This is the week that will be remembered as the one when Hollywood took sides. Or, more accurately, was forced to take sides.
It will also be the week when every single man in Hollywood—the word used in this case not for geographical purposes but as a sweeping term encompassing everything that goes into the making of movies and television shows—found out that simply not being Harvey Weinstein wasn’t enough.
The curtain has been pulled back on the real behind-the-scenes drama that has been playing out, not just since brothers Bob and Harvey Weinstein started Miramax almost 40 years ago, but since forever. Ever since the inception of the motion-picture business, to be sure, if not since the age when it was decided that one side got the pants, while the other had to settle for skirts.
Behind that curtain was, not just the alleged lead in this particular act of the ongoing tragedy, but a host of supporting characters, scrambling to save face as the spotlight beamed right into their eyes.
In the five days since the New York Times reported on allegations of sexual harassment against Harvey Weinstein that went back decades, The New Yorker has published the result of Ronan Farrow‘s 10-month investigation into 20 years’ worth of allegations against the entertainment mogul, who until the board fired him on Sunday was co-chairman of The Weinstein Company, distributor of Best Picture Oscar winner The King’s Speech, Silver Linings Playbook, Lion, Inglourious Basterds, TV’s Project Runway and so much more.
Suffice it to say, Farrow’s finished product is chilling.
Farrow’s article includes three allegations of rape against Weinstein, made by Asia Argento, onetime aspiring actress Lucia Evans (née Stoller) and another woman who chose to remain anonymous because, as she told Farrow, Harvey “drags your name through the mud.” Four women also told Farrow that Weinstein had exposed himself or masturbated in front of them, echoing the story TV journalist Lauren Sivan told the Huffington Post last week after the Times story came out.
Weinstein, who last Thursday via his lawyer pledged to sue the New York Times for $50 million (with all damages going to women’s organizations) over their story, which he maintained was “saturated with false and defamatory statements,” has vehemently denied “any allegations of non-consensual sex” found in the New Yorker article.
“Mr. Weinstein has further confirmed that there were never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances,” the statement released Tuesday continued. “Mr. Weinstein obviously can’t speak to anonymous allegations, but with respect to any women who have made allegations on the record, Mr. Weinstein believes that all of these relationships were consensual. Mr. Weinstein has begun counseling, has listened to the community and is pursuing a better path. Mr. Weinstein is hoping that, if he makes enough progress, he will be given a second chance.”
That last sentence—which can’t help but make you cringe and simultaneously feel a little sad for the lack of awareness it conveys—wouldn’t have sounded like such a pipe dream in another era, an era that isn’t that far behind us.
Hollywood is full of second and third acts, and people who’ve done despicable things that would’ve torpedoed any relationship other than the one that talent has with studios and financiers, or the one between entertainers and their fans. Despite its cutthroat reputation, Hollywood is a town of, if not always forgiveness, then plenty of blind eyes, blind spots and—when convenient—the conviction that everyone is innocent until proven guilty.
Ronan Farrow certainly knows that. He has firmly sided with his sister, Dylan Farrow, when it comes to her insistence that their father, Woody Allen, molested her when she was a child, in the 1990s. Allen, a four-time Oscar winner (including in 2012 for writing Midnight in Paris) has never been charged with a crime and he has denied Dylan’s claims on multiple occasions, including in a rebuttal op-ed printed by the New York Times that followed one written by Dylan. The decades-old allegations were briefly front-page news again right in the thick of the 2013-14 award season, when Cate Blanchett was a shoo-in for the Best Actress Oscar for Allen’s Blue Jasmine and he was also honored at the 2014 Golden Globes with the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement. (He wasn’t there, but he’s never there and has never accepted any of his Oscars in person.)
Kate Winsletamong the flood of women (which started with McGowan and Lena Dunham on Twitter and now includes Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, Judi Dench, Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Lawrence and more) who condemned Weinstein’s alleged behavior in the wake of the New York Times story—stars in Allen’s next film, Wonder Wheel, along with Justin Timberlake and Juno Temple.
