Rosanna Arquette Won’t Be Silenced: There Are ‘a Lot More Harvey Weinsteins’
The acclaimed actress was one of the first women to speak out against Harvey Weinstein. Now, she’s launching a new podcast. She opens up to Marlow Stern about Hollywood and beyond.
Rosanna, you’re making a big mistake. Those were the words Harvey Weinstein is said to have uttered to Rosanna Arquette after she refused his predatory advances. Following that disturbing encounter, Arquette—who rose to stardom in the ‘80s with stunning turns in Desperately Seeking Susan, Silverado, After Hours, and The Big Blue—saw her pay slashed for the Weinstein-shepherded Pulp Fiction, and a false rumor spread that she was difficult to work with (which she suspects Weinstein started).
Arquette was one of the first women to speak out against Weinstein, relaying her story of abuse to The New Yorker and The New York Times, and subsequently appearing in the Hulu documentary Untouchable. Later, journalist Ronan Farrow revealed that Weinstein’s defense team had hired the Israeli intelligence agency Black Cube to compile a dossier on Arquette. Even though Weinstein is behind bars, serving a 23-year prison sentence for his reign of terror, Arquette still believes that she’s lost professional opportunities due to her speaking out.
“It’s like a spiderweb, and there are a lot of spiders in that web,” she tells me.
But Arquette, 61, refuses to be silenced. And on Feb. 1, Audio Up Media is launching the new podcast Radical Musings with Rosanna Arquette, which sees the actress and documentary filmmaker interview fascinating characters who she feels are moving the culture forward, from Farrow and Jane Fonda (who appear in the first two episodes) to #MeToo founder Tarana Burke.
“I love talking to people and figuring out what they’re up to, and where do we go from here,” explains Arquette.
Listen to an exclusive clip of ‘Radical Musings’:
In a wide-ranging conversation, The Daily Beast spoke to Arquette about podcast-hosting, draining the Hollywood swamp, and much more.
Let’s talk about your brand new podcast, “Radical Musings.” What made you want to start a podcast?
I’ve always interviewed people. I have two documentaries—Searching for Debra Winger, where I interviewed actresses, and All We Are Saying, where I interviewed a lot of musicians, from Joni Mitchell and Patti Smith to Tom Petty and Mary J. Blige. I also did the backstage interviews from Coachella for six years. I just love doing it. I also interviewed your very own Molly Jong-Fast, who I love. A lot of them took place before the election, so there was quite a lot of anxiety. It’s basically my hobby, really, talking to other people and listening to what they have to say.
What will the podcast focus on? Will it be a mix of Hollywood and politics?
You know what? It’s people I find interesting who I like. I have [former FBI assistant director] Frank Figliuzzi, Perry Farrell and his wife Etty, I have Susanna Hoffs of the Bangles, Jane Fonda, Ronan Farrow. I’m going to be doing Q-Tip, which I’m excited about since he doesn’t do many interviews. And Tarana Burke. I can’t wait for that. There will be a lot of interesting, wonderful people who are making the world a better place and helping to wake people up.
I read that you had a unique upbringing. Is it true that you were raised on a commune in Virginia?
When we were young. My brother David was actually born in Virginia. We had a bunch of actors, musicians, and artists—it was a spiritual “brotherhood,” they called it. They all got a summer camp in Virginia and bought it, and it was meant for the summer, so there were these tiny cabins with five or six people in each of these cabins that were meant for a group of kids. Unfortunately I had to go to school [in Virginia], which wasn’t the greatest experience for me. I was there from the age of 11 to 14. My family moved to Chicago when I was 15, but I lived for a year when I was 14 with friends from my parents in South Orange, New Jersey, and moved there because I couldn’t stand it. It was so racist, and my mother felt that I needed to get out of there because I was getting jumped and beaten up for speaking up for all my friends who were Black. I got kicked out [of school] when I was 14, because I wrote “BLACK POWER” on my fist.
And they were practicing Subud on that commune?
Yes. You could be any religion to be in it, but that was something my parents were very into and was a big part of our life. It’s not a cult—that’s for sure. It’s a way of worshipping God in any way you feel, but it wasn’t a cult thing at all.
So there wasn’t systemic manipulation or abuse, like most cults.
Um… I think when a lot of dysfunctional human beings are all together in one compact place, stuff like that definitely could have taken place—or did take place, with some yucky adults. I know that… yeah… but there wasn’t a “leader” of it or anything in the way of the Children of God.
How are you handling the passing of Alexis?
