The abuse al­le­ga­tions against Har­vey We­in­stein have be­come an avalanche, writes Sarah Blake

The West Australian - - INSIDE COVER -

Of all the stom­ach-turn­ing dis­clo­sures about Hol­ly­wood heavy­weight Har­vey We­in­stein’s preda­tory be­hav­iour, none can ri­val for sheer im­pact the 113 sec­onds of au­dio cap­tured between an as­pir­ing Ital­ian ac­tor and the movie mogul out­side his Man­hat­tan ho­tel room two years ago.

Ital­ian model Am­bra Bat­ti­lana Gu­tier­rez, 22, is try­ing to avoid walk­ing into a room she seems quite ter­ri­fied of en­ter­ing. At the door, We­in­stein, a heavy-set, 2m tall, 63-year-old, is al­ter­nately in­sis­tent, plead­ing, des­per­ate, frus­trated and an­gry.

Gu­tier­rez — who is wear­ing a wire af­ter com­plain­ing to New York po­lice the day be­fore that We­in­stein put his hand up her skirt at his Tribeca of­fice — asks why he groped her breasts.

“Oh, please, I’m sorry, just come on in,” he says on the tape, ob­tained by The New Yorker. “I’m used to that. Come on. Please.”

Gu­tier­rez is in­cred­u­lous: “You’re used to that?”

“Yes. I won’t do it again,” says We­in­stein, be­fore warn­ing her not to “em­bar­rass” him and “cause a scene” at the ho­tel.

We­in­stein, one of Hol­ly­wood’s most pow­er­ful fig­ures with a rep­u­ta­tion for bul­ly­ing and whom Meryl Streep de­scribed as “God” on­stage in her Os­car’s ac­cep­tance speech three years be­fore, turns threat­en­ing.

“Don’t ruin your friend­ship with me for five min­utes.”

When A-lis­ters An­gelina Jolie and Gwyneth Pal­trow re­vealed this week to The New Yorker, which ran a dev­as­tat­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion by Woody Allen’s es­tranged re­porter son, Ro­nan Far­row, that they had also been sub­ject to We­in­stein’s un­wanted at­ten­tions, the movie mogul’s fall be­came in­evitable.

The pro­ducer of hun­dreds of films, in­clud­ing Pulp Fic­tion, Good Will Hunt­ing and Shake­speare in Love, had been try­ing for days to blus­ter through the fall­out from a New York Times re­port, which said he had been pay­ing off his fe­male ac­cusers for decades, re­veal­ing de­tails of set­tle­ments with eight women.

As Ash­ley Judd, the first ac­tress to ac­cuse We­in­stein pub­licly in the Times piece, put it: “Women have been talk­ing about Har­vey amongst our­selves for a long time, and it’s sim­ply beyond time to have the con­ver­sa­tion pub­licly.”

We­in­stein’s ini­tial mea culpa in­cluded an al­lu­sion to how he “came of age in the ’60s and ’70s, when all the rules about be­hav­iour and work­places were dif­fer­ent”.

He then tried a ham-fisted de­flec­tion, say­ing he was seek­ing coun­selling and tak­ing a break from Hol­ly­wood. “I’m mak­ing a movie about our Pres­i­dent, per­haps we can make it a joint retirement party,” he said.

While ac­knowl­edg­ing that he had “caused a lot of pain”, he also al­luded to Judd’s “trou­bles” (the ac­tor has writ­ten of be­ing sex­u­ally abused in the past), in an echo of how he had smeared his other ac­cusers.

With a taste for re­venge, an army of lawyers, wide-rang­ing me­dia con­tacts and sheer de­ter­mi­na­tion, We­in­stein had ap­par­ently for decades been able to out-mus­cle any­one who threat­ened to ex­pose him.

In­deed, Gu­tier­rez ended up settling her 2015 case against We­in­stein af­ter be­ing dragged through the gos­sip pages, with rev­e­la­tions she had pre­vi­ously ac­cused an Ital­ian busi­ness­man of as­sault and at­tended one of for­mer Ital­ian prime min­is­ter Sil­vio Ber­lus­coni’s no­to­ri­ous, sex-fu­elled “bunga bunga” par­ties.

But any hope We­in­stein would skate was dashed with the rev­e­la­tions from Pal­trow and Jolie. At least 30 women have now ac­cused We­in­stein of prey­ing on them, and the fallen mogul has joined the ig­no­min­ious ranks of Bill Cosby, an­other huge en­ter­tain­ment name whose past caught up with him.