Going back two more decades, Ronan and Dylan’s mother, actress-activist Mia Farrow(who tweeted today how proud she was of her son’s work), famously starred in the 1968 horror classic Rosemary’s Baby, directed by Roman Polanskiback when the Polish-born filmmaker was just starting to make a name for himself in the U.S., before his wife Sharon Tate was murdered by the Manson family…just, before.
Mia was supposed to star in another of his movies 10 years later, but the 44-year-old Polanski was fired (due to logistical issues, not a moral quandary) by producer Dino de Laurentiis in the wake of the pending prosecution against him for having sex with a 13-year-old girl.
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Polanski fled the U.S. for Europe after learning that the judge might not abide by the agreed-upon sentence of probation and time served and sentence him to more prison time. He has never been back. Regardless of how inappropriately the criminal justice system may have behaved—the particulars are laid out in the documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired—and despite his now-grown victim being a longtime proponent of freeing Polanski from legal purgatory, the sexual act (which he never hesitated in admitting to) that triggered the firestorm was appalling.
She was 13, he was 44. Nothing is ameliorated by it having happened in 1977, and it would have been just as disgusting, for that matter, in 1877, or 77 A.D.
Meanwhile, Polanski went on to marry and have two children, as well as enjoy a fruitful career that peaked in 2003 with his Oscar win for Best Director for the unequivocally well-done Holocaust drama The Pianist, for which Adrien Brody pulled off a truly surprising Best Actor Oscar win as well. His most well-received movie since then was 2010’s The Ghost Writer, starring Pierce Brosnan and Ewan McGregor. Harvey Weinstein penned an op-ed for Britain’s Independent in 2009, when Polanski was briefly jailed in Switzerland, arguing that it was time for the filmmaker to be set free, whatever you thought of his “so-called crime.”
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But speaking of the 1970s, that’s one of the decades to which Weinstein attributed the example for his admittedly “bad behavior.”
“I came of age in the ’60s and ’70s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different. That was the culture then,” began his statement in response to the Times piece last week.
Last Week Tonight host John Oliversaid it best Sunday, as almost the first of the variety show hosts to comment (that’s due more to when jokes are written and when the shows are taped than lack of concern, though Trevor Noahdid manage to acknowledge the news on last Thursday’s Daily Show in a joke that must have been thought up as the Times story was breaking, when he cracked that, when Cam Newton‘s “joke” about women and sports was met with radio silence, the football player tried to distract reporters by saying “look, Harvey Weinstein!”). Anyway, Oliver astutely observed that Weinstein’s excuse was no excuse at all.
And that couldn’t be more true. “That was the culture then” is a weak excuse that has been used to explain away far too many patterns of despicable behavior, mistreating women in the work place being just one.
Yet it also was in many cases “the culture” (and one that predated the 1960s). In Feud: Betty and Joan, set circa 1961, Stanley Tucci‘s almighty studio head Jack Warner oozed with lackadaisically feigned respect for Susan Sarandon‘s Bette Davis and Jessica Lange‘s Joan Crawford, only to cut them down and revert to treating them as past-their-prime nuisances when he was back in all-male company. Series creator Ryan Murphy wasn’t laying it on thick for dramatic purposes—that’s how things were, when men made almost all of the decisions and women, even when they were in their so-called prime, for the most part went along so as not to risk their own careers.
And not all men were like Jack Warner, just as hopefully far less men are like Harvey Weinstein now. Yet just like in politics (and Hollywood certainly has its own political hierarchy), only a relative few hold the true power, and other men weren’t any more likely to put their own futures in jeopardy to speak out against what they knew to be wrong.
Meanwhile, barely three hours after Farrow’s New Yorker story set the Internet ablaze anew, the New York Times published a new story in which Gwyneth Paltrowand Angelina Jolie, two of the biggest stars in the world, allege that Weinstein harassed them as well.