It impacted all of our lives. I can only speak for myself, but I know that it really left a huge, gaping wound in the family structure. It just really did. Him/her leaving—you know what, it really is they leaving, because there weren’t all the pronouns back then. Alexis would have been a they. At the end, we would say, “Are you a he?” and they would say, “It doesn’t matter, I’m just me.” That was one of the last things Alexis said to me, so I know Alexis would have said “they,” because they dressed as a woman and identified as a woman, but sometimes would feel like a boy and want to be that some days. Fluid, completely. But “fluid” wasn’t even in the conversation five years ago.
I gotta say, I love After Hours. It did such a great job of capturing the chaos, humor, and madness of 1980s New York City.
I love the film, and loved the experience working with Marty [Scorsese] and Griffin Dunne. And that New York doesn’t exist anymore. The loft that we’re in in that movie is probably worth like $10 million now and is totally redone.
And of course there was Desperately Seeking Susan, which was big. What was it like to be a part of such a cultural phenomenon early in your career?
It was an all-female film more than we’d ever seen. It started at the studio with a woman, Barbara Boyle; it was directed by a woman [Susan Seidelman]; produced by women [Sarah Pillsbury, Midge Sanford]; had a woman writer [Leora Barish]; and was about women. So, it was groundbreaking at the time.
And I read that Bruce Willis was originally up for the role of Dez.
Yes, he was! He was a bartender at the Café Central, which was the hangout that everyone went to, and we were all just friends or roommates. I was roommates with the actor John Heard, who recently died, which was really sad. In that time, I woke up one morning and there was Cher making me a cup of tea, because she was visiting John Heard.
You woke up one morning and CHER was making you a cup of tea?
[Laughs] I woke up one morning, and Cher was in the kitchen making tea, and she said, “Would you like a cup of tea?” It’s so funny.
A lot of people unfamiliar with it view it as “the Madonna movie,” which I think is unfair, because you’re the lead in that film—and frankly, deliver the best performance in it.
I haven’t talked to her in a number of years, but I follow her on Instagram and stuff and I wish her well. But I won a British Academy award for it and some other awards at the time, and yeah, it coincided with the exploooosion, volcano, eruption of Madonna. She suddenly was the biggest thing in the world, and then the movie came out. It happened to the point where they had a big premiere in L.A. for the movie, and they decided to have me do press in L.A. and not come to the premiere. So I wasn’t invited to the premiere of Desperately Seeking Susan. I didn’t understand the politics of how things are and thought, “Well, this is shitty.” But it was all marketing. They thought they could make more money if they focused on Madonna at the time.
And after Pulp Fiction the roles in America largely dried up, and I heard that you suspect it was due to Harvey Weinstein poisoning the well.
I didn’t know then but you could piece it together and go, “Oh my gosh, that makes so much sense.” You can’t prove anything, though directors have said to me—and there’s one big director that I wish would just come out and tell that story—that [Weinstein] talked out of not hiring me. He did that with a lot of people. Mira [Sorvino], Ashley [Judd], and others. It’s as easy as being at a dinner with an important director, and the director will say, “Oh, I’m thinking about Rosanna, or Mira…” and he’ll say, “Don’t hire her, she’s a pain in the ass.” But that’s not true. Go ask any director I’ve worked with and they’re not going to say that. It was not good. But there are still people in power that protect him. I just had a situation, and I won’t get into specifics, but it was a TV show that really could have been great, and they wanted me, and someone at the top killed it. And you just go, “Hmm…” There are people that feigned horror about him but will still penalize you for being outspoken or telling the truth.
Who are these people? I’d love to report on them.
Yeah… It would just make things worse right now but all in good time, my dear. Right now is not the time for it. I do what I do and don’t have any regrets, because what has been exposed is just the tip of the iceberg. Along with Harvey, there are a lot more Harvey Weinsteins, unfortunately.
I’ve always found it odd that Time’s Up had partnered with CAA, and were even at one point holding meetings in the CAA building.
In the beginning, there were the men that gave the seed money for what became Time’s Up, which was Les Moonves, the guys at CAA, and the head of UTA. It’s no longer this way. But at the time, it was an incredible way to control the narrative, and all of a sudden we saw all these girls in Time’s Up. What I found funny was, I wasn’t invited to the Golden Globes. I know Ashley Judd was a guest, but most of the women who put their lives on the line weren’t even invited to come to the Golden Globes. And nobody once mentioned Harvey Weinstein’s name during the awards ceremony—and the reason why is because it was Harvey who helped make the Golden Globes a smaller version of the Oscars. A guy who was there at the time even said, “It’s going to be very hard without Harvey Weinstein at the Golden Globes.” Now, you have a bunch of powerhouse women who are doing the right thing, including Tina Tchen. I really like her, and the work that she’s doing.
