Per usual tradition, the previous year’s winner of the Best Actor award returns to present the Oscar to the following year’s Best Actress winner. However, Affleck’s involvement would’ve been plenty controversial in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the #MeToo movement.
In 2010, the actor was sued by two women who worked on the set of his film I’m Still Here. The pair accused Affleck of sexual harassment, claiming he crawled into their beds without their consent. He also allegedly intimidated one of the women to stay with him inside his hotel room, subjected them both to repeated disparaging, and even encouraged the film’s crew to engage in similar behavior.
The two alleged victims and Affleck went on to settle out of court, but the accusations resurfaced around awards season last year following Affleck’s work in Manchester by the Sea. His eventual 2017 Best Actor win was, to say the least, seen as problematic by fans and even those in Hollywood.
But now, with the public reckoning of Weinstein and other high-profile sexual predators, Affleck’s troubled past would only have drawn further scrutiny and protest. Even before he was asked back to this year’s Oscars, a petition requesting that the Academy prevent him from giving out the Best Actress award gained traction quickly with nearly 20,000 signatures.
The Academy, aware of the underlying reason for Affleck’s withdrawal, issued a statement, saying, “We appreciate the decision to keep the focus on the show and the great work of this year.”
The Academy appears to continue to be on the right side of the issue. Amidst sexual allegations, James Franco was snubbed of a nomination for his role in The Disaster Artist (despite winning at the Golden Globes just weeks prior).
The 2018 Oscars take place March 4th.