Tales from the Casting Couch: Hollywood's Ugly Open Secret

Gwyneth Paltrow, Charlize Theron, Lisa Rinna on the infamous couch.

ByABC News
October 11, 2010, 9:50 AM

Oct. 12, 2010— -- The Oscars, the Walk of Fame and the Hollywood sign are some of Tinseltown's famed icons. But as with most fairy tales, there is also a hardcore underbelly.

Now Gwyneth Paltrow has spoken out about one of the industry's dirtiest secrets – the casting couch.

In the November issue of Elle Magazine, 38-year-old Paltrow revealed that early in her career she had a brush with someone who "suggested that we finish a meeting in the bedroom."

Her reaction?

"I left," she told Elle. "I was pretty shocked." Paltrow said she could see how someone who didn't know better might worry that their career would be ruined if they didn't perform a specific sexual act.

In an interview with People nearly five years ago, Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron disclosed that before she launched her acting career, she was asked by her modeling agents to go to a well-known director's house. The ostensible reason was because there was a casting call for extras. When she showed up, the director was in his pajamas, making drinks.

"I thought, 'Wow, this is really not formal, this whole casting procedure,'" Theron said in People. "Us girls, we're smart: You leave."

Helen Mirren also went on the record recently, reported The Guardian, speaking out against director Michael Winner for "allegedly treating her 'like a piece of meat.'" The incident occurred in 1964 when Winner made her flaunt her body and turn around at a casting session. "I was mortified and incredibly angry," said Mirren.

Lisa Rinna, whose new reality show "Harry Loves Lisa," co-starring her husband, Harry Hamlin, debuted last week on TV Land, told PopEater's "Naughty But Nice" column that she, too, was a victim of the casting couch. Columnist Rob Shuter wrote that the then-24-year-old actress "walked away in tears after the disgusting encounter, but that hasn't stopped her from thinking about the producer or that moment every day."

Although these incidents happened years ago, the passage of time hasn't necessarily eliminated the scourge.

Last year Megan Fox told Britain's GQ magazine, "Any casting couch s**t I've experienced has been since I've become famous. It's really heartbreaking. Some of these people! Like Hollywood legends. You think you're going to meet them and you're so excited, like, 'I can't believe this person wants to have a conversation with me,' and you get there and you realize that's not what they want at all."