What might seem weird to many was part of the world in­hab­ited by Har­vey

There have al­ways been cast­ing couches and tales of abuses in­volv­ing them

The Weekend Australian - - INQUIRER - CHRISSY ILEY Chrissy Iley is a Los An­ge­les-based English jour­nal­ist.

I met Har­vey We­in­stein many times — usu­ally at par­ties thrown by him when he was about to take home a few Os­cars and be thanked in Os­car speeches more times than God. Should I be of­fended or mys­ti­fied that he never asked me to give him a bj or said he’d like me to meet him up­stairs at his suite at the Penin­sula so that he could open the door in his white towel and sug­gest we get mas­sages?

Well, I am never one who likes to miss a party, but if that had hap­pened I might have said: “Har­vey, you are a fat pig. You are not at­trac­tive and even though I might like you to make one of my scripts into a movie, I’d like you to do that be­cause you thought the script was at­trac­tive, not be­cause you want to ex­pose your­self to me.”

There were 13 al­leged Har­vey We­in­stein vic­tims re­ferred to in Ro­nan Far­row’s story in The New Yorker, three of whom al­lege be­ing forced into sex acts. Far­row, son of Mia Far­row and Woody Allen, wrote: “Some­times it took months and months for them to go on the record … each of them talked about their own fears or what they be­lieved he might do to them. How they be­lieved peo­ple around them would re­act, how they be­lieved it would af­fect their ca­reers, and so that was a lot to process for ev­ery wo­man in this story.”

Th­ese were mostly women who had worked for We­in­stein and feared they would lose their jobs and rep­u­ta­tions and more.

There were, in the few days af­ter the story ap­peared, an­other eight women who al­leged sex­ual ha­rass­ment — and they re­ceived set­tle­ments of between $80,000 and $150,000. Gath­er­ing the pace of the most vi­cious tor­nado, more and more jumped on the hate trail.

At one time We­in­stein’s ta­ble was the one ev­ery­one wanted to be placed on but once he be­came tainted, they, or their pub­li­cists, felt dirty by as­so­ci­a­tion. They wanted to shower them­selves clean of dirty Har­vey. He went from king of the movie world to un­touch­able in days. The speed of this es­ca­la­tion is in­cred­i­ble.

Ash­ley Judd started the tidal wave. Twenty years ago she was film­ing with We­in­stein and he asked her up to his ho­tel suite for room ser­vice — she or­dered ce­real — then he asked her for a back rub and to watch him shower. She did re­port it at the time — peo­ple ig­nored her out of fear­ing to up­set a pow­er­ful man. Clearly some­thing wrong with that. Then came Rosanna Ar­quette, An­gelina Jolie and Gwyneth Pal­trow.

Pal­trow says she was 22 and work­ing as the star of We­in­stein’s Emma when he in­vited her up to his room for a mas­sage. She was so fright­ened she asked her then boyfriend, Brad Pitt, to sort out Har- vey. There is a step back for We­in­stein but a big­ger step back for wo­mankind. Who knows if she was scared stand­ing on podi­ums win­ning Os­cars with Har­vey?

One can show re­spect and em­pa­thy for Jolie, who feels she was sex­u­ally com­pro­mised many years ago. She warned ev­ery­body not to have any­thing to do with him and com­pletely dis­tanced her­self and never worked with him. That is the proper re­ac­tion.

Of course, I can see that if your boss is ha­rass­ing you, you might be afraid to lose your job; af­ter all, your other boss is your boss’s brother. But that turned out to be a wrong move be­cause brother Bob was plan­ning on a re­write of Cain and Abel. He tore his own brother down from the com­pany he’d made that had been so in­ter­na­tion­ally ap­plauded and awarded, deemed his brother un­fit and en­sconced him­self. Now the world’s great­est in­de­pen­dent film com­pany is run by a chump. Oh, yes, Bob, I have met you, too.

Ev­ery­body knew Har­vey We­in­stein had what turned out to be a fa­tal flaw. Ev­ery­body knew he liked to chase women. Seth MacFar­lane, at the 2013 Os­cars, joked as he read out the nom­i­na­tions for the best sup­port­ing ac­tress: “And th­ese are the women that no longer have to pre­tend to be at­tracted to Har­vey We­in­stein in or­der to win awards …”

My point is, peo­ple knew it was hap­pen­ing for as long as there have been cast­ing couches in Hol­ly­wood. And those couches were tacit ap­proval to sex­ual preda­tors. It was an un­spo­ken deal — the film in­dus­try treats women with con­tempt. We­in­stein is not the cause of this, merely the ef­fect. Was it dis­gust­ing? Yes. But no­body spoke out, so he is right when he says he was born into a dif­fer­ent cul­ture. It was a cul­ture where pow­er­ful men made deals in­volv­ing body parts of women who wanted to be fa­mous or seen as tal­ented or re­spected, weirdly.

