Hollywood's Biggest Scandals This Past Decade

The following article contains references to sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse, hate crimes, and mental illness

Hollywood has long been a hotbed of celebrity scandal. Ever since the very early incarnation of the industry, Tinseltown was rife with salacious gossip and sordid goings-on. Back in the day, self-styled Hollywood fixers such as Eddie Mannix were said to have stepped in to cover up scandals. In 1933, the MGM mogul was even alleged to have helped Clark Gable elude criminal charges when the star supposedly hit and killed a pedestrian with his car. Mannix apparently made someone else take the rap, thus preserving Gable's polished public image, according to E.J. Fleming's book "The Fixers" (via the New York Post). Such shady tactics may have worked out in the 1930s and '40s, but it's undeniably a whole lot harder to cover up scandals in the tech age.

With the ubiquity of social media, Hollywood scandals have seemingly surged over the past decade. But this is largely due to shifts in reportage rather than a rise in scandalous acts. Social media not only allows folks to dish on celeb tattle with relative anonymity and ease, but it can also be used as a platform for victims of impropriety to call out problematic behavior. Moreover, societal and cultural progression has altered perceptions of behavior that may have once been deemed acceptable, and thus unworthy of eliciting scandal, to ensure that celebs face accountability and repercussions for their actions.

Accordingly, countless A-listers have fallen from grace for their outrageous actions. Prepare for some piping hot tea as we take a deep dive into Hollywood's biggest scandals between 2013 and 2023.

The Rust shooting

While making the film "Rust," Alec Baldwin accidentally shot director Joel Souza and cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, killing the latter. It was undoubtedly one of the most shocking headlines to end 2021. And in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, the actor was photographed looking severely distressed.

In his first interview since the tragedy, he told ABC News that he had been handed a prop gun that was somehow loaded with real bullets. "Someone is ​responsible for what happened, and I can't say who that is, but I know it's not me," he said, insisting that he did not pull the trigger. According to a number of people who worked on the film, safety precautions were alleged to have been substandard from the outset. Actor Ian A. Hudson told TMZ that he ended up fearing for his life due to insufficient safeguarding. And just days before Hutchins was killed, Jensen Ackles voiced his concerns over the production's apparent lackluster training regarding firearms handling, per Deadline.

In 2023, Baldwin and armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed were both charged with involuntary manslaughter. While Baldwin has long claimed that it was Gutierrez-Reed, not him, who was responsible for the tragic incident, she countered that the actor's on-set conduct had been detrimental to the safety of those around him, per ABC News. Contrary to Baldwin's version of events, authorities concluded that he'd pointed the gun directly at Hutchins, per Associated Press. As of this writing, he and Gutierrez-Reed have pleaded not guilty to two counts of involuntary manslaughter each. They face 18 months in jail. 

Harvey Weinstein was exposed as a violent sexual predator

Once the reigning movie mogul of Hollywood, Harvey Weinstein went from monopolizing the market to being ostracized by his own industry. But the Miramax founder's downfall was a long time coming. By the time he was exposed for his myriad crimes and indiscretions in 2017, the movie producer had already ruined the lives of countless women. The allegations were laid bare by two exposés — one published by The New York Times (the events of which were later adapted into the film "She Said") and one penned by Ronan Farrow for The New Yorker

In the former, it was alleged that Weinstein had been paying off his accusers for decades. In the latter investigation, 13 women, including actors Asia Argento, Sophie Dix, and Mira Sorvino, came forward. As Dix put it, Weinstein was the embodiment of not understanding the word "no," stating, "I must have said no a thousand times." But the true extent of his crimes would soon be revealed.

According to The Cut, as of 2020, over 100 women had accused the producer of abuse. This has led to critics pondering how — or indeed why — a man as dangerous as Weinstein was allowed to continue with such behavior for well over three decades. It has been alleged that almost everyone in Hollywood knew he was an abuser — preferring to turn a blind eye in return for industry connections and benefits. Following two criminal trials, he was sentenced to 23 and 16 years in jail respectively.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

The Hollywood Foreign Press racism and abuse scandal

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association is the organization behind the Golden Globe Awards. In the last few years, the HFPA has been mired in controversy following a number of sordid allegations. In 2018, Brendan Fraser, who has been enjoying a much-welcome career resurgence since winning the Best Actor Oscar in 2023, alleged that he was sexually assaulted by the organization's then-president, Philip Berk, in 2003. 

