In the last few weeks, many actors have felt emboldened to step forward and talk about harassment and abuse they’ve faced in the industry. One of the latest is queer actor Daniel Franzese, best known to many as Damian in Mean Girls, and gained new fans as Eddie in HBO’s gay-themed series, Looking.
However, he made his movie debut in Larry Clark’s powerful 2001 movie, Bully, where he says he faced homophobic abuse, body shaming and even physical assault from his co-star, Bijou Phillips. In a deeply person post on Facebook he writes, ‘On my first film BULLY I was harassed by Bijou Phillips the entire shoot. She body shamed me and ridiculed me about my sexuality and physically assaulted me. I was scared and closeted and feared for my job. It started with a lot of eye rolling whenever we spoke but escalated when we did a cast shoot for the poster. As we were shooting she kept loudly saying “Are you gay?!” and laughing while the producers and photographer did nothing to stop her but some of my cast like Micheal Pitt and Brad Renfro kept telling her to shut up but she continued to say “Are You Gay?!” Like 10 times making sure to be loud enough for everyone to hear I reluctantly told her i was bi. Which at the time was how I was choosing to identify as “Q” wasn’t known to be an option yet and to be honest I don’t know that I had many gay experiences at the time my life. I was an extremely late bloomer. She cackled and said “HA! He’s bi!” And then when I showed up to work the next day in front of the crew she was screaming “Oh look! The Bi guy is here!”’
He also writes about how she body shamed him, despite the fact he was already nervous and self-coinscious about his weight. He says, ‘So I take my shirt off in the scene and she breaks character and she pointed at my body and at the top of her lungs yelled “Ewwww gross!!!” She laughed and pointed at me and continued to berate me. they call cut and I had to walk off set to collect myself.’
Franzese also suggests she engineered it so he walked in on her having sex with one of their co-stars, before her behaviour culminated in a physical assault. ‘When we shot one of our last scenes in a court room,’ he says. ‘She was walking around barefoot and the bottom of her feet were black with dirt. She was sitting behind me and kept rubbing her dirty feet on my neck. I kept swiveling the chair to move away from her and she kicked me as hard as she could in the back of the head. To this day I’m not even sure if she gave me a concussion because I was light headed and dizzy for a while.’
He ends by saying that he feels Bijou’s behaviour on film sets at the time did affect her career, but he hopes she has changed in the years since. However, for him, ‘It was such a blessing to get a foot into Hollywood’s door but I was greeted at that door with homophobia, body shaming and abuse. The way I was treated in that hostile work environment gave me a PTSD that had me stay closeted for a long time… I love the movie and my other cast mates and crew but BULLY was one of the most stressful experiences of my life on or off a set and it was my first one.’
After Daniel wrote his emotional post, Bijou responded, telling TMZ, ‘I want to write to address what Daniel has said. I don’t remember that time well, those years are a blur. I was a teenager and reckless in my behavior. I know Daniel to be a trustworthy and honest person, and to find out through social media that I was not the friend I thought I was to him made me so sad… I am so mortified by this behavior and have contacted Daniel and apologized to him privately. I am not and never have been homophobic. I have nothing but love for the LGBTQ community and Daniel.”
Franzese has now responded on Twitter, saying, ‘I forgive @BijouPhillips because I don’t know her private story either. I shared this story only to bring light to a dark memory… It was 18years ago. She has sent me an apology I accept. It would be nice to see her make a donation to @TrevorProject or something.’
It was 18years ago. She has sent me an apology I accept. It would be nice to see her make a donation to @TrevorProject or something.
— Daniel Franzese (@WhatsupDanny) November 13, 2017