We­in­stein – the rise and fall

Sunday News - - WORLD -

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.

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