Hol­ly­wood’s dirty se­cret gets ex­posed

As Har­vey We­in­stein scan­dal grows, many in the in­dus­try see a wider prob­lem ig­nored too long.

Los Angeles Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Josh Rot­ten­berg and Amy Kauf­man

Dana Brunetti has pro­duced a num­ber of big films over the years: “Cap­tain Phillips,” “The So­cial Net­work,” “Fifty Shades of Grey.” But he’s never liked to tell peo­ple that he’s a movie pro­ducer.

He knows the im­age it can in­stantly con­jure in their heads.

“I hate telling peo­ple I’m a pro­ducer be­cause of the stereo­type,” Brunetti said. “Be­cause of the ick fac­tor of hit­ting on girls and ‘I can get you a role in a movie.’ ”

And that was be­fore the Har­vey We­in­stein scan­dal broke.

Now, with al­le­ga­tions of decades of sex­ual ha­rass­ment and as­sault against the once-pow­er­ful film mogul erupt­ing into pub­lic view on a near-hourly ba­sis, Hol­ly­wood is fi­nally as­sess­ing the level of truth be­hind the stereo­type. Far from a dated ano­maly, many in the in­dus­try now say, We­in­stein is just one ex­am­ple of a wider and still cur­rent prob­lem that the in­dus­try has ig­nored — or de­lib­er­ately swept un­der the rug — for far too long.

“There’s a lot of abuse in this town,” said pro­ducer and di­rec­tor Judd Apa­tow. “Young ac­tresses are mis­treated in all sorts of ways by pow­er­ful men who can dan­gle jobs or ac­cess to ex­cit­ing parts of show busi­ness. I think a lot of peo­ple are mis­treated and they don’t re­al­ize how badly they’re be­ing mis­treated.”

“Ev­ery­one knew [about We­in­stein’s al­leged be­hav­ior], just as they know about other high-pro­file peo­ple with power in the in­dus­try who get away with the ex­act same things,” said screen­writer and pro­ducer Kelly Mar­cel (“Sav­ing Mr. Banks” and the up­com­ing “Venom”). “This is far-reach­ing, it is en­demic, and we have to be­lieve that the top­pling of this mogul will lead to the top­pling of oth­ers…. This is a big­ger is­sue than tak­ing down one per­son.”

Since the ear­li­est days of the stu­dio sys­tem, sto­ries of ac­tresses ad­vanc­ing their ca­reers on the so-called “cast­ing couch” have cir­cu­lated around town (with far more con­tempt for the women, seen as lever­ag­ing their sex­u­al­ity, than the men in power who were ex­ploit­ing it). But in mod­ern Hol­ly­wood, though still dom­i­nated by men, there was the per­cep­tion that at­ti­tudes to­ward women have grown more en­light­ened. When the scan­dal broke, many re­ferred to We­in­stein as a “throw­back” or a “di­nosaur.” In­deed, in his mea culpa state­ment last week, the 65year-old We­in­stein at­tempted to ex­plain his be­hav­ior as a prod­uct of the era in which he’d grown up, say­ing, “That was the cul­ture then.”

Now, as the ac­cu­sa­tions pile up and sink in, many in Hol­ly­wood say that that cul­ture has not, in fact, changed — or at least not nearly enough — and that women in the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try are all too of­ten preyed upon in ways both egre­gious and more sub­tle.

“Let’s stop al­low­ing our young women to be sex­ual can­non fod­der,” ac­tress Kate Beck­in­sale wrote on In­sta­gram on Wed­nes­day, af­ter shar­ing her own story of be­ing hit on by We­in­stein when she was just 17. “And let’s re­mem­ber that Har­vey is an em­blem of a sys­tem that is sick and that we have work to do.”

The We­in­stein scan­dal has prompted a grow­ing num­ber of women to come for­ward and say they were mis­treated, by him and oth­ers. In many cases, th­ese women say they ei­ther felt too em­bar­rassed or afraid to tell their sto­ries ear­lier. They an­tic­i­pated po­ten­tial reper­cus­sions for their ca­reers or felt that their com­plaints would fall on deaf ears.

Fear of los­ing a job

The same fears can ex­tend to the peo­ple who sur­round pow­er­ful men.

“Peo­ple do not want to put their liveli­hoods at risk,” Apa­tow said. “That’s why peo­ple like Har­vey We­in­stein and Bill Cosby get to op­er­ate like this for so many decades. The peo­ple around them — ex­ec­u­tives, as­sis­tants, driv­ers — they don’t want to risk ev­ery­thing.”

In an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with The Times days af­ter the We­in­stein scan­dal broke, ac­tress Blake Lively re­counted be­ing reg­u­larly ha­rassed by a makeup artist with whom she was work­ing.

“He was say­ing things in­ap­pro­pri­ately, in­sist­ing on putting my lip­stick on with his fin­ger,” she said. “I was sleep­ing one night on lo­ca­tion, and I woke up and he was film­ing me. I was clothed, but it was a very voyeuris­tic, ter­ri­fy­ing thing to do.”