In an interview with GQ, Fraser claimed that Berk groped him, leaving him feeling humiliated and anxious. "I felt ill," he recalled. "I felt like a little kid." Thereafter, he struggled with depression and his career floundered. Berk dismissed the actor's allegations, asserting that he merely pinched his buttocks (which, it should be noted, would still be classified as sexual assault in the state of California). In 2023, Fraser refused to attend the Golden Globes out of protest. 

The Globes scandal only deepened in 2021 when the Los Angeles Times published an exposé into alleged rampant racism within the HFPA. As the outlet noted, there hadn't been a single Black member of the organization — a fact heightened by the lack of nominations extended to the celebrated Black-led films of that year. These revelations led to a boycott of that year's Globes ceremony. Accordingly, Tom Cruise returned his three Golden Globe statues out of protest, an act of solidarity that was seen as the biggest blow to the HFPA. Thereafter, the organization attempted to rectify its bad rep by appointing six Black members.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Johnny Depp vs. Amber Heard

After she penned an essay for The Washington Post detailing her experiences of domestic violence, Johnny Depp pursued legal action against Amber Heard and those who sought to defend her. This was in spite of the fact that his ex-wife had never named him as her abuser in the op-ed, instead making vague allusions to having suffered assault from a young age.

Depp had previously sued The Sun for referring to the actor as a "wife beater." However, in 2020, a U.K. court found in tabloids favor, with the judge arguing that the moniker was apt and justifiable, per Reuters. Thereafter, Depp turned his attention toward suing Heard for defamation, resulting in what was arguably the celebrity trial of the century. The "Pirates of the Caribbean" star sought $50 million in damages, and his fans rallied behind him.

During the trial, both Depp and Heard gave recollections of the abuse allegedly inflicted by the other. Psychologist Laurel Anderson testified that the couple's toxic marriage was one of mutual abuse — if Heard felt attacked, she would hit Depp in retaliation, per NBC News. However, domestic abuse organizations questioned the validity of the term. "I'm going to abuse you as a reaction? No, I'm going to defend myself as a reaction," said campaigner and NCADV President Ruth Glenn. 

Meanwhile, outlets like Dazed argued that the trial was nothing more than an MRA-inspired protest against the MeToo movement and alleged that the pro-Depp agenda had been propagated by the alt-right. Depp ultimately won the case, declaring vindication.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Angelina Jolie accused Brad Pitt of domestic violence

The era of Brangelina may have ended in 2016, but the erstwhile Hollywood power couple continues to generate headlines. When it emerged that Angelina Jolie had accused Brad Pitt of domestic violence, his fans were in disbelief. Online, she was subjected to vitriol by her ex-husband's fans who compared her to Amber Heard. As writer Cat Cardenas opined on Twitter, such backlash felt predictable given the times, writing, "'Another Amber Heard' has become shorthand to call women liars for speaking out about abuse or just for being 'unlikeable."

The allegations date back to 2016 when the couple was traveling on a private plane where an apparently inebriated Pitt was alleged to have begun abusing Jolie and their children. The F.B.I. subsequently investigated the incident, the details of which were not made public until 2022, when the exes became embroiled in a legal dispute over their winery. It was reportedly agreed that criminal charges would not be pursued.

In documents obtained by NBC News, Pitt was accused of admonishing his son by stating, "That kid looks like a f***ing Columbine kid," and criticized his then-wife's parenting. He then allegedly assaulted Jolie, as his children looked on in fear. When one of the kids asked if their mother was okay, Pitt allegedly replied, "No mommy's not ok. She's ruining this family. She's crazy." He then reportedly poured beer on his wife and children. Pitt strongly denies the claims.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

The slap heard around the world

The slap that spawned a thousand memes, Will Smith's confrontation with Chris Rock at the 2022 Academy Awards will go down as perhaps the most infamous moment in the ceremony's history — and that's saying something considering that the wrong winner's name was once read out. When the comic made a jibe about Smith's wife via an inexplicable reference to "G.I. Jane" — a film that's over 25 years old — the usually mellow actor reacted in an uncharacteristically violent manner, walking onstage and slapping Rock. Smith later went on to win the Best Actor statuette for his role in "King Richard." 

