenced to 16 more in another trial. His film company, The Weinstein Company, which he ran with his brother Bob, ousted him in 2017 and ultimately declared bankruptcy the following year. He was also expelled from the Academy in 2018.
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Woody Allen is one of the most successful and prolific filmmakers in history, as well as the winner of four Oscars, but his legacy will be forever tainted by twin scandals involving his ex-wife Mia Farrow. In 1992, it was revealed that Allen was romantically involved with Soon-Yi Previn, Farrow's adopted daughter, then 22 years old. That same year, Farrow accused Allen of molesting the couple's seven-year-old adopted daughter, Dylan, though the director was never charged with a crime and he has maintained his innocence. For decades afterward, Allen continued making films, but the allegations resurfaced amid the #MeToo movement and gained greater prominence, leading the publisher of his memoir to drop the book and Amazon Studios to cancel a production deal with the filmmaker. Several actors who'd appeared in his movies, including Timothée Chalamet, publicly apologized for doing so, and his subsequent films have struggled to find distribution in the U.S.
The list of misogynistic, antisemitic, racist, and violent incidents associated with Braveheart double-Oscar-winner Mel Gibson is too long to list here. Lowlights include his 2006 drunk driving arrest when he spouted, "The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world," just one of many antisemitic incidents collected by The Forward. Then there's the 2010 call to ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva published by Radar, in which the actor and director threatened to sexually assault and kill the mother of his child before burning her house down in a slur-filled tirade. A source also alleged Grigorieva had told police the actor had been violent with her on multiple occasions and even knocked out two of her teeth.
While he exited the limelight for a while (William Morris Endeavor Entertainment CEO Ari Emanuel famously called for a Hollywood boycott of Gibson in a HuffPost op-ed in 2011), he soon returned and was nominated for Best Director in 2017 for Hacksaw Ridge. More recently, the actor was dropped as grand marshal of the Krewe of Endymion Mardi Gras parade, with the Anti-Defamation League and Jewish leaders jointly stating, "Although it has been announced that Mel Gibson will no longer ride due to reported threats, ADL, the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans, and the Greater New Orleans Rabbinic Council—are appalled that Endymion chose Mel Gibson as the parade's 2023 Grand Marshal to begin with." Still, Gibson appeared in six films in 2022 alone, though most were low-budget and straight-to-streaming.
In 2017, seven women, including one who was a minor at the time, came forward with accusations of sexual harassment and sexual assault against Kramer vs. Kramer and Rain Man Oscar-winner Dustin Hoffman in a series of articles in The Hollywood Reporter. After an apology, an attempt by HBO host John Oliver to get him "to a point of self-reflection," and a few years out of work, Hoffman was meant to return to acting with the post-pandemic reopening of Broadway in the Scott Rudin production of Our Town—despite one of his accusers alleging he had groped and exposed her body during another stage production. (Rudin has also faced accusations of abusive behavior towards his employees.) That production never actually happened, but Hoffman has since appeared in a handful of movies and is set to play a role in Francis Ford Coppola's Megapolis.