Casey Affleck Lawsuits Add to Strange Story of 'I'm Still Here'

Women claim actor-director Casey Affleck sexually harassed them.

August 5, 2010, 6:23 AM

Aug. 5, 2010 — -- He wasn't meant to be the star of "I'm Still Here," but a twist in the already strange story about the making of a strange movie has put Casey Affleck front and center.

Last month, two staffers from Affleck's upcoming documentary about Joaquin Phoenix filed lawsuits accusing the actor/director of sexual harassment. Cinematographer Magdalena Gorka and producer Amanda White claim Affleck repeatedly made derogatory comments towards them.

Their legal complaints detail specific greivances: Gorka claims Affleck groped her as she slept; White says Affleck violently grabbed her after she refused to sleep in the same hotel room as him.

Click HERE to read White's complaint. Click HERE to read Gorka's complaint.

While other female staffers have publicly defended the filmmaker in the wake of the lawsuits, Brian Procel, the lawyer for White and Gorka, told that his clients' allegations are just the tip of the iceberg in what he calls a mounting case against Affleck.

"The documents and the witnesses in this case will support the truth," he said.

According to Procel, Affleck's attorneys tried to buy Gorka's silence after White filed a $2 million lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court on July 23. Gorka filed a $2.25 million lawsuit one week later, also in L.A. Superior Court.

"Ms. Gorka was told by Affleck's attorneys, just after the film was picked up for distribution by Magnolia, that she would not be paid her deferred compensation," Procel said. "A week or so later, after Ms. White filed her lawsuit, Ms. Gorka was again contacted by Affleck's attorneys and they offered to make her a settlement in an attempt to obtain her silence. I think it's pretty clear that they were afraid that she would also come forward with sexual harassment allegations."

Casey Affleck's Attorney: Cases Have No Merit

Affleck's attorney, Marty Singer, asserts White and Gorka's cases have no merit. He contends neither woman complained on set and questions the validity of their claims, arguing they were filed more than 15 months after the alleged incidents happened.

Wednesday, Singer filed arbitration claims before the American Arbitration Association accusing Gorka and White of breach of contract.

"These cases are totally frivolous and absurd," he told "Amanda White is an individual who tried to get more money while working on the film than Casey Affleck and Joaquin Phoenix. ... [Gorka] never complained about anything."

Singer said he believes that White is trying to extort money from Affleck and his production company, Flemmy Productions, and dragged Gorka into her plot for support. He also questioned their lawyer's credibility.

"These two cases are nothing but a lawyer trying to make a name for himself," he said. "We're planning to counter sue, we're going to bring claims against both of them in arbitration and we're considering bringing action against the attorney as well. We're not going to cave in."

Procel, meanwhile, maintains White "never demanded anything more than other producers have received on similar projects and what she was promised from the beginning." He added that White and Gorka waited to file their lawsuits because "this was not a decision that someone in their position takes lightly and it took months of deliberation to finally decide to come forward."

As for Singer's claim that the women never complained and Procel is using them to raise his own profile:

"That's just a lie," Procel said. "The evidence will show that to be not true. We are confident that we will be able to prove that not only were they exposed to sexual harassment, they also complained about it. And his attacks on me just reek of desperation."

'I'm Still Here's' Twisted Tale

From the start, the story of "I'm Still Here" has been anything but straightforward. When Phoenix transformed from a clean cut, Oscar-nominated thespian into a bearded, perpetually sunglasses-clad wannabe emcee in 2009, his act seemed like a prank. Then Affleck, who is married to Phoenix's sister, revealed he was documenting Phoenix's journey and asserted it was 100-percent real.

"I wanted to explore what I thought would be an interesting period in his life," Affleck told ABC News Now's "Popcorn With Peter Travers" in May. "He said he didn't want to act anymore, he wanted to try doing music, and that, right there, says something's going to happen ... I had no idea what exactly was going to happen and all that would unfold and every day I spent with him on this journey."

"It ended up being more and more fascinating, more and more things happened that were both in the public spectacle and a very private internal implosion that I got to witness," Affleck added. "It made for this unbelievable, one-of-a-kind movie."

Affleck reportedly struggled to find a distributor for the movie. According to the Los Angeles Times, potential buyers who screened the film in May saw some things they didn't quite expect.

To quote the L.A. Times' John Horn: "Several buyers said the film overflowed with Hollywood debauchery, including more male frontal nudity than you'd find in some gay porn films and a stomach-turning sequence in which someone feuding with Phoenix defecates on the actor while he's asleep."

Last month, Magnolia pictures acquired the rights to it. At the time, Magnolia president Eamonn Bowles told, "No matter what I thought coming in, I came out feeling this was a pretty amazing piece of work, jaw dropping but dimensional ... It is extreme behavior but really good filmmaking as well."

It's unclear whether White and Gorka's lawsuits will affect the release of the film. Representatives for Magnolia pictures did not immediately return's requests for comment.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events