After facing multiple allegations of sexual harassment from former employees, Peter Aalbæk Jensen has reportedly decided to keep to the anti-harassment guidelines drawn up by his production company, Zentropa.
The 62-year-old is the producer and business partner of controversial Danish director Lars von Trier
“I've always been a cheerful guy and I've been slapping the a**es of guys and girls at the company for 20 years, but I never tried to f*** anyone,” Jensen told Hollywood Reporter on Thursday, 10th May. “But these days that is seen differently than it was 5, 10, 15 years ago ... so I'll stop slapping asses.”
Jensen is an executive producer on von Trier’s upcoming movie, ‘The House that Jack Built’. In 2016, he stepped down as CEO of Zentropa. Jensen remains with the company as a producer. He also has a seat on the board and, jointly with von Trier, holds a 25% stake in the company which he founded alongside von Trier.
'The House that Jack Built' is set to debut at Cannes Film Festival this year. It marks von Trier’s return to Cannes after more than six years.
The director was banned from the festival in 2011 after he jokingly claimed to be a Nazi at a press conference. He also claimed to sympathize with Hitler after finding out that he was not of Jewish origin as he originally thought.
Von Trier is no stranger to allegations of sexual misconduct himself.
In 2017, von Trier was accused of sexual harassment by Icelandic pop star Björk. She claimed that the director had harassed her on the set of his film ‘Dancer in the Dark’ which came out in 2000. The allegations have been denied by von Trier. His new movie has him working with Matt Dillon and Uma Thurman in a psychological horror-thriller. Thurman is among the women who have accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct.
Nine former Zentropa employees had spoken out about Jensen’s behaviour. Speaking to Danish paper Politiken, they alleged that the producer regularly degraded them. Jensen reportedly groped women and asked to put them over his knee and spank them. The Danish Working Environment Authority was forced to begin an investigation following the publication of the accusations. The investigation has now been closed as the authority feels that the company has taken the appropriate steps.
The inclusion of 'The House that Jack Built' has drawn criticism from feminist circles. The move was received by many as ignorant, especially in the wake of the '#MeToo' campaign.
Screenwriter and activist Kate Muir accused festival authorities of being tone-deaf and "willfully blind" to the debate about sexual harassment that has been gripping the movie industry since last year, according to the Daily Mail.
Both Jensen and von Trier have cultivated intentionally irreverent public images. They are particularly infamous for their complete disregard for political correctness and forthrightness with reporters.
When asked by Politiken whether any legal action has been taken by his alleged victims, Jensen confirmed that that was indeed the case.
Jensen and von Trier allegedly held "initiation ceremonies" where employees were forced to strip down and go skinny dipping, according to author Anne Mete Lundtofte. The author had spent a year in the studio while she was working on her book 'Zentropia'.
'When you've stripped naked in front of Aalbaek Jensen and von Trier, you are accepted into the circle of the initiated,' she wrote.
"I know that I'm guilty and that I have been guilty for about 25 years, with my fondness for butt-slapping," Jensen said. "And it was delightful until the second I was told to give it up."
Jensen also hinted that he may break the rules in future. He said that he was not one to stick to "boy scout rules" and that he broke company laws "about 30 times a day."