Speaking at the MAKERS conference for working women who can afford really expensive pantsuits, Debra Messing recalls being humiliated on the set of Walk in the Clouds, the incredibly dull 1995 war romance film with Keanu Reeves. Messing claims director Alfonso Arau mocked her Jewish nose and forced her to film a nude scene against her wishes. The double whammy of anti-Semitism and gender subjugation. Most people know little of Arau outside of his memorable acting role as El Guapo in The Three Amigos.
Messing claims she cried in her trailer over the facial features comments which reminded her of the hateful comments she received growing up in a privileged Rhode Island town that cast her as the lead in numerous high school musicals and named her Junior Miss Rhode Island. Messing recalls that when she confronted Arau about being told there would be no nudity in the film, the Mexican director was very matter of fact about her position:
I’m the director, it’s my movie. Your job is to get naked and say the lines. That’s it. You should be grateful to have this part.
In her monologue to the MAKERS conference crowd wearing her best serious woman glasses and frazzled hair, Messing insists that the entire point of Arau’s comments were to bring her down as a woman:
The whole thing was a power play, a game. And the goal? To demean me, strip me of my pride and power, make me feel on a cellular level his dominance over me. I felt violated.
Cellular level denigration is pretty intense. Remember now, this was 1995 technology. For his part, Arau completely denies all the allegations. Guilty until proven innocent on sexual harassment, mi amigo. Believe Her.
Messing never appears naked in the film. But surely she’s the more trusted party after two decades of saving this harrowing tale for a conference on how shitty it is for women in the workplace. Ask yourself how clear your stories are on the accounts of a single heated exchange of twenty-two years ago? Even the ones that really happened.
This isn’t the year of the women. This is the year of very wealthy and famous people recalling shit from years ago to provide bona fides on being one of the victimized masses. You have to give Messing some credit in at least naming a name, unlike her peers. Though she picked a Mexican director who hasn’t worked in English language films pretty much since that disastrous ’95 film.
Maybe things went down on set exactly as Messing describes. Movie sets are notoriously shitty work environments. That’s why they pay you nine-hundred times minimum wage to work three to six months a year and have an assistant who brings you juice and magazines. Either way, I think we get your point. We need that Wall to stop shitty Mexican directors from crossing the border to harass our women and produce insufferable art films. Call it the Messing Wall. Never forget.
Photo credit: Walk in the Clouds/FamousLatinAmericans.com