Gabriel Byrne: ‘Sex pests’ and ‘abject sexism’ rife in RTÉ in 1970s
The actor also alleged production was halted on ‘The Usual Suspects’ over Kevin Spacey’s behaviour
Irish actor Gabriel Byrne at the Cannes Film Festival in 2015. Photograph: Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP/Getty Images
In an interview on RTÉ Radio 1, Byrne also talked about the allegations of sexual assault against Hollywood figures he knows, including actor Kevin Spacey and producer Harvey Weinstein.
Speaking on Today With Sean O’Rourke, the 67-year old Dublin-born actor recalled the atmosphere in RTÉ when he first started working on soap opera The Riordans. “The climate of abject sexism there was absolutely ridiculous,” he said. Byrne recalled “sex pests” at the station who would routinely harass women, including his girlfriend at the time. “One of those guys made her life a misery through his sexual improprieties,” he said. He added it was common knowledge that certain men were serial offenders. “People just knew it, that’s so and so, he took his trousers down at a meeting. It was a joke.”
Sexually inappropriate acts went unchallenged, Byrne said, noting that it was accepted that men acted that way. “The idea that you would go to RTÉ and complain was not an option,” he said. Such behaviour was not confined to RTÉ, Byrne added, recalling an incident when a politician propositioned his girlfriend in front on him.
Byrne also said that he personally knows seven Hollywood figures who have been accused of sexually inappropriate acts. He recalled how he had heard “vague rumors” about Harvey Weinstein, who is now facing multiple allegations of rape and sexual abuse, when they first met during the production of Byrne’s 1992 movie Into The West.
“I had a vague idea that there were things that went on behind closed doors, but the problem was that they were rumours,” he said. Subsequently, he became aware that Weinstein was a “sleazebag” and “quite unsavoury in his attitude towards women”, but didn’t know about the “violence” that Weinstein has been accused of.
Byrne also spoke about his experience of working with Kevin Spacey, who was recently dropped from the Netflix series House Of Cards following several allegations of sexual impropriety. Byrne recalled the “great camaraderie” on the set on the 1995 film The Usual Suspects, until one day filming unexpectedly came to a halt, costing the production hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“It was a big deal, we didn’t understand why,” Byrne said. Byrne discovered that “something inappropriate sexually had happened, and it involved Kevin”. He said that he knew that Spacey was then “in the closet”, and disapproved of his decision to come out as gay when he was accused of being a “sex predator”. “That was such a gigantic insult to the gay community,” Byrne told O’Rourke.
Byrne, who was promoting My Astonishing Self, an RTÉ TV documentary on George Bernard Shaw, also spoke about recently becoming a father again with his second wife, Hannah Beth King. He said that being a parent of a newborn baby daughter was “bittersweet at my age”, but added, “It’s no great hardship to be around pure love, pure joy and pure innocence, I’m absolutely loving it.”