Matthew Newton’s troubled and violent past has come back to haunt him, forcing his departure from a movie project he wrote and planned to direct after a massive social media campaign demanded that star Jessica Chastain refuse to work with him.
On Friday, the 41-year-old Australian bowed to the pressure and announced he would no play no further part in the action drama Eve.
His withdrawal came hot on the heels of an online petition gathering almost 8000 signatures in just a few days, plus a deluge of tweets accusing Ms Chastain, a founder of the #MeToo movement, of gross hypocrisy.
In a statement, a repentant Mr Newton conceded his history of assaults on partners and others was a burden on the film project, and that criticism of his involvement “had not fallen on deaf ears”.
“Yesterday I notified Jessica Chastain and the other producers on the film Eve that I will be stepping down as director.
“Since the announcement of this film, the responses, which are powerful and important, have not fallen on deaf ears.
“Over the past eight years I have been working extensively with healthcare professionals to help me overcome my addiction and mental health illness.
“I have lived a quiet and sober life. All I can do now is try to be a living amends and hopefully contribute to the positive change occurring in our industry.”
His exit from the project had critics cheering.
“Great news! Matthew Newton has dropped out of the film because of public pressure, including this petition. Thank you for signing!” the organisers announced on the site.
Neither Ms Chastain nor her production company, Freckle Films, has commented on the controversy, nor has there been any word if the film will go ahead with a replacement director calling the shots.
As Mr Newton also conceived the idea and wrote the script, the backlash that forced him out could also see the finished movie treated as box-office leprosy, the target of further social media protests and boycotts.
Ms Chastain’s place as one of the two key players at the centre of the social media storm might also see her walk away rather than endure more criticism.
A prominent campaigner against sexual harassment in Tinseltown, she had refused to work with disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, now facing trial for rape in New York.
Mr Newton pleaded guilty in 2007 to assaulting then-girlfriend and Neighbours star Brooke Satchwell, but the conviction was overturned when a judge ruled the offence was mitigated by the actor’s severe depression.
In 2010, his then-fiancée, Logie winner and Transformers star Rachael Taylor, revealed a harrowing relationship punctuated by verbal and physical abuse that reached a violent climax in a Rome hotel.
Less than a year later he was accused of punching a sexagenarian Sydney taxi driver and, soon after that, socking a front-desk hotel clerk in Miami.
The son of Australian showbiz royalty Bert and Patti Newton, he now makes his home in Manhattan, where he has been romantically linked to Big Apple socialite Catherine Schneiderman.