WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN
Harvey Weinstein’s Insidious Sabotage of Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino’s Careers
‘Lord of the Rings’ director Peter Jackson says Weinstein fed him “false information” about the actresses, which dissuaded him from casting them in projects.
After a decades-long reign of terror, we’re still learning the full extent of Harvey Weinstein’s damage. As sexual harassment and assault victims of the ousted producer continue to come out, other, more nuanced forms of abuse and intimidation have also begun to surface. These stories often relate back to sexual misconduct, whether it’s Weinstein torturing an actress for refusing his sexual demands, or bullying employees into silence and complicity.
On Wednesday, Salma Hayek published a brutal account of Weinstein’s retaliation campaign against her. Enraged by Hayek’s sexual rejection, Weinstein flexed his power where he could maintain, more or less, total control: the set of 2002’s Frida. When he wasn’t threatening to shut down the film altogether, Hayek says that Weinstein exhibited his famous temper and made punishing demands, including a sex scene with co-star Ashley Judd. In addition to putting the project in serious danger, the producer allegedly belittled Hayek’s performance and dismissed her casts’ work, deeming the eventual Oscar winner “not good enough for a theatrical release.” He transformed Hayek’s career triumph into a personal hell.
Although Weinstein didn’t succeed in sabotaging Frida, he’s long been rumored to have the power to make or break an actress’s career. The promise of superstardom was often a component of his now-infamous hotel room meetings with young women. But this wasn’t just a line—as Weinstein could elevate an actress, he could also tear her down.
Because of Weinstein’s immense power and influence in the entertainment industry, it’s no wonder that so many women feared saying “no” to him. In Ronan Farrow’s late October New Yorker exposé, he named Mira Sorvino and Rosanna Arquette as actresses who “suspected that, after they rejected Weinstein’s advances or complained about them to company representatives, Weinstein had them removed from projects or dissuaded people from hiring them.” Sorvino told the New Yorker that Weinstein pressured her sexually while they were working together, recalling, “He started massaging my shoulders, which made me very uncomfortable, and then tried to get more physical, sort of chasing me around.”
In a subsequent guest column in the Hollywood Reporter, Sorvino wrote, “People say there are lists out there, that Harvey had a blacklist not only of people he was allegedly investigating but also of people who weren't supposed to be hired sent to casting people and agencies. I know women with whom I've talked since who felt that their careers were derailed. I've heard stories about calls being made to their agencies saying that they were drug addicts when they didn't touch drugs.” She added that, while she couldn’t say “for certain” if her career had been derailed by Weinstein as an act of retaliation, “I felt if I had accepted Harvey's advances, I would have continued to make movies with them, and they were the people winning the Oscars for that decade. I was not offered any movie roles past 1996.”
Sorvino’s suspicions are far from paranoid. Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson told Stuff this week that he believes the Weinstein-led Miramax fed him false information about accusers Mira Sorvino and Ashley Judd. Jackson, speaking on Weinstein for the first time, explained that these conversations took place during the early stages of development for Lord of the Rings, when he was pitching the films to Miramax. After the director expressed his interest in casting Sorvino and Judd, “I recall Miramax telling us they were a nightmare to work with and we should avoid them at all costs. This was probably in 1998.” While Jackson “had no reason to question what these guys were telling us” at the time, “In hindsight, I realise that this was very likely the Miramax smear campaign in full swing.”
“I now suspect we were fed false information about both of these talented women.” Jackson continued. “And as a direct result their names were removed from our casting list."
Jackson said that while he has “no direct experience or knowledge of the sexual allegations” against Weinstein, he had long ago decided not to work with him. He elaborated, “My experience, when Miramax controlled the Lord of the Rings [before New Line took over production of the film], was of Weinstein and his brother behaving like second-rate Mafia bullies. They weren't the type of guys I wanted to work with—so I haven’t…Movie making is much more fun when you work with nice people.”
He added, “I vaguely remember bumping into him [Weinstein] at some award show or premiere at the time of their release, but it's been 20 years since my last interaction of any substance with Harvey Weinstein."
Ashley Judd responded to Jackson’s interview on Twitter, writing, “I remember this well.” Sorvino also shared the story, with a tragic caption: “Just seeing this after I awoke, I burst out crying. There it is, confirmation that Harvey Weinstein derailed my career, something I suspected but was unsure. Thank you Peter Jackson for being honest. I’m just heartsick.”