Rock's gag was just one of many that he has aimed at Jada throughout the years. When hosting the Oscars in 2016, he mocked her decision to boycott the ceremony as part of the #OscarsSoWhite campaign. "Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna's panties: I wasn't invited," he quipped.

There was a divisive reaction to the slap. Those on Team Rock (mostly fellow comedians) condemned Smith, with the likes of Judd Apatow declaring that the actor could have killed the host. "That's pure out-of-control rage and violence ... He lost his mind," Apatow tweeted and then quickly deleted. Meanwhile, those on Team Smith accused Rock of ableism and misogynoir, per Time. As punishment, Smith was banned from the Oscars for ten years. Subsequently, the Academy was accused of hypocrisy. Piers Morgan, for instance, highlighted on Twitter that it took the Academy 40 years to ban convicted sex offender Roman Polanski.

Bill Cosby was jailed for alleged sex crimes – then released

There had long been rumors that Bill Cosby was problematic. Back in 2003, he was a guest host on "The Late Show," where he behaved inappropriately towards Sofia Vergara, moving in close and leering at her figure, before ordering the visibly uncomfortable actor to make eye contact. Moreover, in a 1991 interview with CNN's Larry King, Cosby joked that if a man were to put a few drops of Spanish fly in a woman's drink, he would be able to take advantage of her.

But it wasn't until 2014 that Cosby's alleged historic sexual abuse of women came to light, following a stand-up set by comedian Hannibal Buress. Taking aim at Cosby's apparent contempt for the Black community, Buress quipped, "'I don't curse on stage!' Well, yeah, you're a rapist, so ... People all think I'm making it up. I'm like, 'Bill Cosby has a lot of rape allegations.'" In a subsequent profile for The Cut, 35 women were spurred to come forward with allegations against the star. The majority of women claimed that Cosby had drugged them with sleeping pills and raped them while they were unconscious. Eventually, no less than 60 women came forward with allegations.

In 2018, Cosby was convicted of rape and sentenced to ten years in jail. But just three years later, his conviction was overturned due to a legal technicality. His release was met with widespread condemnation, with NBC News arguing that it would discourage victims from speaking out in the future.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

A documentary alleged that pedophilia is rife in Hollywood

Before the MeToo movement shed light on sexual assault in Hollywood, there was the 2014 documentary "An Open Secret." While MeToo primarily focused on adult victims of sexual abuse, the documentary shone a light on the apparent rampant abuse of children in the industry. Directed by Amy Berg, who went on to make the Evan Rachel Wood doc "Phoenix Rising," "An Open Secret" implicates high-profile figures such as director Bryan Singer in abuse. 

The doc highlights the ways in which Hollywood has allegedly protected pedophiles, most notably in the case of actor Brian Peck, a former associate of Singer, who was welcomed back into the film industry despite being convicted of child molestation, per The Guardian. The exposé led many to question why studios were seemingly content to hire child abusers. "We want journalists to ask every single major studio, 'Why would you allow any convicted pedophile to work in any form with your organization, period?'" said executive producer, Gabe Hoffman.

Having watched the documentary, Elijah Wood told The Times that child abuse is indeed rife in Hollywood. Thankfully, his mom had protected him from experiencing it. "There are a lot of vipers in this industry ... There is darkness in the underbelly," he said. "What bums me about these situations is that the victims can't speak as loudly as the people in power." He later reiterated on Twitter that he did not have first-hand experience with said abuse and was simply speaking on the topic. 

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.

Jussie Smollett allegedly faked a hate crime

In recent years, hate crimes have been at an all time high. Accordingly, faking a hate crime is extremely rare, if not unheard of. As such, Jussie Smollett's alleged hate crime hoax was one of the most shocking scandals to have erupted in Hollywood.

