The casting couch, casting-couch syndrome or casting-couch mentality is a term which refers to the trading of sexual favors by an aspirant, apprentice employee or subordinate to a superior in return for entry into an occupation, or for other career advancement within an organization. The term "casting couch" originated in the motion picture industry, with specific reference to couches in offices that could be used for sexual activity between casting directors or film producers and aspiring actresses or actors. It is not to be confused with the adult entertainment industry where such actions may be a prerequisite, although many pornographic films play on the casting couch theme and allude to similarities one may find in casting couch scenarios in the film industry.
The term is now often used to refer to other industries besides entertainment, though careers which are highly desirable and traditionally difficult to break into, such as the movie, television and music industries, have been the subject of casting couch stories in popular culture. Such trading of favors is an abuse of power and can become a wider sex scandal if deemed newsworthy.
Allegations from "casting couch" candidates 
United States 
- The legend of the Hollywood casting couch coincided with the rise of the studio system in the 1910s. Moguls such as Darryl F. Zanuck, Howard Hughes, Jack Warner, Sam Goldwyn, Louis B. Mayer, Harry Cohn and Joseph Schenck were all rumoured to have been enthusiastic practitioners and actresses such as Joan Crawford, Jean Harlow, Judy Garland, Lana Turner, Ava Gardner and Marilyn Monroe attained stardom via this route.
- In her memoir Past Imperfect: An Autobiography (1978), actress Joan Collins described her experience of the casting-couch behaviour of 20th Century Fox execs Buddy Adler and Spyros Skouras in the 1950s.
- In her memoir Child Star (1988), actress Shirley Temple claimed that producer Arthur Freed exposed himself to her in 1940 when she was 12.
- In her book You'll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again (1991), Oscar-winning producer Julia Phillips attempted to expose many of the underground Hollywood institutions and confirmed that a "casting couch" mentality was alive and well in Hollywood.
- In a 1995 article, journalist Peter Keough described Hollywood as "a town where everyone is selling body and soul for fame and fortune and all – especially women – are considered commodities".
- In a 1996 interview, actor Woody Harrelson declared "every [acting] business I ever entered into in New York seemed to have a casting couch ... I've seen so many people sleep with people they loathe in order to further their ambition."
- In a 1997 interview, Jenny McCarthy stated, "I was the only girl in my clique who wasn't sleeping with someone to get a job". In 1998, McCarthy accused action star Steven Seagal of having told her to strip during a casting call for Under Siege 2: Dark Territory (1995). McCarthy repeated the story on the Howard Stern Show in 2012. Warner Brothers Casting for the film has confirmed that Jenny McCarthy never auditioned for a role on Under Siege 2. They stated that her claim is completely false.
- In a 2000 interview, actress Susan Tyrrell revealed how 66-year old director John Huston had prepared her for her role in Fat City (1972) by taking her on a drink-fuelled tour of northern California, during which he took full advantage of the opportunities offered by the casting couch: “I can’t describe to you how horrible it was. Goddamn bastard. I still hate him.” In spite of this, Tyrrell was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for the role.
- In 2003, Italian actress Asia Argento stated that Hollywood producers expect oral sex from young starlets in exchange for roles. Her semi-autobiographical film Scarlet Diva (2000) features a scene along these lines with painter Joe Coleman playing a lecherous producer.
- Robert Hofler's book The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson (2005) alleged that Hollywood agent Henry Willson was a gay casting-couch predator.
- In a 2005 interview with critic Roger Ebert, actress Theresa Russell claimed that veteran Oscar-winning producer Sam Spiegel made improper advances to her when she was 16 during the preproduction of The Last Tycoon (1976). Similar allegations about Spiegel's inappropriate behaviour during the audition process of this film have been made by two actresses who do not appear in the final film: Kim Cattrall (on the Howard Stern Show in April 2011) and Elizabeth Kemp (in an article published by CNN in February 2012.) According to his biographer, Spiegel had previously made liberal use of the casting couch during the making of The Chase (1966).
- At a 2005 class reunion, producer Chris Hanley told his former classmates that "almost every leading actress in all of [his] 24 films has slept with a director or producer or a leading actor to get the part that launched her career".
- In 2006, New York producer Dede Harris was accused of sexually harassing several members of the cast of the off-Broadway play Dog Sees God.
- In 2007, an article in Vanity Fair denounced Lou Pearlman, disgraced former manager of boy bands such as Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync, for improper sexual conduct with his male employees. In January 2009, in an interview on the Howard Stern Show, LFO frontman Rich Cronin went into details about Pearlman's alleged behaviour during auditions.
