Debra Messing accused director Alfonso Arau of demeaning her on the set of their 1995 film A Walk in the Clouds.
Speaking at the Makers Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, on Monday, Messing recalled that her initial excitement about shooting her first Hollywood movie — opposite rising star Keanu Reeves — was marred by several humiliating incidents.
On the first day of filming, Messing said, she and Reeves were in the middle of a dramatic kiss scene when Arau interjected, “How quickly can we get a plastic surgeon in here? Her nose is ruining my movie!”
After completing the scene in a daze, Messing retreated to her trailer and cried. “I felt ugly, I felt like garbage, and I felt deep shame,” she said, adding that Arau’s comments reminded her of anti-Semitism she experienced growing up in Rhode Island.
On the second day of filming, Messing said, she was browbeaten into shooting a nude scene, despite having been told previously the movie would not feature nudity. When she confronted Arau about the scene, he allegedly told her, “I’m the director, it’s my movie. Your job is to get naked and say the lines. That’s it. You should be grateful to have this part.”
After grudgingly going through with the scene, only Messing’s bare back appeared in the final cut, she said. “The whole thing was a power play, a game. And the goal? To demean me, strip me of my pride and power, make me feel on a cellular level his dominance over me. I felt violated.”
Arau’s manager did not respond to a request for comment, but a representative for the filmmaker told TooFab that Messing’s description of the events was “false.” The representative said Messing was never nude during the scene in question, and that Arau did not make derogatory comments about her nose.
A spokesperson for 20th Century Fox, the studio that released A Walk in the Clouds, declined to comment.
Elsewhere in her monologue, Messing said she was pressed to wear bra inserts, a.k.a. “chicken cutlets,” during her early days on the NBC sitcom Will & Grace. After threatening to take up the issue with network brass, Messing said, she never saw the inserts again.