Paltrow, who would go on to win the Best Actress Oscar in 1999 for the Miramax-produced Shakespeare in Love and be dubbed “first lady of Miramax,” told the Times that the alleged harassment occurred when she was 22. She claimed that upon meeting Harvey in his hotel room for a scheduled meeting, he tried to massage her and asked her into the bedroom. She immediately left, she said, after which she told then-boyfriend Brad Pitt what happened, and he approached Weinstein at a theater premiere.
A source confirms the account of Pitt’s involvement to E! News, telling us the actor “strongly confronted Harvey and told him repeatedly that it had better never happen again.”
“I was expected to keep the secret,” Paltrow told the Times, her reference to the “secret” echoing what Ashley Judd told the paper about women “talking about Harvey amongst ourselves for a long time.” Judd also claimed to the Times in last week’s story to have been harassed by Weinstein about 20 years ago, when her career was starting to heat up. She said she also appeared in two Weinstein films without incident some years later.
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Jolie, who began a relationship with Pitt in 2005 and married him in 2014 (she filed for divorce last year), wrote in an email to the Times, “I had a bad experience with Harvey Weinstein in my youth, and as a result, chose never to work with him again and warn others when they did. This behavior towards women in any field, any country is unacceptable.”
Pitt later starred in Quentin Tarantino‘s Inglourious Basterds, which was distributed by the Weinstein Company in 2009. (Tarantino and Weinstein’s working relationship dates back to 1992’s Reservoir Dogs and has carried on through 2015’s The Hateful Eight).
By mentioning the actors and actresses who have been in Allen’s or Polanski’s films post-allegations, or who appeared in a Miramax or Weinstein Company production in general, even after allegedly becoming a victim or otherwise hearing about Harvey Weinstein’s unacceptable behavior, this is not to say they’re bad people, or necessarily complicit, or even hypocritical. Allen has denied what he’s accused of. Hollywood sure seems to have forgiven Polanski for doing what he did.
Rather, to mention the many, many names is to point out that murky, if not always obviously toxic, waters run deep, and they crisscross every which way underneath the entertainment industry—a creaky, leaky barge that’s apparently been staying afloat by the grace of those willing to keep certain behavior under wraps, so long as it doesn’t get too out of hand.
Well, consider it out of hand. So far, there has been more support for Bill Cosbywho was rumored for years to have been a serial assaulter of women before more than 50 accusers came forward and he faced criminal charges for one alleged encounter in 2004, but who was known to the wider public as a congenial comedian and America’s beloved TV dad—than there has been for Weinstein. No one, seemingly, would dare. (Donna Karan and her own time-warped view of female propriety doesn’t count.)
Should it be considered progress that no one of prominence, other than Weinstein, has claimed that these women are liars?
At the same time, an unnamed filmmaker who had worked with Weinstein, told Vulture last week, “They may say, ‘F–k you, Harvey’ for a while. But even if the board votes him out, he’ll be back. He’s a carnival barker. Don’t look to Hollywood to be so morally righteous. I think for the same reason Mel Gibson is starring in Daddy’s Home 2—after they have him on tape with his ex-wife saying, ‘I hope you get raped by a pack of n-words’ and all the other anti-Semitic crap he’s on record as saying—they’re just going to keep doing what they’re doing. In Hollywood, there’s no morality. No one cares, no one remembers.”
The filmmaker forgot to mention the six Oscar nominations (and two wins) Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge had this year.
Meanwhile, sexual assault allegations aside, it was no secret at all that Harvey Weinstein could also be a bombastic bully. There are a number of eyewitness, on-the-record accounts of him screaming at people in public and being verbally abusive or physically aggressive. According to Vanity Fair and New York magazine, he dragged a New York Observer reporter out of a party and put him in a headlock after yelling that he was the “f–king sheriff of this f–king lawless piece-of-s–t town.” He supposedly once screamed at Democratic Party chairman (now the governor of Virginia) Terry McAuliffe that he would “rip [his] balls off” (Weinstein denied that to Vanity Fair in 2011).