- In 2009, Megan Fox stated that leading film directors made sexual propositions while casting for film roles. Fox's audition for Transformers (2007) had consisted of director Michael Bay filming her washing his Ferrari.
- In a 2009 interview with OK! Magazine, actress Charlize Theron claimed that when she was 18 she was propositioned at an audition by a pajama-clad Hollywood director. “I thought it was a little odd that the audition was on a Saturday night at his house in Los Angeles, but I thought maybe that was normal.”
- In a 2009 interview, actor Mickey Rourke declared: "There's definitely something called a casting couch... if you take a girl from the Midwest with a pretty face and instead of inviting them in for an audition in the morning, the directors invite them for dinner at night? ... I can recall with certain women, we'd go out, I'd park the car on Sunset and by the time I'd got to the kerb there'd be three or four producers handing them cards... There's ways you get a job and ways you get a job."
- In a 2010 interview with Elle magazine, Gwyneth Paltrow revealed that early in her career a film executive suggested that a business meeting should finish "in the bedroom".
- In April 2010, actor Ryan Phillippe admitted on the Howard Stern Show that he had had to flee a “creepy” casting-couch session when he was 18 or 19.
- In a 2010 interview with Access Hollywood, actress Lisa Rinna said a producer had asked her for "a quickie" when she was a 24-year old candidate for a role on a prominent television series. At the same interview, Rinna's husband Harry Hamlin claimed that a female casting director attempted to seduce him in the late 1970s when he was 27.
- In 2011, Corey Feldman alleged that children were also victims of the casting couch. Paul Petersen said that some of the culprits are "still in the game" and Alison Arngrim claimed that Feldman and Corey Haim were given drugs and "passed around" in the 1980s.
- In the November 2012 issue of Elle magazine, Susan Sarandon spoke of a "really disgusting" casting-couch experience in New York in the late 1960s or early 1970s. “I just went into a room and a guy practically threw me on the desk. It was my early days in New York and it was really disgusting. It wasn’t like I gave it a second thought. It was so badly done.”
- In 2005, French film director Jean-Claude Brisseau was found guilty of sexually harassing two actresses between 1999 and 2001 during auditions for Choses Secrètes (2002).
- In 2007, actress Helen Mirren claimed director Michael Winner had treated her "like a piece of meat" at a casting call in 1964. Asked about the incident, Winner told The Guardian: “I don’t remember asking her to turn around but if I did I wasn’t being serious. I was only doing what the [casting] agent asked me - and for this I get reviled! Helen’s a lovely person, she’s a great actress and I’m a huge fan, but her memory of that moment is a little flawed.”
- In August 2012, actress Julie Delpy spoke out about casting-couch paedophiles in France in the 1980s.
- In October 2012, filmmaker Ben Fellows published claims that the casting couch was rife in the worlds of British television, theatre and advertising when he worked as a child actor and model in the 1980s. He claimed "the problem is both institutional and systemic in the entertainment industry."
- In 2013, Thandie Newton told CNN of how, aged 18, she was auditioned by a male director and a female casting director. "The director asked me to sit with my legs apart – the camera was positioned where it could see up my skirt – to put my leg over the arm of the chair and before I started my dialogue, [I was told] to think about the character I was supposed to be having the dialogue with and how it felt to be made love to by this person. It turned out the director used to show that video late at night to interested parties at his house – a video of me touching myself with a camera up my skirt.” She declined to name the director.
- A typical “casting couch” case occurred in India in 2004, when actress Preeti Jain filed a police complaint alleging that film director Madhur Bhandarkar had sexually exploited her for many years and made false promises to cast her in a lead role in his next film. She stated that she was never given any role in any of his films. According to Jain, Bhandarkar repeatedly had sex with her between 1999 and 2004 at Natraj Apartment at Yari Road, Hotel Seaside at Juhu and at Bhandarkar's friend's (Akbar) flat at Mount Mary Road, Bandra.
- In 2005, India TV's India's Most Wanted, an investigative TV show, caught Indian Idol host Aman Verma and longtime Bollywood actor Shakti Kapoor in a "sting" operation and accused them of abusing their positions to force women to have sex with them. They even produced video evidence of Kapoor making advances to a planted girl, in which Kapoor tells the girl that superstars Aishwarya Rai, Rani Mukerji and Preity Zinta slept with people such as Subhash Ghai, Yash Chopra and Yash Johar to get where they were. Verma, Kapoor and most of the Bollywood industry have defended themselves, calling India TV's claims unfounded and sensational and claim that the video footage of Kapoor is misleading.
