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The head of Russia’s international film promotion body Roskino claims she was sexually harassed by Harvey Weinstein.
Katya Mtsitouridze, hostess of This Is Cinema (a popular show on Russia’s national television station Channel One) and, as head of film promotional body Roskino, a well-known and influential figure in the Russian film industry, says Weinstein repeatedly pressed her for personal meetings for more than a decade. He also, during the Venice Film Festival, greeted her in his hotel room wearing only a bathrobe and suggested she give him a massage.
Mtsitouridze also says the disgraced Hollywood film producer warned her not to speak out about his behavior toward her.
“I first met Mr. Weinstein in the Regent hotel at the Berlin film festival [in 2003], where I was doing a television interview with George Clooney for Channel One,” Mtsitouridze tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Harvey was co-producer of Clooney’s directorial debut, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. After the interview, he came up to me saying that he liked my questions and would love to have lunch in his room — that he loved Russian culture, especially Chekhov, and that his grandparents were originally from Russia — and that we could have an interesting conversation. I was surprised and told him, rather ironically, that, of course, it would be an honor, but I was afraid my boyfriend would not be happy about our cultural tete-a-tete, but if he wished to invite him, there would be no problem.”
Weinstein was nonplussed by her reply, Mtsitouridze recalls: “He said, ‘Don’t you understand me?’ and wrote his mobile number down, adding he was waiting for my call at any time.”
Busy with festival work, Mtsitouridze put the incident out of her mind and soon forgot about it.
“Later, our paths crossed a few times at various events,” she says, adding that she tried to avoid Weinstein because he would always “with such passion ask, ‘When will you call me?’ Or ‘Let me fly you to New York.'” Again, Mtsitouridze says she used her wits and humor to sidestep these proposals.
It was in Venice in 2004 that she says the most threatening incident occurred.
“We met at the premiere of Finding Neverland, starring Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet,” she recalls. “This was the famous screening which was delayed by an hour — unthinkable for any self-respecting festival — when Harvey, half-joking, threatened the festival director in comments made from the stage, with words to the effect of, ‘If this happens again with my movie, I’ll drown you in the lagoon.'”
It was immediately following the screening that Weinstein again approached Mtsitouridze.
“He invited me to meet him in his room after the party, saying he had a great idea for working with contemporary Russian writers, reminding me that he was a publisher as well as a filmmaker,” she says.
She refused but diplomatically suggested a meeting the following day at the cafe of the Excelsior, the luxurious five-star hotel frequented by top filmmakers on the Lido during the Venice fest.
Knowing that many movie companies and press people stayed at the hotel, she chose a public place for the meeting. When she turned up the next day, she was greeted by an assistant, who said Weinstein was feeling unwell and suggested she join him for lunch in his room upstairs.
“The assistant said that he would be joining us, so I went up,” Mtsitouridze says. But when she walked into the room, she noticed the “table was set for two” and that the “assistant instantly disappeared.”
The shock of what happened next is still with Mtsitouridze 13 years later: “I was frozen into immobility like a statue, because a well-known producer with whom I’ve come to discuss modern Russian writers, was in a bathrobe.”
What is now a familiar approach unfolded, echoed in the testimonies of dozens of women recently. Weinstein looked at Mtsitouridze and told her: “I waited for the masseuse, but she’s late. We can have fun without her. Let’s relax.”
She says he then referred to his recent abdominal surgery, in what appeared to be an attempt to garner her sympathy. “He tried to show me his stomach,” Mtsitouridze says. “I was disgusted.”
Frozen to the spot, desperately trying to work out how to extricate herself from the alarming situation, Mtsitouridze recalled that in the corridor outside there was a press junket taking place. She wondered if she screamed loud enough would her cries be heard?
Mtsitouridze heard Weinstein say, “You will love it. I’m a guru in this matter. You never met a man like me.” She says it’s unclear if he was referring to a massage or something more intimate.
Mtsitouridze says she was saved, “like a scene from a bad movie,” when a waiter entered the room without knocking, bringing in an ice bucket for champagne.
“It seems he had set the table and returned to finish everything,” she says.
Seizing the moment, she turned and ran.
The incident, she says today, “seemed to go on for so long it felt like forever, but in reality, it was only a few minutes.”
Outside in the corridor, she bumped into “some friends from Dutch television, who, seeing my condition, began to ask what happened. I was so nervous and frightened that I preferred to say that I felt bad because of something I had eaten and since then have simply tried to forget this incident like a bad dream.”
Mtsitouridze did her best in the following years to avoid Weinstein at the festivals and events they both attended.
“[But] one day, it was the opening of the Cannes film festival, in 2014 or 2015. I was standing in the company of friends, including producer and investor Len Blavatnik, and Harvey walked over to say hello,” she remembers. “Len, not knowing that we had met, introduced us, noting that I’m promoting Russian film worldwide, producing movies and know the Russian industry very well, so we could discuss any common projects.”
It was, she says, the “usual nice intro,” but she was left feeling awkward in Weinstein’s presence. “I did not know how to behave. I was so frustrated. But Harvey, acting as if nothing had happened, kissed my hand and said quietly so that only I could hear: ‘Don’t even think about saying anything. Forget all about it. Be a smart girl.'”
It was, she says, “all so disgusting. I had no idea that it was his usual way of communicating with women.”
Mtsitouridze did not plan to go public with her experiences, even as more and more women spoke to the press but, when approached by THR, decided the time was right.
“I’m sure all the victims of violence, regardless of whether they are well known or unknown to the public, deserve sympathy and support,” she says.
She emphasizes that she does not intend for her story to become part of a “witch hunt,” recalling that “in Soviet times we experienced the public exposure of famous people, writers, directors or state officials [for inappropriate behavior or other criminal charges]. Later it turned out that many of these cases were wrong.”
But she adds: “In Harvey’s case — and he is certainly one of the most famous producers in Hollywood — we have to understand that this does not give him the right to behave like this and he needs to take responsibility for his actions. In my opinion, as soon as this topic is raised, we should use this to ensure that in the future such stories will not be repeated. And this applies to both traditional and gay relationships. If a director or producer tries to harass a gay actor, it’s also unacceptable, as is the situation with women. I think the creative industries around the world draw conclusions from this sad story. Thanks to the internet, the world today has become much more open and many things begin to change.”
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