Ever since The New York Times published a damning exposé last week, revelations have been coming fast and furious about once-revered Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. Reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey detailed how the cofounder of Miramax Films and the Weinstein Company has allegedly been sexually harassing women in and around the entertainment industry for decades. Yesterday, an explosive piece by Ronan Farrow in The New Yorker peeled back even more layers of the story, alleging a deeper pattern of sexual harassment, intimidation and in several instances, rape.
To say that Weinstein has been influential in the film industry over the past few decades is an understatement. The former concert promoter established Miramax in 1979 with his brother, Bob; it went on to become arguably the most influential film company of the Nineties, turning out countless classics and award winners including Pulp Fiction, The English Patient, Shakespeare in Love, Clerks, The Crying Game, Gangs of New York and Good Will Hunting. Their subsequent venture, the Weinstein Company, went on to produce the likes of Django Unchained, The King’s Speech, Silver Linings Playbook, Blue Valentine and Carol. And the mogul’s influence stretches far beyond film to television, magazine publishing, Broadway productions and even political activism.
There are few corners of the culture that Weinstein’s tentacles haven’t reached. But his power and fame seem to have both enabled and masked from the public eye a long-spanning history of misconduct against women. According to The Cut, some 29 women so far have shared accounts of harassment and abuse, ranging from A-listers (Ashley Judd, Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow) to foreign film luminaries (Asia Argento, Emma de Caunes) to office assistants and up-and-comers. Even more disturbingly, according to the exposés, Weinstein’s actions appear to have been abetted and normalised by executives, assistants and producers in his employ. (The Weinstein Company released a statement yesterday claiming they “had no idea” about Weinstein’s behaviour.)
The backlash has been swift: After the Times story dropped, Weinstein was fired from the company that bears his name, and four members of the all-male board resigned. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Weinstein Company will announce a new name within the next few days. Meanwhile, Variety reported Tuesday evening that his wife, fashion designer Georgina Chapman, announced plans to divorce her husband in the wake of the allegations against him.
There’s a lot to unpack as the stomach-churning accusations continue to come to light. Here’s a rundown of the case against Weinstein, Hollywood’s responses and what might be on the horizon.
What are the allegations against Harvey Weinstein?
Stories of Weinstein’s sexual and professional misconduct stretch back as early as 1984, when the producer invited 20-year-old aspiring actor Tomi-Ann Roberts to his hotel to discuss a potential role in a movie he was co-directing. Roberts told the Times that she found him lying naked in the bathtub; he encouraged her to take off her clothes, and she refused.
This was the earliest permutation of a scenario that, according to nearly 30 reports, would continue into 2015. Since the NYT‘s initial investigation dropped, multiple women have come forward with allegation that reveal a sickening pattern: He invites a younger woman to his hotel room or apartment on a professional pretense, appears in a bathrobe or completely undressed, and requests a massage and/or sexual favours, either implicitly or explicitly offering the exchange for career advancement.
Ashley Judd detailed how what she was led to believe would be a breakfast meeting at the Peninsula Beverly Hills during the filming of Kiss the Girls (1997) turned into an invite into a hotel room, where a robed Weinstein requested that he give Judd a massage or that she watch him shower. “I said no, a lot of ways, a lot of times, and he always came back at me with some new ask,” she told The Times. “It was all this bargaining, this coercive bargaining.”
Similar stories of unwelcome sexual overtures have come to light from Gwyneth Paltrow, who was 22 and filming Emma (1996) when she claims Weinstein sexually harassed her during a meeting in his hotel suite. Her then-boyfriend, Brad Pitt, came to her defence and confronted the producer, but she was intimidated against speaking about it publicly for fear of jeopardising her career. “I was expected to keep the secret,” she recalled in The Times. In the same article, Rosanna Arquette recounted how Weinstein “grabbed her hand and pulled it toward his crotch” when she declined to give him a massage, an incident that occurred at what she’d been led to believe was a script meeting.
On Wednesday afternoon, model and actress Cara Delevingne told her Weinstein story via Instagram, claiming that he’d tried to initiate a three-way sexual encounter with her and another woman during what had been presented as a professional meeting.
In many cases, according to both the Times and New Yorker articles, Miramax and TWC employees were complicit – some knowingly, some unwittingly. Lauren O’Connor, who distributed a memo around the company addressing Weinstein’s serial sexual harassment and the “toxic environment for women at this company,” told the Times that her boss tasked her with “having casting discussions with aspiring actresses after they had private appointments in his hotel room,” and believed that she and fellow female employees “were being used to facilitate liaisons with ‘vulnerable women who hope he will get them work.'”
In a few instances, Weinstein reportedly went beyond cajoling and intimidation into groping and sexual assault. In The New Yorker, Italian actor-director Asia Argento recounted an incident in 1997 at the Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc in Antibes, France. She claims that producers in Weinstein’s employ invited her to a party thrown by Miramax, which was the U.S. distributor for her film B. Monkey (1998). Instead of a party, she found Weinstein alone in his suite. He coerced her into giving him a massage, at which point he forcibly performed oral sex on her even though she repeatedly asked him to stop. “It wouldn’t stop,” Argento told Farrow. “It was a nightmare.” She wrote a loosely fictionalised version of the encounter into her 2000 movie Scarlet Diva; Argento tweeted an excerpt of the scene the day the New Yorker story was released: “I wrote and directed this scene in 1999. #Weinstein“
There’s audio evidence of a 2015 encounter between Weinstein and then 22-year-old model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, thanks to an NYPD sting operation. The producer requested a business meeting with Gutierrez at his office after the two crossed paths at a reception in Manhattan. She recounted to The New Yorker that Weinstein groped her breasts and tried to put his hand up her skirt while she was in the middle of showing him her modeling portfolio. Gutierrez reported the assault to the police, and the next night, she met with Weinstein for a drink while wearing a wire. Their exchange (which you can listen to here) is marked by Weinstein trying to coerce Gutierrez into his hotel room, and her repeated refusals. When she asked him why he grabbed her breasts, Weinstein chillingly replies: “Oh, please, I’m sorry, just come on in. I’m used to that.”