And yet these were the acceptable stories. The stuff written up about Weinstein over the years that apparently just served to contribute to the overall perception of the Hollywood power player as a complex guy, both bully and benefactor. It was passable for him to degrade and humiliate. Being a jerk isn’t a crime, after all.
But now, multiple women are now claiming that he did much worse, and that “everybody knew” about it.
So that’s the part where this gets incredibly convoluted, as the cavalcade of A-listers who worked with Weinstein come forward to denounce his behavior and insist that they most certainly did not know. Meryl Streep says she didn’t know. Same with George Clooney, whose statement condemning his longtime acquaintance’s alleged actions as “indefensible” rang out last night like an address from a revered head of state. Ben Affleckspoke out on Facebook this morning, shortly after Farrow’s story was published, saying he was “saddened and angry” and is asking himself “what I can do to make sure this doesn’t happen to others.” More women in positions of power is one important step, he added.
Winslet admits that she heard rumors and had hoped against hope they were made up, but “maybe we have all been naïve.” Jessica Chastain tweeted that she was “warned from the beginning. The stories were everywhere.” But, she did eventually appear in a Weinstein film despite her protestations, “because the director wanted him.”
That’s exactly why this story resembles a maze with no way out. Harvey Weinstein made careers and fulfilled dreams, donated to politicians and social causes favored by his fellow Hollywood types, and put out some damn fine movies along the way. It would have been a lot easier to steer clear of him if he had been 100-percent scumbag, with no redeeming qualities and bad taste in films. The list of stars speaking out is impressive, but there are so many more to go.
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The words “even Matt Damon” were probably uttered by more than a few people this week upon reading journalist Sharon Waxman’s account in The Wrap about having a portion of the New York Times‘ story confirmed a decade ago when she worked for the paper. She claims that she put the piece together, only to have Weinstein employ a full-court press—including having Damon and Russell Crowecall her personally—to quash the story. (Waxman questioned Damon about a Miramax exec based in Italy, Fabrizio Lombardo, who seemingly had no job other than to “take care of Weinstein’s women needs”; a neutered story about Lombardo was relegated to an inside page, she recalled).
Damon told Deadline today that he remembers a “one-minute phone call” that he was asked to make on behalf of the exec, whom he knew at the time from working on The Talented Mr. Ripley to be an OK guy.
“I’m sure I mentioned to her that I didn’t know anything about the rest of her piece, because I didn’t,” Damon said. “And I still don’t know anything about that and Fabrizio. My experience with him was all above board and that’s what I told her.” (He insists Waxman didn’t tell him what the gist of her story was; she confirmed his account of the call. Crowe has yet to respond to requests for comment, and Damon assumes his fellow star had “a similar kind of conversation with her.”)
In response to fellow actors like Chastain calling him out by name online for his purported complicity in Weinstein’s alleged behavior, he said, “Look, even before I was famous, I didn’t abide this kind of behavior. But now, as the father of four daughters, this is the kind of sexual predation that keeps me up at night. This is the great fear for all of us…We know this stuff goes on in the world. I did five or six movies with Harvey [including the career-making Good Will Hunting]. I never saw this. I think a lot of actors have come out and said, everybody’s saying we all knew. That’s not true.”
If he had ever witnessed the kind of behavior the women are alleging, “I would have stopped it,” Damon said. “And I will peel my eyes back now, farther than I ever have, to look for this type of behavior. Because we know that it happens.”
With reporters and insiders alike predicting that this is only the tip of the iceberg, it would seem that Hollywood is about to experience a seismic shift in its power structure (in “the culture,” if you will), as more women come forward and more titans of the industry face a reckoning. Or we could be about to witness the biggest broom sweep the biggest pile of disappointing, stomach-churning revelations under the biggest rug you’ve ever seen. Or, more likely, it’ll be somewhere in between, with this story having major legs while the progress remains the slow slog it’s always been.
But at least no one can ever say again that they didn’t know.