Despite being a talented and promising young actor, Smollett was accused of staging his own hate crime, reportedly as a means of achieving notoriety. The "Empire" star alleged in 2019 that he had been the victim of an assault by Donald Trump supporters. Discussing the incident with ABC News, he claimed that he was on his way to buy groceries in Chicago when two men, who apparently recognized him from "Empire," began uttering racist and homophobic slurs. Smollett claimed his attackers then tied a noose around his neck and poured a chemical substance all over him. 

However, police soon began to spot holes in the actor's story and it emerged that he had likely been lying. Subsequently, he was charged with filing a false police report. Brothers Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo said that Smollett hired them to stage the attack, though the actor denied the claims, per CNN.

In 2021, Smollett was found guilty of staging the crime and was sentenced to 150 days in jail. He maintains that he did not lie about the hate crime. Appearing in a 2023 Fox Nation documentary (via the Daily Mail) on the apparent hoax, the Osundairo brothers criticized Smollett for failing to take responsibility for his actions.

If you or a loved one has experienced a hate crime, contact the VictimConnect Hotline by phone at 1-855-4-VICTIM or by chat for more information or assistance in locating services to help. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

The shocking Ezra Miller scandals

Once an acclaimed actor initiated into the D.C. Extended Universe, Ezra Miller has proven to be one of the most controversial Hollywood stars. They first fell out of public favor in 2020, when footage surfaced of them choking a woman at a bar in Iceland. But, the most damning allegations against Miller were still to come. 

Two years later, parents Chase Iron Eyes and Sara Jumping Eagle alleged that Miller had been grooming their teenage child, Tokata, who apparently first began interacting with Miller when they were just 12 and the actor was 23, per the Daily Beast. Accordingly, Tokata's parents sought a protective order against the star. Police were unable to locate Miller to issue them with the order. 

The actor denied that they were grooming Tokata, claiming that they were a "messiah" for Indigenous people (Miller, it should be noted, does not have Indigenous ancestry), per Vanity Fair. Around this time, a 12-year-old child from Greenfield, Massachusetts was also granted a protection order against Miller after they allegedly began acting inappropriately and harassed their mother, whom Miller accused of being a vampire.

That same year, Rolling Stone reported that Miller was housing a woman and her three children at a Vermont farm, leading to safety concerns due to claims that the actor kept multiple firearms stockpiled for self-defense. By the Summer, and ahead of the premiere of "The Flash," Miller had apologized for their behavior and was said to be pursuing treatment for mental health issues in a statement published by Variety.

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

The Sony Pictures email hack

The 2014 buddy comedy, "The Interview" told the story of a late-night talk show hosting duo, played by Seth Rogen and James Franco, who get recruited by the CIA to assassinate Kim Jong-un. In the lead-up to the film's release, Sony Pictures was hacked by a reportedly North Korean group known as Guardians of Peace, who took issue with the film's central plot. They subsequently leaked thousands of confidential emails sent by then Sony Pictures boss Amy Pascal, per Time. The emails gave ordinary folks a glimpse inside the parochial and problematic Hollywood sphere.

BuzzFeed published a number of cringeworthy emails that featured racist interactions. In one such exchange between Pascal and producer Scott Rudin, who were preparing to dine with Barack Obama, the latter ponders whether he should ask the then-president to finance some movies. "I doubt it. Should I ask him if he liked 'Django [Unchained]'?" asked Pascal, to which Rudin replied, "'12 Years [A Slave]' ... 'Ride-Along.' I bet he likes Kevin Hart." Pascal and Rudin both apologized for their insensitive jibes. However, as Shonda Rhimes tweeted, "Calling Sony comments 'racially insensitive remarks' instead of 'racist'? [You] can put a cherry on a pile of s*** but it don't make it a sundae."

Additionally, other embarrassing emails were leaked which saw other stars like Adam Sandler, Angelina Jolie, and Kevin Hart openly insulted. Pascal resigned in the wake of the hack. Meanwhile Rudin withdrew from the industry in 2021 after he was accused of workplace abuse by several former employees, per The Washington Post.

