Noel Clarke has always had a confident swagger. The king of the famous Circle Bar at Soho House, Greek Street — where he likes to hold business meetings as much as to hold court — the acclaimed actor, director and writer has built up a reputation for being full of self-belief to an almost intimidating degree.
But then, with his successes, who wouldn’t be?
Clarke, 45, has a £1million home in Holland Park, not far from the council estate where he was raised in Ladbroke Grove.
Once an angry young man who went out with his friends to ‘case’ houses in advance of a burglary, he now takes pride in the fact he can afford to buy his wife Iris ‘the handbag she wants’.
He has influential friends, a thriving independent production company and critical success. Or rather, he did.
Noel Clarke’s Bafta for Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema (pictured) — handed out as recently as April 10 — has been suspended ‘in light of the allegations of serious misconduct’
On Thursday, Noel Clarke’s reputation and once glittering career lay in tatters following a string of allegations from 20 women concerning a campaign of sexual harassment and bullying.
His Bafta for Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema — handed out as recently as April 10 — has been suspended ‘in light of the allegations of serious misconduct’. How hollow the citation by Marc Samuelson, Chair of Bafta’s Film Committee, sounds now.
‘Noel is an inspiration to me and to many others, for his central and much-needed role in supporting and championing diverse voices in the British film industry,’ Mr Samuelson said last month. ‘He truly is able to do it all… I cannot think of a more deserving recipient for this year’s award.’
Yesterday, ITV pulled the finale of Viewpoint (pictured) — due to be broadcast last night — just six hours before transmission. ‘ITV has a zero tolerance policy to bullying, harassment and victimisation,’ it said. Co-star Alexandra Roach (pictured) said on Twitter: ‘If I could stop working with sexual predators, that would be great’
How quickly times change. The star whose credits include the film trilogy Kidulthood, Adulthood and Brotherhood, TV shows including the Bulletproof series of dramas for Sky and Viewpoint on ITV, as well as the hapless boyfriend of Billie Piper’s Rose Tyler in Dr Who a decade ago, has now been dropped by his agent, manager and publicist.
Yesterday, ITV pulled the finale of Viewpoint — due to be broadcast last night — just six hours before transmission. ‘ITV has a zero tolerance policy to bullying, harassment and victimisation,’ it said.
Co-star Alexandra Roach said on Twitter: ‘If I could stop working with sexual predators, that would be great.’ She added: ‘Thank you to the women for your incredible bravery in coming forward and helping to put a stop to this kind of behaviour in our industry.’
Clarke, 45, (pictured in London) has a £1million home in Holland Park, not far from the council estate where he was raised in Ladbroke Grove
Sky also cut him loose, saying: ‘Sky stands against all forms of sexual harassment and bullying and takes any allegations of this nature extremely seriously. Effective immediately, we have halted Noel Clarke’s involvement in any future Sky productions.’
The producers of Bulletproof, Vertigo Films, also severed ties, saying: ‘We are devastated to hear about these allegations and have launched an urgent investigation to find out if any apply to any Vertigo Films productions. Our immediate concern is for any cast or crew who may have had a negative experience on set.’
Clarke denies it all, and says he will be defending himself against the allegations. A statement from Noel Clarke to the PA news agency said: ‘I vehemently deny any sexual misconduct or criminal wrongdoing. Recent reports however have made it clear to me that some of my actions have affected people in ways I did not intend or realise.
‘To those individuals, I am deeply sorry. I will be seeking professional help to educate myself and change for the better.’
It’s not the first time that Bafta has had to revoke an honour — it also terminated disgraced mogul Harvey Weinstein’s membership — and I can reveal that the academy is now considering introducing a vetting procedure for those nominated for its highest honours.
Yesterday internet footage appeared of Clarke making lewd gestures with a microphone in the face of an actress. Pictured: Clarke in footage with woman who is not among accusers
Bafta say that they weren’t able to pursue allegations until the women were willing to come forward. Not everyone is convinced. Actress Jahannah James, one of Clarke’s accusers, tweeted: ‘Bafta knew about the allegations before his award and decided they didn’t believe it’
But while the disgrace surely belongs only to Clarke if allegations are proven to be true, Bafta has found itself at the centre of its own storm over what it knew about these allegations, and when.