- In 2006, Chinese actress Zhang Yu released 20 graphic sex videos that she made herself to document her allegations that she won many of her roles through the casting couch. The videos were released on YouTube but have been subsequently removed.
- In 2009, Indian actress Suchitra Krishnamoorthi reported an incident in her blog where she narrowly escaped sexual advances from a producer while casting for a film role.
- In 2009, Korean actress Jang Ja-yeon, star of Boys Over Flowers, committed suicide and left a suicide note claiming to have been beaten by her agent and to have been forced to have sex with media executives, directors, program directors and CEOs.
- McKay, Hollie (May 31, 2011). "Casting Couch Nightmares: What Does it Take to Make It in Hollywood?". Fox News. Retrieved May 31, 2011.
- Freedland, Michael (2009) The Men Who Made Hollywood: The Lives of the Great Movie Moguls, London: Aurum Press.
- Peter Keough, "Taking it off takes off", Chicago Tribune, April 30, 1995.
- Stephanie Mansfield, "Wild and Woody", Chicago Sun-Times, July 5, 1996.
- Cheryl Lavin, "Dumb like a fox", Chicago Tribune, August 24, 1997.
- http://www.gaylesbiantimes.com/?id=6244 "Oh, Henry Oh, Henry: The pretty boys and dirty deeds of Hollywood agent Henry Willson", Gay and Lesbian Times, November 17, 2005. Accessed June 18, 2009.
- Fraser-Cavassoni, Natasha (2003) Sam Spiegel: The Incredible Life and Times of Hollywood's Most Iconoclastic Producer, the miracle worker who went from penniless refugee to show biz legend and made possible The African Queen, On the Waterfront, The Bridge On the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia, New York: Simon & Schuster.
- "News from the casting couch", Chicago Sun-Times, June 10, 2005.
- "Turning tables on the casting couch". The Observer. 19 February 2006. Retrieved 9 December 2012.
- "Mad About the Boys". Vanity Fair. November 2007. Retrieved 7 December 2012.
- "Megan Fox Slams 'Casting Couch' Directors". Starpulse. June 5, 2009. Retrieved May 31, 2011.
- "'I was asked to finish a meeting in the bedroom': How Gwyneth Paltrow was once propositioned on Hollywood's casting couch". Daily Mail. 9 October 2010. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
- Shuter, Rob (October 11, 2010). "Lisa Rinna's Horrifying Casting Couch Admission". Popeater. Retrieved May 31, 2011.
- "Paedophilia Hollywood's biggest problem alleges child star Corey Feldman". Daily Mail. 12 August 2011. Retrieved 12 August 2011.
- "Hollywood's dirty little secret: Child sexual abuse". American Thinker. 6 December 2011. Retrieved 17 December 2012.
- "'It was really disgusting': Susan Sarandon reveals she was exploited on the casting couch as a young actress". Daily Mail. 14 October 2012. Retrieved 27 November 2012.
- "Director convicted of casting couch abuse". The Guardian. 20 December 2005. Retrieved 30 November 2012.
- "Helen Mirren: The day Michael Winner treated me like a piece of meat". Daily Mail. 17 December 2007. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
- Aggrawal, Anil (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press. ISBN 1-4200-4308-0.
- Subhash K Jha, "Shakti Kapoor banned!", Sify, March 16, 2005.
- "Shakti Kapoor sex scandal", YouTube, July 14, 2008.
- Anderson, C., & Berdahl, J. L. (2002). The experience of power: Examining the effects of power on approach and inhibition tendencies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83, 1362-1377.
- Thibaut, J. W., & Kelley, H. H. (1959). The social psychology of groups. New York: Wiley.
Further reading 
- Ford, Selwyn (1990) The Casting Couch. London: Grafton ISBN 0-586-20386-9
|Look up casting couch in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- Pulkeet Aggarwal Assistant Director Casting Couch
- TV Sting Snares Bollywood Baddie Shakti Kapoor from Yahoo! India Movies (March 12, 2005)
- Known rumours that Darryl F. Zanuck invented the casting couch The Zanucks: Reel Royalty from CBS News Sunday Morning (July 10, 2005)
- A selection of contemporary articles regarding the casting couch in the American silent film industry from Taylorology