Cornered in a hotel room by Harvey Weinstein, who was asking her to watch him shower and receive a massage, a young Ashley Judd, 16 years his junior, was desperate to escape a man with unimaginable Hollywood power, without ruining her career.
So, according to a lawsuit filed in March in Los Angeles, “Judd engaged in a mock bargain with Weinstein, suggesting that she would consider letting him touch her only if she won an Academy Award in one of his films,” the lawsuits says, adding, “Weinstein responded: ‘When you get nominated.’ Ms. Judd held firm, saying, ‘No, when I win.’ And then she fled the scene.”
Judd’s suit alleged defamation and sexual harassment, saying that after the incident, Weinstein damaged her movie career by making “baseless smears” against her in retaliation for her having refused his sexual advances.
Now Weinstein’s legal team is attempting to get the case dismissed, arguing, with quite remarkable chutzpah, that the movie mogul attempted to fulfill his part of that desperate deal by trying to cast her “in as many roles as possible that could earn her an Academy Award.”
Judd has alleged that she suffered financial damage after the incident, saying that her refusal to engage sexually with Weinstein caused her to be blacklisted and bad-mouthed in the industry, with the result that she missed out on films (as The Daily Beast previously reported, director Peter Jackson has apologized for not casting her in Lord of the Rings on the basis of false information he was fed by Miramax in 1998 that she and Mira Sorvino, who also told Weinstein where to stick his sexual advances, “were a nightmare to work with and we should avoid them at all costs.”)
Weinstein’s team is arguing that the fact that his attempt to get Judd cast in roles, including the female lead in 1997’s Good Will Hunting, reflect “his motivation to advance her career, not ruin it,” and undermine Judd’s claims that he tried to hurt her career.
The argument reprises a line rehearsed in a statement released after Judd first filed her suit, in which Weinstein’s representative said he “championed” Judd’s work and “repeatedly approved her casting for two of his movies” - Frida in 2002 starring Salma Hayek (not a great name for Weinstein to conjure with when pleading innocence), and Crossing Over with Harrison Ford in 2009.
Weinstein’s new filing also seeks to minimize and play down his alleged actions and Judd’s sexual-harassment accusations, saying that, even if her claims are true, they fall short of being “unwelcome and pervasive or severe,” as the law requires for a finding on her behalf.
The filing, according to Washington’s WTOP, denies any transgression but implies that even if there was wrongdoing, it was insignificant: “Weinstein’s alleged unwanted sexual advances occurred on a single day and consisted of him asking to give plaintiff a massage, asking her to help him pick out clothes, and asking her to watch him shower,” the document airily states.
Lawyers also said the statute of limitations has expired on Judd’s allegations that Weinstein did her financial damage.
Judd’s attorney, Theodore Boutrous Jr., said in response, “Mr. Weinstein’s arguments seeking to escape the consequences of his despicable misconduct are not only baseless, they are offensive.”
In October 2015, Judd told Variety that she had been sexually harassed by a studio mogul, but did not name the person.
In October 2017, she became one of the first women to make an on-the-record allegation of sexual misconduct against Weinstein, spawning the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and assault.
The Hollywood Reporter suggests Weinstein’s bizarre defense could set the stage for a dramatic courtroom battle, saying that if the case moves forward, “industry veterans like Jackson and agents may testify” and the case could potentially result in “a deposition for Weinstein himself.”