Bafta took the step of writing a long missive to members yesterday to explain what they knew — and why they were not able to act sooner. The academy said that it only had anonymous third-hand allegations, made after they announced that Clarke was to be honoured, two weeks before the award was handed over.
They say that they weren’t able to pursue them until the women were willing to come forward.
Not everyone is convinced. Actress Jahannah James, one of Clarke’s accusers, tweeted: ‘Bafta knew about the allegations before his award and decided they didn’t believe it’.
A source said: ‘That is 100 per cent false. If we’d had first-hand accounts of this kind of behaviour there’s no way he would have come within a million miles of a Bafta.’
Now, though, an ugly dossier has been made public by The Guardian newspaper. Twenty women have come forward to complain of what boils down to the manipulation and exploitation of young women in the film business by an influential older man.
Once an angry young man who went out with his friends to ‘case’ houses in advance of a burglary, Clarke now takes pride in the fact he can afford to buy his wife Iris (pictured together) ‘the handbag she wants’
The specifics involve sexual assault — kissing a teenage actress with his tongue, patting the bottom of another — harassment, voyeurism, bullying and professional misconduct, including most seriously a covertly filmed naked audition. Jahannah James says she auditioned for Clarke in 2013 just after leaving college.
She claims she was told to audition fully nude, and had no idea that this was not accepted practice. She says she was assured that the audition would not be filmed, and afterwards felt so upset by the experience that she took herself out of the running for the film.
Five years later, she was told by a producer that Clarke had filmed the audition and shared it, but he denies making or sharing the footage. James said yesterday: ‘I felt really betrayed and heartbroken. When you trust someone, that trust should not be abused.
‘The problem was people hailing him for being a shining example of a British black man. I just thought, ‘No, he’s not a shining example and he’s not my example.’ I think people deserve to know the truth about their heroes.’
She went on: ‘I thought about it a lot and decided that speaking out was the right thing to do. Standing up to someone is a hard thing but it’s even harder when they were a friend.
‘It’s been an emotional rollercoaster because we had to put the allegations to him and he said that we were all lying and slut-shamed. His response was literally to personally go after some of them.’
Another complainant is a producer who worked with Clarke between 2014 and 2017.
She told The Guardian Clarke would constantly harass her, on one occasion telling her that, when he hired her, he had planned ‘to f*** her and fire her’ before deciding to keep her on. She says Clarke showed her the recording of Ms James’ nude audition, and bragged about having sexually explicit pictures and videos.
She adds that on a work trip to Los Angeles, Clarke exposed himself in a car. She told him: ‘Noel, that’s not right.’ Later he allegedly groped her in a lift. Clarke’s lawyers deny the incidents in LA and say he did not sexually harass or bully the woman.
Now, though, an ugly dossier has been made public by The Guardian newspaper. Twenty women have come forward to complain of what boils down to the manipulation and exploitation of young women in the film business by an influential older man. Pictured: Clarke
Also named is a film producer who met Clarke in Soho House where his company Unstoppable held meetings. She says that he smacked her buttocks at a party and later that month sent her a ‘d*** pic’ via Snapchat. Clarke’s lawyers call this ‘highly unlikely’.
Another actress says that on the set of one film, Clarke tried to kiss her on the lips ‘three to five times’ in front of others. He denies this.
A well-known actress who worked with Clarke on the film SAS: Red Notice, shot in Budapest in 2018, said that he propositioned her over a meal ‘grossly and quite explicitly’ and that when she turned him down he told her to keep quiet and sent her an emoji of a person with a finger to their lips.
Clarke denies he either harassed or threatened her to keep quiet — saying that there was only consensual flirting. Also named is a production runner who felt humiliated after Clarke took a picture of her doing the splits on the dance floor at a wrap party. She said he made ‘constant inappropriate comments’.
