Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast / Photo Vera Anderson / Getty
A few years ago, Gracie Cox moved back to her hometown of Charleston, South Carolina. She’d spent 17 years in New York City, working her way up the ladder as a costume designer on films and television shows. You’ve probably seen her work—Gossip Girl, Orange Is the New Black, The Good Wife, Girls. Cox had grown weary of the incredible demands Hollywood places on its below-the-line crew members. So now, in lieu of dressing A-list stars in fabulous frocks, her days are filled with children.
“I work as a therapist treating children’s mental health,” she says. “All of my clients are from under-resourced communities of color, so the work is very different. A lot of my clients are trauma survivors, so I feel my own experience has helped me inform the work I’m doing now. And I’m happy to be doing it.”
That experience still haunts Cox. This is not the first time she’s shared it. Cox has told her story for years. She’s confided in friends, colleagues, her therapist. In late 2017, just after the Harvey Weinstein story broke, she spoke to reporters for BuzzFeed. She even tried hiring Gloria Allred, the famed women’s rights attorney. But thus far, what she says happened to her that night has not been made public. One reason is that the man who she says attacked her—Kevin Connolly, of Entourage fame—“may not seem like the most powerful guy but his reach is very far, and the people he knows have a lot of power.” (Connolly contends that it was a “consensual encounter.”)
Cox didn’t originally intend on entering the world of entertainment. After studying fashion and textile design at FIT, she was working at a tiny shop in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, sewing together handbags, when she befriended a costume designer who generously offered to let her intern on a film she was dressing. That was in 2002.
She soon caught the eye of Amy Westcott, a rising East Coast costume designer responsible for Noah Baumbach’s The Squid and the Whale.
“In early 2005, I started to work on this film that was directed by Kevin Connolly. The designer, Amy Westcott, had already worked with him on Entourage. I was the assistant costume designer on this film, called The Gardener of Eden,” Cox says. “I’d been in the industry for a few years at this point—so not a very long time.”
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The indie, Connolly’s feature directorial debut, centers on a twentysomething slacker (Lukas Haas) in New Jersey who, after accidentally catching a serial rapist in the act, transforms into a crime-fighting vigilante. The Gardener of Eden was a family affair of sorts for Connolly, given that it starred his longtime pal Haas and was produced by his best friend, Leonardo DiCaprio, through his production company Appian Way.
Things soon became awkward between Cox and Connolly, who she says appeared to take an interest in her.
“I was around the set every day. Kevin was friendly and mildly flirtatious but I just laughed it off and didn’t take it too seriously,” says Cox. “I wasn’t interested but he was the director, so I was cordial. There was nothing that made me fearful though, it just made me a little uncomfortable, because he was my boss. So not acknowledging the smiles or comments didn’t feel like an option.”
She says Connolly would do small things, like take pauses from filming to publicly acknowledge her on set, or make complimentary comments in passing. It felt odd being singled out in such a manner, she explains, since she was a mere assistant costume designer—and one of two, no less.
“I was pretty surprised by all of it. He was dating Nicky Hilton and I’m this sort of shy woman who wears vintage clothes,” she offers. “I don’t know.”
The Daily Beast spoke with four of Cox’s friends for this story, two of whom remember her complaining to them at the time about Connolly’s on-set behavior.
“She had previously told me that he had been flirting with her a bit at work and it made her uncomfortable, because he often did it when people weren’t around, and then other times would act like he didn’t know who she was,” remembers Kristen Gallagher, a longtime friend of Cox’s who works as a creative writing professor at LaGuardia Community College. (Connolly claims the flirtation was “mutual.”)
The wrap party for The Gardener of Eden was held at the downtown Manhattan lounge Butter in December of 2005 (it’s since been shuttered).
“My department had gone out to dinner prior to the party, compliments of (Westcott). We were at the party and I don’t think I’d been there for more than an hour or so when Kevin (Connolly) approached me and asked if I’d go with him for a smoke,” recalls Cox, who was 29 at the time. (Connolly alleges he “was not smoking during this time period.”)