Lively re­ported the is­sue to the project’s pro­duc­ers, but she said noth­ing was done.

“Fi­nally,” she said, “af­ter three months of com­plain­ing, they called me into my trailer and said, ‘We need to talk to you.’ I thought, ‘Well fi­nally, they’re go­ing to do some­thing about this man who I had to have touch­ing me all day.’ And they said, ‘Your dog left a poop be­hind the toi­let in your dress­ing room, and our jan­i­tor had to pick it up. And this is very se­ri­ous, and we can’t have this hap­pen again.’ ”

Fi­nally, Lively took the ha­rass­ment is­sue to her lawyer. An in­ves­ti­ga­tion was con­ducted, and the makeup artist was re­moved from the project. Still, Lively said, “Our unit pro­duc­tion man­ager wrote him a let­ter of rec­om­men­da­tion be­cause no­body wanted there to be bad blood.”

As painful as the We­in­stein scan­dal has been for an in­dus­try that likes to project a lofty im­age of it­self, some be­lieve it could lead to an over­due shift in at­ti­tudes.

“I ad­mire and ap­plaud the women who have come for­ward to de­tail the preda­tory ac­tions of Har­vey We­in­stein, not just for them­selves but for the ben­e­fit of ev­ery­one,” Kathryn Bigelow, di­rec­tor of such films as “The Hurt Locker” and “Zero

Dark Thirty,” told The Times in a state­ment. “Their brav­ery and can­dor il­lu­mi­nate a rep­re­hen­si­ble pat­tern of be­hav­ior that erodes our col­lec­tive moral­ity. What is re­quired is a tec­tonic shift in the be­hav­ior of Hol­ly­wood to­ward women.”

Change from the top

A shift both in at­ti­tude and de­mo­graph­ics. In an in­dus­try in which hir­ing and pay for women still lags be­hind men at vir­tu­ally all lev­els, mere words will not be enough, says Jor­dan Horowitz, pro­ducer of last year’s hit mu­si­cal “La La Land.”

“I work with my wife [pro­ducer Ju­lia Hart], and we’re very con­scious of who we hire and who we work with, mak­ing sure all gen­ders and races are rep­re­sented, es­pe­cially in pro­duc­tion,” Horowitz said. “When you have a num­ber of women in roles of author­ity, you just wind up with a more com­fort­able and safe set for women and for any num­ber of un­der­rep­re­sented groups of peo­ple.”

And as women as­sume such po­si­tions of author­ity, Kay Can­non, who ex­ec­u­tive pro­duced the Net­flix se­ries “Girl­boss,” said they need to use their power to try to pre­vent even the pos­si­bil­ity of ha­rass­ment.

“We need to start to be re­ally spe­cific about who we work with,” she said. “If you know of some­thing that has hap­pened, draw a line in the sand: ‘No mat­ter how much money this gives me, I refuse to work for some­one’ [who is abu­sive].”

Many in the in­dus­try quickly point out that sex­ual ha­rass­ment is hardly unique to the movie busi­ness.

“We’re get­ting the at­ten­tion be­cause ev­ery­one loves to hear sto­ries like this in Hol­ly­wood,” said Brunetti. “But it’s not lim­ited to Hol­ly­wood. It’s ev­ery in­dus­try’s dirty lit­tle se­cret. I think there is sex­ual ha­rass­ment in all as­pects of the coun­try and the world in all busi­nesses.”

Cer­tainly, sex­ual ha­rass­ment has been a huge part of this year’s news cy­cle — Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, L.A. Reid and count­less men of less renown have been fired or stepped down amid scan­dal. But with the We­in­stein scan­dal con­tin­u­ing to be the stuff of scream­ing head­lines, the topic of sex­ual ha­rass­ment is at the fore­front of ev­ery­one’s minds in Hol­ly­wood, where many are won­der­ing which power player might be the next to face sim­i­lar ac­cu­sa­tions.

On Thurs­day, “Man in the High Cas­tle” ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Isa Hack­ett went pub­lic with al­le­ga­tions that she had been ha­rassed by Ama­zon Stu­dios pro­gram­ming chief Roy Price, an in­ci­dent that Ama­zon said in a state­ment it had ad­dressed in­ter­nally. Within hours, Price was put on leave of ab­sence.

That same day, ac­tress Rose Mc­Gowan took to Twit­ter to ac­cuse Ama­zon of can­cel­ing a script she had in de­vel­op­ment there af­ter she “told the head of your stu­dio that [We­in­stein] raped me.”

“I was at din­ner with a male col­league of mine the other night, and the con­ver­sa­tion wasn’t ‘Can you be­lieve this Har­vey stuff?’ so much as ‘Hey, what do we do about so-and-so? Who can we warn about this other guy?’ ” said screen­writer Michael H. We­ber, whose cred­its in­clude the films “The Fault in Our Stars” and the up­com­ing “The Dis­as­ter Artist.” “My con­ver­sa­tions have been much more in a proac­tive sense that this needs to change right away. Sim­ply shrug­ging or look­ing the other way or walk­ing away from it isn’t enough.”

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