AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman is the latest in a string of influential Hollywood figures to be accused of sexual harassment. Freeman is best known for his roles in films like "Driving Miss Daisy," "The Shawshank Redemption" and "Million Dollar Baby." CNN is reporting that eight people have accused Freeman of harassment and inappropriate behavior.
NPR's Laurel Wamsley has been following the developments for us. She's here in the studio. And, Laurel, first just summarize the allegations against Mr. Freeman.
LAUREL WAMSLEY, BYLINE: All right, so there's eight people who allege either inappropriate behavior or sexual harassment from him. And what they describe is basically a pattern of behavior of sexual comments, awkward staring, looking at women up and down and making comments about their bodies. And he apparently did this both with staff at his production company - people who worked on the sets of the movies he was in - as well as journalists covering those movies.
CORNISH: We mentioned CNN has this story. And in fact, a CNN reporter herself says she was harassed by Freeman. Can you tell us about that?
WAMSLEY: Right. So the reporter, Chloe Melas, was covering the release of his film "Going In Style" last year when she had what she describes as a very awkward interaction with him.
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CHLOE MELAS: Right when I walked into the room, he began making sexually suggestive comments to me. Now, as an entertainment reporter for over a decade, it was unlike anything I truly have ever experienced. In this comment that's on tape, he says to me, boy, do I wish I was there while looking me up and down.
WAMSLEY: And in the video of that interaction, you can see he's flanked by his costars Michael Caine and Alan Arkin, and they actually look over at him when he makes those comments. And she said it was this experience - she was six months pregnant at the time that he was making these comments towards her - that she decided to look to see if other women had had the same sort of experience with Freeman.
CORNISH: And reportedly she did, right? What did they tell her about their interactions with Morgan Freeman?
WAMSLEY: Right. So there are a number of incidents recounted in the CNN story, and they range from one production assistant who says he repeatedly raised her skirt and asked if she was wearing underwear until a colleague, Alan Arkin, finally asked Freeman to stop it.
A senior member of the production staff on another movie reported that she and other women she worked with stopped wearing fitting clothing because every time Freeman walked by, he would make these sorts of comments. It was - it's a lot of things like that - just a lot of comments and making people feel uncomfortable.
CORNISH: CNN also reported that they spoke to people who observed harassment by Freeman. What is behind that?
WAMSLEY: That's right. So there's another eight people who say they observed this sort of behavior from him, and this includes men who worked at his production company, Revelations Entertainment, as well. And they describe behavior like seeing Freeman massaging the shoulders of an intern and making these comments.
And colleagues described a strange happening at Morgan Freeman's birthday party for his 79th birthday where he told everyone - all the employees to line up and introduce themselves. And then in front of each of the women, he would stand in front of them about an inch away from their faces and just stare at them, which he did not do to the men.
CORNISH: How has Morgan Freeman responded so far?
WAMSLEY: Well, in a statement to NPR, this is what he said. Anyone who knows me or has worked with me knows that 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.
So it's not clear whether he is denying the allegations or just saying he was misunderstood.
CORNISH: That's NPR's Laurel Wamsley. Thanks so much.
WAMSLEY: Thank you.
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