How has Weinstein responded to the allegations?
On October 5th, Weinstein sent a statement in response to the Times investigation that is both an apology and a hedge. “I came of age in the 60’s and 70’s, when all the rules about behaviour and workplaces were different. That was the culture then,” he begins. “I have since learned it’s not an excuse, in the office – or out of it. To anyone. I realized some time ago that I needed to be a better person and my interactions with the people I work with have changed. I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it.” In addition to confusedly misquoting Jay-Z, he states his intention to take a leave of absence and seek therapy. (This was several days before the Weinstein Company board decided to terminate his employment.)
But that’s not the whole story. Lisa Bloom, then a member of his legal team who has since resigned, issued a statement asserting that Weinstein “denies many of the accusations as patently false.” According to Deadline, attorney Charles Harder, said that his firm is preparing a lawsuit against the Times for publishing a story that “is saturated with false and defamatory statements about Harvey Weinstein.” (If that name rings a bell, it’s because Harder represented Hulk Hogan in the infamous 2016 case that sunk Gawker.)
Additionally, Weinstein reached out in vain to several top talent agents last week asking them to come to his defence and prevent his termination from the Weinstein Company. “Do not let me be fired,” he wrote in an email that was leaked to The Times. “If the industry supports me, that is all I need.”
Why wasn’t this all reported sooner?
The simplest and sadly familiar answer to this question is familiar from recent allegations that have come to light against other serial sexual abusers (Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly and President Donald Trump): Weinstein is a powerful and influential man, and we live in a society where women are systematically discouraged from coming forward with stories of harassment and rape.
Weinstein’s outwardly brash, aggressive and even violent behaviour has long been discussed in the open, and often framed as the secret of his success in the entertainment industry. The late David Carr wrote of Weinstein’s short-fuse reputation with ambivalence in this 2001 New York Magazine profile, and, in retrospect, it’s easy to read between the lines regarding what may have been going on beneath all that bravado.
Though his star has faded somewhat in recent years, Weinstein’s hold on the film industry was vast from the 1990s to the early 2010s. Many women whom he allegedly harassed or violated didn’t speak up out of fear for their careers or out of feelings of guilt and shame. Argento told The New Yorker: “The thing with being a victim is I felt responsible. Because if I were a strong woman, I would have kicked him in the balls and run away. But I didn’t. And so I felt responsible.”
Other victims cited physical intimidation. Lucia Evans, who alleges that Weinstein orally raped her in his office in 2004 when she was still in college, told Farrow: “He’s a big guy. He overpowered me. I just sort of gave up. That’s the most horrible part of it, and that’s why he’s been able to do this for so long to so many women: people give up, and then they feel like it’s their fault.”
Still others were paid off into silence in settlements orchestrated by Weinstein’s massive legal team. Two anonymous TWC officials told the Times that the mogul had reached eight or more settlements with women who he’d harassed between 1990 and 2015.
Then, of course, there’s the media itself. In The Wrap, former Times writer Sharon Waxman claims that a 2004 investigation she had been conducting into sexual allegations against Weinstein was shot down thanks to pressure put on The New York Times by Weinstein himself as well as Matt Damon and Russell Crowe. (The newspaperand Damon have both denied Waxman’s interpretation.)
In an article for The Cut, Rebecca Traister argues that in the 2000s, Weinstein held an unparalleled sway over the media world: “Back then, Harvey could spin – or suppress – anything; there were so many journalists on his payroll, working as consultants on movie projects, or as screenwriters, or for his magazine,” she wrote.
What has Hollywood’s response been?
Many in the entertainment history have condemned Weinstein’s alleged actions in no uncertain terms. In his Monday night show, Late Show host Stephen Colbert declared: “Harvey Weinstein is a bad person. This is monstrous behaviour that, in a just world, would not have been allowed to go on for decades. It is indefensible.”
Reigning queen of acting Meryl Streep, whose Weinstein projects in recent years have included The Iron Lady and August: Osage County, expressed surprise at the revelations, but applauded that they came to light: “The disgraceful news about Harvey Weinstein has appalled those of us whose work he championed, and those whose good and worthy causes he supported. The intrepid women who raised their voices to expose this abuse are our heroes,” she said in a statement to The Huffington Post. Fellow Oscar winners Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow, meanwhile, both told the New York Times that the mogul sexually harassed them toward the beginning of their respective careers in the Nineties. “This way of treating women ends now,” said Paltrow.
George Clooney, whose breakout role was in the Miramax-produced From Dusk Till Dawn (1996), said he’d heard rumours about Weinstein’s behaviour over the years but had never witnessed it. “It’s indefensible. That’s the only word you can start with. Harvey’s admitted to it, and it’s indefensible,” Clooney told The Daily Beast.
Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama also condemned Weinstein, who has made frequent donations to the Democratic Party. Clinton released a statement on Twitter stating that she was “shocked and appalled” by the news. Obama also expressed his condemnation and wrote: “We should celebrate the courage of women who have come forward to tell these painful stories.”
The Ringer has a rundown of other celebrity’s statements about the allegations against Weinstein, including many who have worked with him in the past.
Donna Karan came out in his defence, and Lindsay Lohan posted an Instagram video in which she said she feels “very bad for Harvey Weinstein right now. I don’t think it’s right what’s going on.”