How quickly times change. The star whose credits include the film trilogy Kidulthood, Adulthood and Brotherhood, TV shows including the Bulletproof (pictured) series of dramas for Sky and Viewpoint on ITV, as well as the hapless boyfriend of Billie Piper’s Rose Tyler in Dr Who a decade ago, has now been dropped by his agent, manager and publicist
Finally, Helen Atherton, an art director on the 2016 film Brotherhood, says that sex scenes were shot in an unethical way, with ‘random people’ turning up to watch naked female performers.
Atherton added that Clarke also showed her naked photographs sent by women to his phone and made ‘constant comments’ about her bottom. After she complained, he admitted to the harassment, apologised and said that he was embarrassed by his behaviour.
Helen Atherton (pictured), an art director on the 2016 film Brotherhood, says that sex scenes were shot in an unethical way, with ‘random people’ turning up to watch naked female performers
She told the Mail yesterday: ‘After what he did, I confronted him and he apologised but he clearly did not change his behaviour. To me, an apology means you learn from it and don’t do it again, but he carried on so it was not a sincere apology and worthless.
‘There are many more women coming forward as we speak. He should apologise to each and every one of them. I want a change in the industry — there are many changes needed. That behaviour is not welcome, it sets a bad example.’ One anonymous teenager who appeared in his 2004 debut film Kidulthood said that Clarke was a ‘sexual predator’ ten years her senior and put his tongue in her mouth one day and sexually harassed her almost constantly during filming. He denies this.
And yesterday internet footage appeared of Clarke making lewd gestures with a microphone in the face of an actress.
Bafta, criticised by its president Prince William for a lack of diversity in 2020, appears to have been tripping over itself with eagerness to honour Clarke.
The notorious ‘upskirt’ opening of the film 220.127.116.11. might have given a clue, as might the explicit sex scenes in other films which he wrote and which some critics have deplored. However, the industry was (largely) impressed by his distinctive vision of London life, and nobody wanted to question his authentic artistic vision.
Clarke was raised on a council estate by his mum Gemma, a nurse, who also worked in a laundrette. His father Alf, a carpenter, left when he was a baby. ‘She was my one and only role model,’ he said. Both were immigrants from Trinidad. He added: ‘I had a lot of friends and people who kind of just gravitated towards me. I never bowed to peer pressure and I wasn’t scared to say no.’ After gaining just two GCSEs he was working as a water slide attendant and gym instructor when he met writer Rikki Beadle-Blair, who got him an audition for the C4 series Metrosexuality.
‘I didn’t have the money to get the bus both ways. I decided to get the bus there so I could be calm and unhassled, and then walk two miles back home. On the way home I got the call to say the part was mine. I thought, ‘This is it. I’m on my way’.’
He then appeared in Auf Wiedersehen Pet before writing the script for Kidulthood — controversial for its frank depiction of sex, violence and drug taking. The character he created for himself in Kidulthood ends up killing a schoolmate in a street fight. He said: ‘He is 100 per cent a life that could have been mine. A lot of my good friends went to jail. I was always around it, but never involved in it.’
In 2009, he won the Bafta Rising Star Award. In 2016, he completed his film trilogy with Brotherhood, described by one critic as a ‘one-two punch of urban rage.’
In interviews, he spoke often about the exclusion of working-class voices, and about how he insisted on diverse crews and cast. On social media, he shared his support for Black Lives Matter.
But all of that bold campaigning stands to be overshadowed by a scandal which seems to have blown up out of nowhere. Ever the pugilist, he is fighting it. The only accusation which he admits is that he made inappropriate comments to Helen Atherton.
In a statement he said: ‘In a 20-year career, I have put inclusivity and diversity at the forefront of my work and never had a complaint made against me. If anyone who has worked with me has ever felt uncomfortable or disrespected, I sincerely apologise.
‘I vehemently deny any sexual misconduct or wrongdoing and intend to defend myself against these false allegations.’