Russell Crowe has caused controversy after joking about accidentally “sodomising” a female co-star at the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts awards (AACTA).
The actor intended to highlight the subject of “sensitivity” in the film industry but was criticised for making the joke so soon after the Harvey Weinstein and other sexual harassment scandals.
"I was sodomising Jacqueline McKenzie on the set of Romper Stomper,” Crowe told an audience to somewhat muted laughter.
“I didn’t actually intend to… I was trying to keep my bits away from her bits, and she’s been given one of those pieces of elastic that the girls get when you do those scenes, which protects them from all things, and my bits and pieces were in a little canvas sack with a drawstring.
“And it was actually my desire to keep the bits apart. It wasn’t until the opening night of the film that it was pointed out by none other than Jacqui McKenzie’s beautiful late mother that we were in fact, in her mind, engaged in sodomy. Anyway, that was just a story about sensitivity.”
The comments were seen as inappropriate enough for the AACTA to pull them from the broadcast, particularly because McKenzie added her voice to the #MeToo movement last week.
The actress has since posted on Facebook about Crowe’s comments: “Over the eons, he and I have often laughed at the awkwardness we felt shooting that scene.
“We were both new to the industry at the time — it was my first film — and, yes, it was uncomfortable. For everyone. Scenes like that always are. Also for family and friends when they later watch the work on the big screen.
“The very important conversation of sexual harassment in the workplace bares no relevance to this. There were no blurry lines on that awkward day back in 1991. As there should never be.”
Crowe has also posted a statement about the comments, writing: "Actors and actresses by the nature of our jobs get thrown into some embarrassing, bizarre and extreme circumstances.
"It's an ironic combination that the sensitivity required for the job has to be coupled with the ability to put aside your embarrassment and fears and cope with the humiliation.
"Jacquie and I survived that moment in our young careers because we looked after each other. Our friendship has only strengthened with the years and it's a story we both cringe and laugh over.
"The way I told that story was to elicit that half cringe/half laugh reaction. Obviously, I was only intending to make people laugh, especially Jacquie, and she did. I didn't mean any offence to anyone and it wasn't a comment on other issues."