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
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.
Ashley Judd, early accuser
Angelina Jolie alerted others