Because the reality with CAA is that they represented a lot of Harvey’s victims.
And they also represented The Weinstein Company.
And agencies like CAA were the ones making these appointments—telling their clients that they had to meet Harvey Weinstein at 10 p.m. at the Peninsula.
Everybody who knew Harvey knew that he was a pig, but when you’re going to a meeting to meet for a film… at the time when I went, he was the king, and the most powerful person in Hollywood, and the one thing you can’t take away from him is that he made great movies. Too bad he was such an unhealthy, disturbed individual to do the things that he did to people. He was obviously very sick. We’re coming up on the one-year anniversary of us putting him in jail, and that was March 11th, and on March 13th we went into quarantine. [Laughs]
I’m curious how you feel about Quentin Tarantino. Because Pulp Fiction was the film that brought Harvey to another level, and he dined out on that relationship forever. And you take Quentin away from Harvey, and I’m not sure he’s nearly as powerful.
It’s interesting, because when I was cast in that movie it was after the incident with Harvey, and it was Quentin who wanted me in that movie. But I’m the only person that doesn’t have a back-end in that film. So I never made money. Everybody got paid scale, and then a lot of the people had back-end, but I did not. And that’s how he got me. I was freaked out. I tried to tell my agent, and other people, and they kept saying, “Keep your mouth shut.” But I’m glad I told people. I told Jane Fonda and other people throughout the years.
It seems like there were a lot of men who could have said something and it would have ended Harvey. If Quentin had come out and said something at any point it would have probably ended Harvey, and Quentin knew about Mira [Sorvino] and Uma [Thurman]. So I think this was also a big failure in men with power for failing to speak up.
He came out later—a lot later—and did denounce what happened. But I don’t know. He’s a good filmmaker. I want him to stop using the N-word in his movies, but other than that... I think it’s enough.
Oh, wow. It was hard that day. It really got me. I remember I was behind the curtain, and I was so emotional. It was a big deal to do at the time, because people were really terrified to do it. And the lights kept going out in the screening. [Laughs] And then when it came to the press and all the things with Hulu, somebody just started getting rid of me as far as even doing press for it. It’s interesting. It’s like a spiderweb, and there are a lot of spiders in that web.
I know it was somewhat recent but there still hasn’t really been a big Netflix-style docuseries on the Weinstein saga that feels definitive, and that attracts a lot of attention.
I doubt if that will happen. You know, there are some people who still feel sorry for him.
That’s just crazy. And the way that you were treated throughout all this—I’ve read Ronan’s book and his pieces, as well as The New York Times pieces and others, and you had a whole dossier compiled on you by an Israeli intelligence firm.
That’s how far it goes up, and how connected it is. There’s a connection to this underground, creepy way of controlling the narrative in art and movies, and the money that they invest in it they use in other nefarious ways.
Steven Mnuchin was even partnered with Brett Ratner prior to joining the Trump administration. They had a whole big production company together, RatPac-Dune.
Yeah, he was. He had to give all that up to go do what he did [with Trump], and Brett Ratner, I know people who have been hurt by him, and he still—to this day—is denying what he did. But there are a lot of Harveys, a lot of Bretts, and a lot more where they came from. We’re seeing that it’s a wake-up call for people to start behaving themselves, and you can’t do anything anymore to women or children.
With the Black Cube stuff and the surveillance, how have you handled it? Has it made you more cautious and less trusting of people who come into your life?
I’m a little too trusting of people. But I’ve been hacked so many times, and people have definitely gotten into my things—it happens as we speak, still. I just had a huge email thing, where I couldn’t get into my email. It happens a lot. I feel like because we’ve been in this isolation, away from our friends and not able to hug people, we’re all in a state. And thank God we got the monster out of the White House and are bringing in some decent human beings that actually care about the country, and all the people that live in it. I’m speaking for myself, but I know so many people who are all collectively recovering from PTSD. We’re all in it. We’re no longer being assaulted by all these horrendous tweets, and the threats. Now, we’re having to deal with Marjorie Taylor Greene and people who want to carry guns and threaten the lives of other public servants. This is bad, and this absolutely cannot stand.
Well, at least Harvey Weinstein is in a prison cell.
He’s in jail, and he’ll be in jail for probably the rest of his life. There’s a case in Los Angeles with six different women, one of which was 15 at the time. Hopefully, this will serve as an example for people. I have to say, I didn’t expect [the conviction]. I was so relieved that it happened I fell to my knees.
How do you feel about the recent settlement? $17 million does not seem like enough for his accusers given how much money he probably has.
I’m not a part of the suit. But it’s definitely not enough—at all. It’s not enough. But if they’re happy with it, I’m happy for them.