As fresh allegations continue to mount against Harvey Weinstein in the aftermath of the New York Times’ bombshell exposé, a major producer in London has come forward with a story she heard first-hand from an alleged victim nearly three decades ago.
Elizabeth Karlsen, the acclaimed Oscar-nominated producer behind films such as Carol, Youth, The Crying Game and this year’s Toronto International Film Festival entry On Chesil Beach, says she was approached by a young female exec who had been working for Miramax as the company expanded its operations in the U.K. in the late 1980s and early ‘90s.
“She came to me directly and said that [Weinstein] had appeared naked in her bedroom,” says Karlsen, adding that Miramax had rented a house in London to cut down on overheads. “I don’t know the extent of what did happen, but there was an out-of-court settlement and she left the company.”
The bedroom incident was, Karlsen says, the first time she heard of the sexual harassment rumors swirling around Weinstein, which she claims “everyone” in the industry knew about for years.
The Weinstein Co. was the U.S. distributor for Todd Haynes’ critically lauded Carol, produced by U.K. banner Number 9 Films, which Karlsen set up with her husband, Stephen Woolley, in 2002. But allegations that flared up in 2015 against Weinstein — whom she describes as a “bully” — hindered an important presentation of the film.
“We had a screener to garner critical response that was in New York, but Harvey wasn’t able to attend any of the meetings because the day after the screening the story broke about the groping of an Italian actress in his office,” Karlsen says. “So we were told he was holed up over the weekend with his lawyers.”
Karlsen blames a “culture of fear” as to why the industry had largely remained silent about Weinstein.
“We all have to ask ourselves — those of us who knew — why do we feel unable and un-empowered to do something? And I think the answers are very complicated and to do with power structure as a whole in society and women’s place in it,” Karlsen says, adding that she herself has come under abuse from online trolls when she’s spoken about the white, heterosexual male domination of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences. “Women are at the bottom of the ladder over and over again.”
As for Weinstein’s future after his “indefinite leave of absence” from TWC, Karlsen is clear.
“I would hope that that’s the end,” she says. “I think the real tragedy is not only do you have the damage that’s been done to people in terms of abuse, but there’s the damage that’s felt by the people who weren’t able to speak up for whatever reason and feel confused about that.”