For nearly four decades, Harvey Weinstein was the don of indie film, and a force of nature. Now he’s been ousted by his own company.
In a move that would’ve been shocking a week ago, the mogul was terminated Sunday as co-chairman of The Weinstein Co. after bombshell on-the-record sexual harassment allegations came to light in a New York Times report.
“In light of new information about misconduct by Harvey Weinstein that has emerged in the past few days, the directors of The Weinstein Company — Robert Weinstein, Lance Maerov, Richard Koenigsberg and Tarak Ben Ammar — have determined, and have informed Harvey Weinstein, that his employment with The Weinstein Company is terminated, effective immediately,” read a statement from the TWC board.
The situation came to a boiling point Sunday in an explosive meeting when Harvey was offered the opportunity to settle with the company and leave but refused, a source tells The Hollywood Reporter. In the meeting, Harvey argued that the scandal would blow over. The board disagreed. President/COO David Glasser and other TWC executives have been reaching out to talent to assure them that the company is going forward without Harvey.
Meanwhile, law firm Debevoise & Plimpton will continue the investigation into Harvey’s behavior despite his exit. Harvey, who has been staying at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills since Friday night, is now being represented personally by David Boies and Charles Harder.
The stunning turn of events followed an Oct. 5 New York Times article by investigative reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey detailing sexual harassment claims against the mogul spanning decades, including from actress Ashley Judd. The paper also reported, citing two unnamed sources, that “Weinstein has reached at least eight settlements with women.”
Harvey Weinstein’s initial explanation to the Times about his behavior included a rambling statement saying that “I came of age in the ’60s and ’70s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different. That was the culture then.” Additionally, he said he would be taking a leave of absence from his company in order to direct his attention to campaigning against the National Rifle Association and President Donald Trump. (Following the Times report, many prominent Democratic politicians, to whom Weinstein had donated over the years, gave his contributions away to charity.)
The same day as the Times report, Weinstein gave an interview to Page Six, giving reasons for taking his leave of absence: “I also have the worst temper known to mankind, my system is all wrong, and sometimes I create too much tension. I lose it, and I am emotional, that’s why I’ve got to spend more time with a therapist and go away.”
Despite an effort at contrition by the mogul, Weinstein’s lawyer Charles Harder stated that he was preparing legal action against the Times, writing in an email: “The New York Times published today a story that is saturated with false and defamatory statements about Harvey Weinstein. It relies on mostly hearsay accounts and a faulty report, apparently stolen from an employee personnel file, which has been debunked by nine different eyewitnesses.” (A Times spokesperson responded: “We are confident in the accuracy of our reporting.”)
Following the story, the TWC board first held a contentious meeting Thursday night, during which Weinstein pleaded his case. On Friday, the board reconvened. Later that evening, after the board announced the leave of absence, TV news reporter Lauren Sivan told HuffPost about an incident a decade ago in which Weinstein masturbated in front of her in a hallway at the Cafe Socialista restaurant in New York, ejaculating into a potted plant. On Sunday, writer and artist Liza Campbell recounted, in the Sunday Times, that Weinstein once asked her to “jump in the bath” with him after summoning her to his hotel room in the Savoy for what she believed was a business meeting. More claims of misconduct could emerge. Journalist Ronan Farrow is said to be working on a Weinstein piece for The New Yorker.
Since the Times report, three members of the nine-member, all-male board of The Weinstein Co. have resigned. They include Dirk Ziff, Tim Sarnoff and Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry, who joined the board when former Cablevision CEO (and close friend of Harvey Weinstein) James Dolan vacated his seat in June 2016. Another board member, billionaire Paul Tudor Jones, has not attached his name to any of the recent statements from the board and is expected to follow the others out the door. Sunday’s statement was jointly made by the four other remaining members of the board.
Attorney Lisa Bloom — the daughter of Gloria Allred who has made a name for herself for working with victims of sexual assault and harassment — aggressively defended the mogul to the Times, as well as during TV appearances after the exposé was published. But on Saturday, after backlash to her role with Weinstein, she resigned, writing in a Twitter post: “I have resigned as an advisor to Harvey Weinstein. My understanding is that Mr. Weinstein and his board are moving toward an agreement.”
On Sunday, many in Hollywood immediately applauded the move by the Weinstein Co. board. Actress Rose McGowan wrote on Twitter: “I salute you #jodikantor #megantwohey & @nyt editor thank you for your incredible work. You’ve saved lives with your bravery.” Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn wrote: “If even 1/10th of the stories about Harvey Weinstein are true (and I believe they are), then good fucking riddance. That shit’s gotta stop.” Added Gretchen Carlson, whose sexual harassment lawsuit against Roger Ailes forced him to resign as chairman and CEO of Fox News: “Women’s voices heard. Again and Finally. #BeFierceAlways Its working.”
Weinstein’s army of former employees, who now occupy top jobs across Hollywood, have been flooded by individual, and group, emails since the Times story hit. One insider tells THR that the mood can be described as “finally it has all become public.”
The Weinstein brothers launched TWC in 2005 after leaving Miramax in an acrimonious split with Disney. Miramax, launched in 1979, was unparalleled in its success during the 1980s and 1990s, turning out such hits as Clerks, Pulp Fiction, Good Will Hunting and Shakespeare in Love and scoring numerous Oscar nominations and best-picture wins for films such as The English Patient and Chicago.
But Weinstein’s golden touch has waned in recent years as the film side of his company has been under enormous financial pressure. While TWC films like Lion and The Hateful Eight still received nominations, the actual wins have become more scarce. This year, TWC’s big awards prospect is the crime drama Wind River, the directorial debut from Sicario and Hell or High Water writer Taylor Sheridan. This may be the first awards season in recent memory that will not include Weinstein. The avid campaigner has had at least one best-picture nominee in every Oscars since 1990, winning the award an impressive five times, most recently with The King’s Speech in 2011 and The Artist in 2012.
TWC’s upcoming slate includes The Current War (Nov. 24), an industrial-age drama starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Thomas Edison and Michael Shannon as George Westinghouse; Paddington 2 (Jan. 2); The Upside (March 9); and Mary Magdalene (March 30).
A request for comment from attorney Charles Harder for Weinstein was steered to Sallie Hofmeister of strategic communications firm Sitrick and Company, who told THR: “I can’t reach him at the moment. He’s unavailable. Apologies.”