Weinstein – the rise and fall
LOS ANGELES The professional trajectory of Harvey Weinstein, the famed and feared Hollywood mogul, has been as volatile as his personality.
One of Hollywood’s most powerful producers, Weinstein cofounded Miramax Films, growing the studio into a behemoth that changed the way independent films were viewed. His name has been attached to some of the most famous movies from the last few decades, and he has remained a force in the film industry that has changed substantially since he began his career in the 1970s.
Along the way, he helped to propel the careers of people like Quentin Tarantino and Steven Soderbergh, and won the admiration of countless critics and others.
But his reputation for abrasiveness and his legendary temper have earned him more than a few enemies along the way, making Weinstein the frequent target of award ceremony jokes and pointed anecdotes.
Matt Damon once compared him to a scorpion; there has been bad blood, too, with a former protege, Kevin Smith.
The complicated relationship Weinstein has with the industry was perhaps best summed up by a speech Meryl Streep gave at the Golden Globes one year. ‘‘I want to thank God – Harvey Weinstein,’’ she joked. ‘‘The punisher. Old Testament, I guess.’’
But a blockbuster story published by the New York Times represents perhaps the most severe blow to his career. The story airs decades of previously unknown sexual harassment accusations against Weinstein, who now says he plans to take a leave of absence.
In 1979, Weinstein and his brother, Bob, co-founded Miramax, which would help bring arthouse cinema into the mainstream.
The studio broke through in the late 1980s with a trio of hits: Soderbergh’s Sex, Lies & Videotape, Jim Sheridan’s My Left Foot, which won Daniel DayLewis a best actor Oscar, and Giuseppe Tornatore’s Cinema Paradiso, which won the Oscar for best foreign language film.
Disney bought the studio in 1993 for between US$60 million and US$80m, giving it an infusion of cash and the backing of a major company.
Miramax continued its success, financing Tarantino’s 1994 hit Pulp Fiction, which went on to be one of the most influential films of the decade. The film, made for US$8.5m, grossed more than US$200m worldwide.
For an 11-year period from 1992 to 2003, Miramax Films saw at least one its films nominated for an Oscar each year, winning best picture for several of them, including The English Patient (1996), Shakespeare In Love (1998) and Chicago (2002).
Other acclaimed films that came out of Miramax included Good Will Hunting (1997) and The Cider House Rules (1999). Hits like Scream (1996) and Jackie Brown (1997) kept the money flowing.
Miramax was known for pursing ‘‘Oscars with a drive – and a budget – previously unknown in the industry’’, placing more advertisements, lobbying more voters, dismissing more rivals and sending out more freebies that other studios, The Washington Post reported.
But the Weinstein brothers became known for their ruthless way of doing business.
‘‘Miramax ran on fear. They’re intimidating, they shout a lot, they foam at the mouth,’’ Stuart REUTERS MIRAMAX Burkin, who started at the company in 1991, told Vanity Fair.
Even as he was dominating Hollywood, according to the New York Times, Harvey Weinstein was accused of serial sexual harassment.
The actress Ashley Judd said that while she was shooting the 1997 film Kiss The Girls, he lured REUTERS her to his hotel room for a ‘‘meeting’’, trying to force her to give him a massage or watch him shower.
Throughout the 1990s, the Times reported, Weinstein settled with numerous women, including a young assistant in New York in 1990; actress Rose McGowan in 1997; and an assistant in London in 1998.
Things took a downturn professionally for Weinstein in the 2000s.
Disney parted ways with the Weinsteins in 2005 after arguments over the studio’s ballooning movie budgets and disagreements over the degree of their autonomy. The brothers started a new independent studio, the Weinstein Company, that same year.
But Harvey seemed to have lost some of his touch. Between 2005 and 2009, the Weinstein Company released more than 70 films, many of which nobody wanted to watch. Flops included 2005’s Derailed, featuring Clive Owen and Jennifer Aniston, which critics derided as ‘‘a glossy and often risible bit of trash’’ and ‘‘laughable’’.
According to a New York Times profile of the brothers, more than a quarter of their company’s films in that four-year stretch fell short of the US$1m box office mark in the US; of those, 13 took in less than US$100,000.
‘‘I think I took my eye off the ball,’’ Weinstein told Vanity Fair in 2011. ‘‘From about 2005, 2006, 2007, I was out of it. I thought I could oversee movies and have it done for me, so to speak.’’
During that period, Weinstein also branched out into other fields, buying part of the Halston fashion brand, part of the cable network Ovation, and the social networking site A Small World.
‘‘When I first got there, in 2008, the focus was not on movies,’’ David Glasser, president of the Weinstein Company, told Vanity Fair. ‘‘Harvey was focused on internet and fashion and the global media picture.’’
Complicating matters, NBC Universal sued the Weinstein Company in 2008, for making a deal to move the reality television show Project Runway from Bravo to Lifetime. The Weinstein Company later settled with NBC Universal for an undisclosed amount.
The year 2011 marked Harvey Weinstein’s professional resurgence. The King’s Speech, starring Colin Firth, was nominated for 12 Oscars, taking home the best picture trophy.
Critics piled on praise, calling Weinstein the ‘‘comeback kid’’.
‘‘Look, there are four, five businesses we never should have been in, and we ended up humbled and learned from that experience,’’ Weinstein told the New York Times in 2011. ‘‘We are concentrating on movies, pulling the band back together, and I think the coming year could be as good or better than any we ever had at Miramax.’’
The next year, Weinstein cleaned up at the Golden Globes with The Iron Lady, My Week With Marilyn and The Artist, which would win best picture at the Oscars.
Streep paid him homage during that Globes ceremony with her ‘‘God’’ quote. As Gawker put it, Weinstein had ‘‘risen from the grave to feast on the bones of his enemies.’’
That year, he was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world.
In its investigative story about the sexual harassment allegations against Weinstein, the Times reported that he reached at least eight settlements with women over the years.
In a statement to the newspaper, Weinstein said: ‘‘I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologise for it. Though I’m trying to do better, I know I have a long way to go. That is my commitment. My journey now will be to learn about myself and conquer my demons.’’
As the Washington Post’s Stephanie Merry put it, Weinstein’s statement to the Times ‘‘is a mix of remorse, rap lyrics, and an attempt to distract from his indiscretions. Most importantly, it doesn’t contradict the allegations’’.
One of his lawyers, Charles Harder, told the Hollywood
that Weinstein plans to sue the charging that the story ‘‘relies on mostly hearsay accounts and a faulty report’’.
Another lawyer who is advising Weinstein said that ‘‘he denies many of the accusations as patently false,’’ according to the Times.
The Weinstein Company said yesterday Weinstein was taking indefinite leave, and that it would conduct an internal investigation into the report of sexual harassment allegations.
The company’s board said it was taking the accusations ‘‘extremely seriously’’.
Meanwhile, the Democratic National Committee and several Democratic politicians said they would re-route Weinstein’s political donations to women’s rights groups. Washington Post, Reuters
Harvey Weinstein, one of the most powerful men in Hollywood, is facing accusations of unwanted physical contact and sexual harassment of women over three decades.
Weinstein, third from left, celebrates with the co-producers and stars of Shakespeare In Love after that film won seven Oscars at the 1999 Academy Awards - part of a string of successes for Miramax Films during the 1980s and 1990s.
Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction was one of Miramax’s biggest hits, grossing more than US$200 million worldwide.