Three ac­tors say We­in­stein raped them and he has been wholly cast aside.

Fired from the com­pany he helped found with his brother, pub­licly dumped by his fash­ion de­signer wife, and mother of his two young chil­dren, Ge­orgina Chap­man, We­in­stein was last pub­licly seen flip­ping pho­tog­ra­phers the bird as he boarded a pri­vate jet to Ari­zona’s celebrity rehab cen­tre, the Mead­ows.

So­cial me­dia has played a piv­otal role in We­in­stein’s un­rav­el­ling, with many of his ac­cusers find­ing sup­port and gal­vanis­ing courage on plat­forms such as Twit­ter, In­sta­gram and Face­book.

The new in­ter­sected quite neatly with the old when vet­eran ac­tor Rose Marie, who played Sally Rogers on the Dick Van Dyke show through­out the 1960s, took to Twit­ter this week to of­fer her view.

“Any­one want to hear my thoughts on this Har­vey We­in­stein busi­ness,” she asked her 124,000 fol­low­ers.

“I’ve worked since I was 3, I’m 94. W/We­in­stein, fi­nally women are speak­ing up to power. I have suf­fered my whole life for that. Don’t stop,” she wrote.

Marie went on to say of an up­com­ing biopic about her, Wait For Your Laugh, “it cov­ers my mu­sic be­ing cut from Top Banana film be­cause I wouldn’t sleep w/ pro­ducer in 1950s”.

The term cast­ing couch has been around so long it al­most seems quaint.

It tells of a young per­former — al­most al­ways a wo­man — who sex­u­ally “au­di­tions” for a role, al­most al­ways with a pow­er­ful older man.

Joan Collins wrote that she missed out on the ti­tle role in 1963’s Cleopa­tra, which went to El­iz­a­beth Tay­lor, be­cause she wouldn’t sleep with the boss of the stu­dio.

“I had tested for Cleopa­tra twice and was the fron­trun­ner. He took me into his of­fice and said, ‘You re­ally want this part?’ And I said, ‘Yes. I re­ally do.’ ‘Well,’ he said, ‘then all you have to do is be nice to me.’ It was a won­der­ful eu­phemism in the six­ties for you know what,” she said.

“But I couldn’t do that. In fact, I was rather wimp­ish, burst into tears and rushed out of his of­fice.”

The most fa­mous sex sym­bol of all, Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe, talked scathingly in her mem­oir, My Story, about her en­coun­ters with lech­er­ous film­mak­ers and stu­dio chiefs, say­ing they

Three ac­tors say We­in­stein raped them.

treated Hol­ly­wood as “an over­crowded brothel”.

“I met them all. Phoni­ness and fail­ure were all over them. Some were vi­cious and crooked. But they were as near to the movies as you could get,” she wrote.

“So you sat with them, lis­ten­ing to their lies and schemes. And you saw Hol­ly­wood with their eyes — an over­crowded brothel, a merry-go-round with beds for horses.”

One of child star Judy Gar­land’s bi­og­ra­phers said she was just 16 when she was propo­si­tioned for sex by some of Hol­ly­wood’s most pow­er­ful men.

The worst of­fender was MGM chief Louis B. Mayer, ac­cord­ing to au­thor Gerald Clarke.

“Mayer would tell her what a won­der­ful singer she was and he would say ‘you sing from the heart’, and then he would place his hand on her left breast,” Clarke wrote.

The in­fa­mous case of film­maker Ro­man Polan­ski, who pleaded guilty to un­law­ful sex­ual in­ter­course with then-13-year-old as­pir­ing ac­tor Sa­man­tha Geimer has still not full been re­solved.

Polan­ski, who is still a cel­e­brated film­maker, plied Geimer with cham­pagne and Quaaludes dur­ing a 1977 Los An­ge­les photo shoot. “I didn’t want to have sex,” Geimer wrote in her mem­oir. “But ap­par­ently that is what was go­ing to hap­pen.”

Polan­ski fled the United States be­fore sen­tenc­ing and is still wanted by ju­di­cial au­thor­i­ties. He has since faced more rape al­le­ga­tions.

Some ar­gue ha­rass­ment of women is en­demic in films be­cause so much of the in­dus­try is based on the fact that sex sells.

