Hand That Feeds
Harvey Weinstein Bombshell: Will Hollywood Stars Finally Condemn Their Kingmaker?
The swift response to Harvey Weinstein’s sexual-harassment settlements has been, ‘We all knew.’ Yet instead of saying something, these actors thanked him in their speeches.
On Thursday afternoon, The New York Times published an investigative piece detailing how juggernaut Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein has reached settlements with at least eight women over the span of three decades in response to allegations of sexual harassment.
In response to the bombshell report, in which actress Ashley Judd goes on record revealing how Weinstein made sexual advances on her in a hotel room, those in the industry and those who cover it are wondering how actors and Hollywood players will react. These are not just people who have worked with him over the decades, but who have also made light of what has become a well-known industry maxim, one that may have contributed to his abuse of power dynamics: Cozy up to Harvey Weinstein, become a star… and maybe even win an Oscar.
That much is illustrated in this mash-up video we’ve made of the times actors have cheerfully—and often with a deprecating jab—thanked Harvey Weinstein in awards speeches over the years, praising him for his bullish campaigning and for, more importantly, minting their careers.
As a 2015 study found, and then spread across the internet because of its hilarious results, Harvey Weinstein is one of the most-thanked people of all time from the Oscars stage, with his then-34 mentions far outpacing those for God—with both deities outranked by champion Steven Spielberg.
Of course, Weinstein’s influence isn’t confined merely to the Oscars. At the 2013 Golden Globe Awards, Michelle Williams hailed him as “the punisher” in her speech. That same year, the queen herself, Meryl Streep, echoed: “I want to thank God: Harvey Weinstein. The punisher. Old Testament, I guess.”
As is, depressingly, the usual case when a pattern of allegations like this surfaces, there is a flood of immediate reaction bemoaning how people have known about it for years. It’s one thing that Weinstein’s blowhard demeanor was a tongue-in-cheek industry joke. But it’s another that a pattern of sexual harassment was an open secret that members of the industry and some who worked with him chose to ignore in the pursuit of success.
(It’s worth noting that Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey’s Times piece clarifies that “many women who worked with Mr. Weinstein said they never experienced sexual harassment or knew of anyone who did,” so it’s important to steer clear of generalizations that imply “everyone knew.” Weinstein himself told the Times in a statement, “I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it. Though I’m trying to do better, I know I have a long way to go.”)
Nonetheless, it was an egregious two decades ago that Judd says her interactions with Weinstein occurred. As she told the Times, “Women have been talking about Harvey amongst ourselves for a long time, and it’s simply beyond time to have the conversation publicly.” Screenwriter Elizabeth Eromosele, who is a former Weinstein Company intern tweeted in response to the report, “We all knew. This article is 2 decades too late.”
How many of those actors in that acceptance speech mash-up video were among those who knew, who have been talking about Harvey amongst themselves for a long time? How will they respond when inevitably asked about the Times piece? Weinstein’s lawyers are already prepping a lawsuit in response. It’s a talking point that won’t go away. How will they reckon with working with him again?
A slew of former Weinstein collaborators are at the beginning of award season campaigns, and will be subjected to an onslaught of interviews in the coming months. Are we in for months of cringing at awkward sound bites that dance around the topic, like when any actress is asked to justify signing on for a Woody Allen film? Meryl Streep, Judi Dench, Kate Winslet, Jennifer Lawrence, Christian Bale, Melissa Leo, and Christoph Waltz, all who have Oscars they owe to Harvey, are in the race again this year.
Then there are the films and performances the Weinstein Company is pushing this year: The Current War, starring Tom Holland, Benedict Cumberbatch, Nicholas Hoult, and Michael Shannon, as well as Jeremy Renner’s performance in Wind River.
Jay-Z most recently collaborated with Weinstein on TIME: The Kalief Browder Story and is co-producing a miniseries with him based on a book by Lisa Bloom. Lisa Bloom, by the way, is one of the lawyers advising Weinstein in the wake of the Times piece.
Hillary Clinton, on the night of a party she threw to thank major donors for her ultimately failed presidential campaign, arrived to the Plaza flanked by Weinstein and Anna Wintour. That leads to something that Kantor and Twohey are careful to acknowledge, that these allegations are in juxtaposition to his reputation as a humanitarian and a champion of women. Jennifer Lawrence, for example, hasn’t just thanked Weinstein from awards stages, she’s appeared on them alongside him, including at the GLAAD Awards.
Hollywood doesn’t like to have its feathers ruffled. This Weinstein news is the equivalent of having them plucked bald. How will the industry react?