'Molly's Game,' starring Jessica Chastain, follows a woman at the center of an FBI investigation into an elaborate underground poker ring. USA TODAY
BEVERLY HILLS — Here's a prime example of how sexual harassment can be baked into the filmmaking experience.
Aaron Sorkin, speaking to USA TODAY about his directorial debut, Molly’s Game (in select theaters Dec. 25), starring Jessica Chastain, recalled the way he was once asked to script a Nicole Kidman sex scene for 1993’s Malice.
“Early on in my career, I wrote a movie that I’m not very proud of at all, it just turned into a mess,” he says. “Alec Baldwin and Nicole Kidman were in it. The director, very close to the start of photography, decided that we were missing a sex scene between Alec and Nicole.”
He asked Sorkin, his screenwriter, to add a steamy scene.
“I went back to the hotel and I wrote like four pages of banter that ended with them falling into bed and we cut to the next day,” Sorkin says. “Harold Becker said, ‘No, no, no, you have to write the scene.’
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"I hadn’t written that much at the time, I’d only written A Few Good Men. And I said, ‘Boy, exactly what do you mean?’ And he said, ‘Look, it’s easy, just go back to your hotel and write what you’d like to see Nicole Kidman do.”
Chastain, seated next to him, gasps.
“I said, ‘Are you out of your mind?’ ” Sorkin recalls. “First of all, I just did a movie with her husband (Tom Cruise)! And second of all, no, I’m not going to write down what I’d like to see Nicole do and then hand the pages out to the crew and Nicole.”
“It’s so disturbing,” says Chastain, shaking her head.
Ultimately, Sorkin stepped away from the scene. “Without me in attendance, Harold, the director, Alec and Nicole got into a trailer and they decided what they were going to do,” Sorkin says. “It got done. It’s a terrible scene.”
For Molly’s Game, Sorkin says he left most of Molly’s skin-baring ensembles up to Chastain and costume designer Susan Lyall. "When a costume designer says, 'Which one of these (dresses) do you like Jessica in?' I can’t even point, it just feels wrong,” he says.
A tidal wave of sexual harassment, assault and rape allegations have descended upon Hollywood in the past month, kicked off by bombshell reports from The New York Times and The New Yorker about movie mogul Harvey Weinstein's alleged assault on women over the past four decades.
Allegations of sexual misconduct have since hit director James Toback, Kevin Spacey, former Amazon Studios head Roy Price and others.
To date, 78 women have come forward to accuse Weinstein of sexual harassment, assault or rape. The producer, who has denied all allegations of non-consensual sex, bought two films Chastain starred in, 2014's The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby and 2012's Lawless. She says she tried to talk producers out of selling those films to The Weinstein Company.
“I hadn’t heard about the very severe things, but I had been witness to how he treated my friend in propositioning her," says Chastain, who did not name the woman. "And I had been witness to him bullying people and he was not someone that I wanted to work with."
Sorkin says what he hopes comes out of the daily “horror stories” hitting the news cycle “is that there are going to be no or very few new monsters born as a result of the swift and total annihilation of the people who have been outed. Harvey Weinstein is done — the most powerful person maybe since Louis B. Mayer (the former MGM head) in this business. Kevin Spacey is done. James Toback’s done. People have to look at that and say, ‘I am scared straight.’ ”
If you have ever experienced or witnessed sexual misconduct while working in the entertainment industry, we’d like to hear from you. Send us a secure tip using the instructions at newstips.usatoday.com.