Hollywood shocked by movie mogul Weinstein's sex scandal
Hollywood was shell-shocked this weekend by a sex scandal exposure on Hollywood kingmaker, Harvey Weinstein, the Weinstein Company (TWC)'s contentious co-chairman and co-founder.
Harvey Weinstein. [File Photo: IC]
The New York Times broke the bombshell story Friday after an exhaustive six-month investigation, disclosing explosive allegations of Weinstein's 30-year pattern of sexual harassment and workplace intimidation against young female stars and employees dependent on his largesse for jobs and career advancement.
Witness statements alleged that Weinstein's behaviour followed a classic pattern of abuse: a young woman would be instructed to attend a "business meeting" with Weinstein at a luxury hotel, during which he would then make sexual advances.
Actress Ashley Judd came forward with an emotional statement confirming this report. Judd remembered worrying, "How do I get out of the room as fast as possible without alienating Harvey Weinstein?" She didn't report the incident at the time, for fear it would mean career suicide.
Lauren Sivan, local cable news anchor from Long Island recounted a disturbing incident where Weinstein lured her down to the kitchen basement of the Cipriani restaurant for "a guided tour," then trapped her in a hallway and masturbated in front of her.
Lauren O'Connor, an employee of Weinstein's, finally spoke out in 2014, firing off a gutsy, scathing memo addressed to executives of the Weinstein Company: "There is a toxic environment for women at this company. I am a 28 year-old woman trying to make a living and a career. Harvey Weinstein is a 64 year-old, world famous man and this is his company. The balance of power is me: 0, Harvey Weinstein: 10."
Weinstein issued a statement saying, "I appreciate the way I've behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it. I admit to a whole way of behavior that is not good."
The Weinstein Company was founded in 2005 after Harvey and Bob Weinstein left Miramax. It was Harvey Weinstein who led the indie film boom in the 90's and was the creative producing force behind such Award-winning, prestige indies, as "Shakespeare in Love," "Pulp Fiction," "Good Will Hunting," "The King's Speech," "The Artist," "Lee Daniel's The Butler," and the recent "Lion." He is famous for his uncanny ability to orchestrate successful Oscar campaigns.
Ironically the Oscar-winning producer's past projects also include the campus rape expose, "The Hunting Ground," a telling foreshadowing of the current allegations against him.
These allegations are shocking for a man who has helped raise millions of dollars for women's causes and supported endowments honoring women at both Rutgers University and the University of Southern California.
While many in the Hollywood community were stunned by the allegations, others maintained that Weinstein's misconduct has been a thinly-disguised secret that's been disgracefully swept under the rug for years.
Mark Lipsky, the former Head of Distribution for Weinstein at Miramax, told Xinhua Saturday that Harvey and his brother Bob were "unrepentant bullies."
The high-profile director, Rob Reiner ("When Harry Met Sally," "The Bucket List") expressed himself more forcefully: "It's not just our community-this is happening in every workplace in America. It's disgusting. He's one schmuck who did what he did. But there are a lot of great people in Hollywood who don't do stuff like that."
Harvey Weinstein's advisor, the feminist attorney, Lisa Bloom, decried Weinstein's behaviour during an interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC's "Good Morning America" Saturday.
"This is a real pattern over 30 years; this is like textbook sexual harassment," Stephanopoulos contended.
"It's gross, yeah," Bloom replied.
"It's illegal," Stephanopoulos added.
"Yes. You know, I agree," Bloom admitted.
Bloom subsequently stepped down at Weinstein's advisor amidst a firestorm of protest from the Hollywood community, women advocates and the TWC Board.
The Weinstein Company is reeling from the legal repercussions that such rampant sexual harassment allegations might have on the Company itself, given the involvement of numerous female employees. How aware were the other company executives of HW behaviour?
"From the outside, it seemed golden - the Oscars, the success, the remarkable cultural impact," reported Mark Gill, former president of Miramax when the company was owned by Disney, "But behind the scenes, it was a mess, and this was the biggest mess of all."
Three members of the TWC board, Marc Lasry, Dirk Ziff and Tim Sarnoff have resigned due to the scandal, while the remaining boardmembers, Harvey Weinstein's brother, Bob Weinstein, Tarak Ben Ammar, Lance Maerov and Richard Koenigsberg, issued a joint statement that Harvey Weinstein will be taking an indefinite leave of absence from the company while they conduct an in-depth investigation into his alleged misconduct.
A statement issued by TWC, "It is important for him to get professional help for the problems he has acknowledged. Next steps will depend on Harvey's therapeutic progress, the outcome of the board's independent investigation and Harvey's own personal decisions."
Weinstein Co. board of directors has retained attorney John Kiernan of the firm Debevoise & Plimpton LLP to spearhead the internal investigation. His investigating team has experience prosecuting sex crimes.
"It is essential for The Weinstein Co. to have a culture where women can work with respect and without fear of harassment or discrimination," the company statement said. He said that the company "values women" and was "committed to a work environment in which all individuals are treated with respect and dignity."
The pressing question on everyone's lips in Hollywood is: Does this herald the end of Harvey Weinstein's Hollywood reign?
Past sex scandals involving high profile industry players such as Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes, and Bill O'Reilly effectively ended their careers, as more victimized women overcame their fear of reprisals and came forward to tell their story.
Leading female Hollywood producer, Megan Ellison ("American Hustle," "Zero Dark Thirty") CEO of Annapurna Films (and daughter of Oracle founder and IT guru, David Ellison), responded to the allegations against HW by announcing on Twitter:" "Women face serious repercussions for sharing their experiences and deserve our full support. I admire the courage of these women."
Lynda Obst, A-list producer of the Academy Award-winning films, "Interstellar" and "The Fisher King" told Xinhua, "I do expect a robust response from the Hollywood community rejecting this kind of behavior toward women. Obviously it is intolerable."