“Sex­ual ha­rass­ment in Hol­ly­wood has a his­tory as long as that of the in­dus­try it­self,” says Pro­fes­sor Kath­leen Fee­ley, from Cal­i­for­nia’s Univer­sity of Redlands. “The in­dus­try was built, in part, on fe­male ha­rass­ment be­hind the scenes, fe­male ob­jec­ti­fi­ca­tion in front of the cam­eras, with the use of celebrity gos­sip to both tit­il­late and fore­warn about the so-called cast­ing couch.”

We­in­stein’s un­mask­ing has caused shock waves around the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try, but any last­ing change will be hard-fought.

“The Har­vey We­in­stein scan­dal marks a sharp break with the past in its exposure and high-pro­file cen­sure of an ac­tive (if flag­ging) film in­dus­try mogul,” Pro­fes­sor Fee­ley said.

“But the exposure and pun­ish­ment of Har­vey We­in­stein, like that of (for­mer Fox fig­ures) Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly, won’t ef­fect last­ing change un­less it helps to di­ver­sify the in­dus­try power struc­ture, work­places and nar­ra­tives.”

Many of the high-pro­file de­trac­tors who have piled into We­in­stein in the past week have claimed ig­no­rance of his ac­tions.

A de­tailed re­sponse to the Daily Beast by Ge­orge Clooney of­fers in­sight into why so many women are re­luc­tant to com­plain about ha­rass­ment from prom­i­nent men.

“I’ve heard ru­mours, and the ru­mours in gen­eral started back in the ’90s, and they were that cer­tain ac­tresses had slept with Har­vey to get a role,” Clooney said.

“It seemed like a way to smear the ac­tresses and de­mean them by say­ing that they didn’t get the jobs based on their tal­ent, so I took those ru­mours with a grain of salt.”

Clooney, who cred­its We­in­stein with giv­ing him his “first ma­jor big-screen role”, said the pro­ducer’s ac­tions were “in­de­fen­si­ble”.

“The other part of this, the part we’re hear­ing now about eight women be­ing paid off, I didn’t hear any­thing about that and I don’t know any­one that did. That’s a whole other level and there’s no way you can rec­on­cile that,” he said.

It’s hard to over­state just how far We­in­stein has fallen.

As the co-founder of Mi­ra­max stu­dios in 1979 with his brother Bob, he is cred­ited with bring­ing art house films into the main­stream, among them Sex, Lies and Video­tape, My Left Foot and Cin­ema Paradiso.

Quentin Tarantino’s break­through was in part from the sup­port of the We­in­stein broth­ers, who fi­nanced Pulp Fic­tion. Best pic­ture win­ners Matt Da­mon and Ben Af­fleck credit Mi­ra­max with their dis­cov­ery af­ter the stu­dio made their break­through film, 1997’s Good Will Hunt­ing.

Af­fleck has found him­self caught up in We­in­stein’s un­rav­el­ling.

He re­leased a state­ment af­ter be­ing ac­cused of ig­nor­ing the scan­dal, only to have two ac­tors ac­cuse him of grop­ing them and de­mand­ing apolo­gies.

Da­mon was also en­twined in the saga when a for­mer New York Times re­porter claimed he and Russell Crowe pres­sured the pa­per to pull its planned re­port­ing on We­in­stein’s pro­cliv­i­ties in the 2000s.

“As the fa­ther of four daugh­ters, this is the kind of sex­ual pre­da­tion that keeps me up at night,” Da­mon later said.

“This is the great fear for all of us. I did five or six movies with Har­vey.

“I never saw this. I feel hor­ri­ble for th­ese women and it’s won­der­ful they have this in­cred­i­ble courage and are stand­ing up now.”

Just who knew what and for how long is now be­ing dis­sected. Jolie ad­mit­ted she had been aware of We­in­stein’s be­hav­iour for decades.

“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,” Jolie said.

An­other ac­tor, Jes­sica Chas­tain, said she had known for decades to avoid him.

Oth­ers de­scribed the sit­u­a­tion as spread well beyond Tin­sel­town.

“The women who have spo­ken about their abuse are brave and heroic and although I didn’t have a per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence like this with We­in­stein, I un­for­tu­nately can­not say I’m sur­prised,” ac­tress Char­l­ize Theron said.

“This cul­ture al­ways ex­isted, not just in Hol­ly­wood but across the world.

“Many men in po­si­tions of power have got­ten away with it for far too long.”

Pic­ture: Getty Im­ages

We­in­stein with his wife Ge­orgina Chap­man.

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