Following a torrent of criticism over his hiring, a filmmaker with a history of domestic violence charges stepped down on Friday from directing a new action movie, the latest example of an entertainment figure being called to account for past behavior.
The filmmaker, Matthew Newton, had been named last week as director of the movie “Eve,” which he also wrote, and which will star Jessica Chastain, a vocal supporter of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements against sexual misconduct and gender inequality in Hollywood. Ms. Chastain, whose company Freckle Films is one of the producers, was soon deluged with complaints on social media and in an online petition for her decision to work with Mr. Newton.
Twitter users, especially those from Australia, where he is from, directed attention to reports about Mr. Newton, who has a relatively low profile in the United States.
Three years later, the actress Rachael Taylor, then Mr. Newton’s fiancée, reported that he assaulted her at a hotel in Rome. Ms. Taylor also said she had experienced physical and verbal abuse at his hands, including a concussion, bruising and a sprained jaw, according to Australian news reports. Mr. Newtown was given a two-year apprehended domestic violence order (similar to a restraining order). He breached the order and had to seek treatment.
In 2011, Mr. Newton was charged in Sydney with punching a 66-year-old taxi driver in the head. A court dismissed the charges on the grounds that he had a mental illness, ordering him to comply with a treatment plan. In 2012, Mr. Newton was charged with punching a hotel clerk in Miami. He was ordered to complete 50 hours of community service and an anger management course. He has been living recently in New York.
Mr. Newton, 41, who has been outspoken about his struggles with bipolar disorder, announced his decision to step down from “Eve” in a statement:
“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 health care professionals to help me overcome my addiction and mental health illness,” the statement continued. “For the past six years 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.”
On Friday, the petition that had started as a result of the announcement was closed. A message was posted, “Great news! Matthew Newton has dropped out of the film because of public pressure, including this petition. Thank you for signing!”
Because Mr. Newton wrote the script of “Eve,” his resignation also raises questions about the fate of the movie.
Ms. Chastain and representatives from Voltage Pictures, the other production company on the film, did not respond to requests for comment on Friday.
Ms. Chastain’s involvement in Mr. Newton’s hiring was particularly jarring to many of the critics. The actress has spoken out in the past about increasing gender diversity in Hollywood, and has said she refused to work with Harvey Weinstein because of his reputation.
She also told Australia’s The Feed that she considered it essential to take into account histories of assault when deciding whom to work with.
“It’s very important to me that I practice what I preach, and that my actions follow my words,” she said.
Mr. Newton has a long list of acting and directing credits, primarily in Australia. His most recent film was last year’s “Who We Are Now,” starring Julianne Nicholson, Emma Roberts and Zachary Quinto.