Gabriel Byrne, who made three films with the Weinstein Company, has described the disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein as a bully and has also taken issue with his friend Liam Neeson's claim that the #MeToo movement has gone too far.
Speaking during a powerful interview on Friday night’s Late Late Show, the Dublin-born actor, who received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the IFTAs on Thursday night, said he never thought Weinstein would be capable of the "vile acts" he is accused of but added that he knew the movie mogul was "an absolute ferocious bully."
"That I knew, but I knew that about other people too, but what happened to those unfortunate women, and I know five of those women who were compromised by him, happened behind closed doors," Byrne told host Ryan Tubridy.
"So nothing could be proved so it was 'he said, she said' and because Harvey had such incredible power and we know from our own culture here that power and institutions protect individuals, the institution has to survive.
"Harvey was a powerful money maker and he had to be allowed to continue but nobody really knew, and I agree with Meryl Streep when she says this, that she didn’t understand, didn’t know about the violence of his sexual behaviour."
Byrne also took issue with Liam Neeson’s recent claim on the Late Late Show that the #MeToo movement was "a witch hunt" that had gone too far.
"I love Liam and I’ve been a friend of his for many, many years and of course everybody is entitled to their opinion but I would say the movement hasn’t gone far enough," Byrne said.
"I did not like Harvey Weinstein for his cruelty, the way he treated people."
"I think the pendulum has been so far in the opposite direction for so long where you’ve had centuries and centuries of women silenced and discriminated against and when they say witch hunt, I don’t like that word because that was about women being burned alive because they were rumoured in some way to be going against the system.
"So people who are saying it’s gone too far I think that’s a way of trying to stop it, to contain it - `Ok, that’s far enough now. We get what you’re saying, now go away’.
"I think what has to happen is that the women’s movement needs to be resurgent. It’s only 100 years ago when women were throwing themselves under horses to get the vote.
Byrne continued: "If this movement dies out simply with #metoo then I don’t think it’s going to do a great deal of good in the long run. What we’re talking about in the end is human rights and we’re talking about 50% of the population of the world and we’re talking about sisters, wives, mothers, daughters, that’s who we’re talking about. It’s not an abstract gender thing that is a cause célèbre du jour."
67-year-old Byrne began his career on RTÉ soap The Riordans and he spoke about the sexism he witnessed at the station during the 1970s.
"That was the culture - 'oh, yer man’s a great laugh, a bit of a character.' But what was going on there was not just overt sexual harassment in the workplace but women were discriminated against because of their sex and they were told if you do what I want you to do you’ll go up the ladder."
"Spacey? I’m sorry but how can you ignore that? He was never a friend of mine but he certainly wouldn’t be a friend of mine now."
Byrne starred with Kevin Spacey in the acclaimed 1995 film The Usual Suspects and he was asked about his attitude to his co-star now.
"People say can you separate the art from the artist. If you go back and look at some of the greatest artists in the world who gave us some of our greatest literature, our greatest signposts in life, people who were of disreputable personal character . . " he said.
"Women were discriminated against because of their sex and they were told if you do what I want you to do you’ll go up the ladder."
"However, it is going to be difficult to watch that movie and see him in it or to see Harvey Weinstein being interviewed or someone like Dustin Hoffman but people say, `yeah but what about his legacy?’"
Asked if he saw Spacey, Weinstein or Hoffman on the street in New York would be greet them, Byrne said, "No, I wouldn’t have that type of attitude to them. I did not like Harvey Weinstein for his cruelty, the way he treated people.
"Hoffman I don’t know so well, Spacey? I’m sorry but how can you ignore that? He was never a friend of mine but he certainly wouldn’t be a friend of mine now."