Ellen DeGeneres was exposed as an alleged bully

After a stint as a sitcom star, Ellen DeGeneres crossed over into the mainstream talk show circuit via her eponymous show, where she won praise for her affable and wholesome persona. So, it came as something of a shock when she and her peers were faced with a slew of bullying allegations. In 2020, BuzzFeed published an investigation into the alleged toxic work environment cultivated by the much-loved host and her senior colleagues. Accordingly, employees alleged that DeGeneres was simply pretending to be a nice person. "That 'be kind' bulls*** only happens when the cameras are on. It's all for show," a former employee claimed. 

The damning allegations levied at DeGeneres and her team included the withholding of medical leave, racist microaggressions, and denying workers basic rights. One former employee, who is Black, alleged that her boss made racist jokes about her box braids. The remarks reportedly resulted in laughter, rather than solidarity, from colleagues. But it wasn't just her employees that DeGeneres allegedly bullied. Shortly after the BuzzFeed investigation, a waiter told the Daily Mail that the star tried to get her fired from an LA restaurant due to having chipped nail polish. 

DeGeneres subsequently announced that her show would be ending in 2022. Addressing the controversy, she remained defiant, telling Today that the backlash was an orchestrated personal attack against her. "I am a kind person," she insisted, calling the allegations ridiculous and stating that she had no idea that her colleagues behaved in a toxic manner.

The college admissions scandal

Indie darling Felicity Huffman and her husband, William H. Macy, long seemed like a decidedly un-Hollywood and unproblematic couple. But their reputation would be forever tarnished when Huffman was exposed as a key figure of the college admissions scandal of 2019. It was alleged that she paid $15,000 to have her daughter's answers on an SAT test altered, resulting in a score 400 points higher than her daughter was known to achieve, per The Washington Post. "Full House" star Lori Loughlin was also embroiled in the scandal, named as one of the parents utilizing shady means of getting their children into reputable colleges. She allegedly dished out $500,000 in bribes to secure places for her daughters at the University of Southern California.

Accordingly, Huffman was charged with mail fraud, to which she pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to two weeks in prison, per CNN. She was released after 11 days. Addressing the court, she said that she acted out of desperation to be a good mother to her daughter, and was ashamed of her actions. Meanwhile, Loughlin served two months in jail. She later attempted to atone by paying $500,000 to cover two students' college fees, per Us Magazine.

The scandal became fodder for Ricky Gervais when he hosted the Golden Globes in 2020. "It's her daughter I feel sorry for," the Brit quipped. "That must be the most embarrassing thing that's ever happened to her — and her dad was in 'Wild Hogs.'"

Allison Mack was charged with sex trafficking

Best known for her role as Chloe on "Smallville," the seemingly innocuous Allison Mack generated headlines for all the wrong reasons when she was exposed for her role in sex trafficking in 2018. As Inside Edition reports, Mack was involved in an organization called NXIVM, founded by the sex offender Keith Raniere, who was accused of enslaving women and subjecting them to horrific acts of violence, including branding. 

Under the ostensible guise of being a self-help group, members of NXIVM were involved in sex trafficking, racketeering, and forced labor. Mack and Raniere were reportedly lovers who enacted their sordid fantasies in a dynamic said to be similar to that between Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell. The star was accused of grooming and recruiting sex slaves for Raniere, and of participating in their abuse. "Allison had a very prominent role," Frank Parlato, an ex-publicist for NXIVM told Inside Edition in 2018. "She was completely enamored with Raniere and completely under his thrall."

Following a guilty plea, Mack said that getting involved with the alleged cult was the biggest regret of her life. "I am sorry to those of you that I brought into NXIVM," she said in a letter obtained by The Hollywood Reporter. "I am sorry I ever exposed you to the nefarious and emotionally abusive schemes of a twisted man." Despite facing a maximum of 40 years in jail, she was sentenced to three years in 2021 (incidentally, she was incarcerated at the same jail that housed the aforementioned Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin), per People. Meanwhile, Raniere was sentenced to 120 years.