Think Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe. Where would she be with­out the favour of the cast­ing couch? Alive to a very old age? She wouldn’t have had to die be­cause she wouldn’t have felt used by men. But that is an­other story. Although there is a ten­u­ous link … one of her al­leged abusers, John F. Kennedy, is con­sid­ered one of the great­est Amer­i­can pres­i­dents. He was also a wom­an­iser. Did that make him do a bad job at the pres­i­dency? Bill Clin­ton, too, was a lover of the bj, but a bril­liant econ­o­mist and looked af­ter Amer­ica’s bud­get bet­ter than any of his suc­ces­sors. So while ev­ery­one is busy tear­ing down the mogul, I just want to point out he did not make his great achieve­ments be­cause of or de­spite his hor­ri­ble be­hav­iour.

Of course, I don’t — and no one can — con­done what he has done, but is he pay­ing the price for an en­tire in­dus­try’s wrong­do­ing?

Th­ese are some in­ter­est­ing things about Har­vey: he is fan­tas­ti­cally well read. He’d read all of Dos­to­evsky by the time he was 12 be­cause it was feared he would go blind so he wanted to read ev­ery­thing be­fore he lost his sight. He was ex­tremely driven; he made movies for which he had pas­sion and mar­keted them as if he were con­duct­ing a phil­har­monic orches­tra in an opera house. He be­lieved in peo­ple when no one else did and while he was con­fi­dent of his abil­i­ties, he had a very low self-im­age. With­out his con­tri­bu­tion to the film in­dus­try there would be more movies in­volv­ing other gal­ax­ies — ro­bots — car chases and all-male casts. Only 17-year-old males would watch them. There would have been no Shake­speare in Love, no The English Pa­tient, no Pulp Fic­tion, The King’s Speech, Find­ing Nev­er­land or Sil­ver Lin­ings Play­book.

He green-lit all of th­ese — and now BAFTA has sus­pended his mem­ber­ship, the Cannes film fes­ti­val has de­nounced him and some Bri­tish politi­cians are urg­ing the strip­ping of the CBE awarded to him by the Queen in 2004.

It seems ridicu­lous — you can’t un­make th­ese clever movies that were also great box of­fice. He was known as Har­vey Scis­sorhands not be­cause of the way he touched peo­ple but by the way he touched movies. He cut them up, cut them down, fall­ing out with di­rec­tors who felt they were scalp­ing their own ba­bies, but in­vari­ably he made the movies bet­ter, more ac­ces­si­ble, more uni­ver­sally loved.

This pub­lic hor­ror show will not stop the film in­dus­try from ob­jec­ti­fy­ing women. Ask­ing for body dou­bles with big­ger breasts and tighter bot­toms for nude scenes and us­ing lead­ing men over 50 with fe­male love in­ter­ests 30 years younger is dis­gust­ing. The cul­ture that in­flu­enced We­in­stein is wrong. Yet in this cul­ture We­in­stein romped around for more than three decades. No one said any­thing — un­til ev­ery­one did. Weird.

When I last met Har­vey at the Os­car party for Lion, I wanted to ask him some­thing. I wanted to say: “I have writ­ten this bril­liant script, I’d love you to be in­volved.” I didn’t say it be­cause it was in­ap­pro­pri­ate at a party. If I met him now — un­likely be­cause I am told he’ll be forced into some kind of ex­treme rehab for be­ing Har­vey — I would still say: “I would love you to be in­volved.”

To­day I was at a funeral for Aus­tralian ac­tor-writer-opera critic Charles Os­borne. Barry Humphries gave the trib­ute. Even he joked about We­in­stein in a eu­logy. This is how far and how fast it has spread. Yes­ter­day we were ap­palled. To­day it’s a joke.

Af­ter­wards, the talk was not only about Os­borne but about We­in­stein. It has reached that kind of cir­cuit: funeral chat.

Peo­ple said com­plic­ity was the devil and the si­lence only en­cour­aged this be­hav­iour, not just Har­vey’s but any man of power in an in­dus­try that could so eas­ily dis­re­spect women. Peo­ple said that now We­in­stein was be­ing hu­mil­i­ated and so uni­ver­sally pun­ished, this would make other abusers think twice and it could change the way pow­er­ful men ma­nip­u­late the weaker sex. Re­ally? Are we the weaker sex? Will it change any­thing? The buck stops with such men. But I be­lieve it also stops with the women. Let’s be more Jolie and less Pal­trow.

AP

Ash­ley Judd, early ac­cuser

AP

An­gelina Jolie alerted oth­ers

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