Sally Field is adding her voice to the #MeToo conversation. In her new memoir and in a subsequent interview, the 71-year-old describes the sexual assault and harassment she has endured throughout her life.
In one part of her book, In Pieces, Field revealed she was being sexually abused by stepfather Jack “Jocko” Mahoney, a Hollywood stuntman, until she was 14 years old. She had conflicting feelings at the time, writing: “I felt both a child, helpless, and not a child. Powerful. This was power. And I owned it. But I wanted to be a child — and yet.”
“It would have been so much easier if I’d only felt one thing, if Jocko had been nothing but cruel and frightening. But he wasn’t,” she added. “He could be magical, the Pied Piper with our family as his entranced followers.”
The Oscar-winning actress kept that abuse private for decades. She only told her mother about it after she landed the part of Mary Todd Lincoln in the 2012 film Lincoln. “Something was growing in me, this urgency that felt gangrenous, and I couldn’t locate it,” she told The New York Times in a story posted online on Tuesday, September 11. “I could hardly breathe and I couldn’t settle down.”
Her experiences with her stepfather also tainted her relationship with late movie star Burt Reynolds, whom she dated in the late 1970s and early 1980s. She now thinks she was trying to recreate a version of her relationship with her stepfather as she dated her Smokey and the Bandit costar, who died on Thursday, September 6. “I was somehow exorcising something that needed to be exorcised,” she told The Times. “I was trying to make it work this time.”
In the memoir, Field also described a 1968 encounter with singer-songwriter Jimmy Webb. She wrote that they had both smoked a joint field with hash when she woke up to find him “on top of me, grinding away to another melody.”
She told the newspaper she didn’t think Webb had acted with malicious intent. “I felt he was stoned out of his mind,” she said.
Another distressing encounter occurred when she tried out for the 1976 movie Stay Hungry. She claimed that during the audition process, director Bob Rafaelson told her, “I can’t hire anyone who doesn’t kiss good enough.”
“So I kissed him,” she wrote in the memoir. “It must have been good enough.”
Field told The Times she’s not necessarily recommending her book as an example for disclosing past trauma. “People should tell whatever story they want to tell,” she said. “This is just my story and it happened the way it happened.”
In Pieces will be released on Tuesday, September 18.
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