Ryan Murphy found himself asked about the hottest news story in Hollywood over the weekend, when he participated in a talk at the New Yorker Festival on Saturday.
New Yorker TV critic Emily Nussbaum simply said to Murphy, “The Harvey Weinstein case: Please discuss.”
And Murphy had plenty to say, even though the prolific TV showrunner admitted he’s only had one “personal experience” with the mogul, which he quickly clarified “was not sexual in nature,” as more accounts of alleged sexual harassment by Weinstein emerged over the weekend.
Weinstein, Murphy said, had called him after the release of his version of The Normal Heart on HBO to say how much he loved it and how he wanted to do something with Murphy, to which Murphy had said OK.
Still, he had long gotten an unpleasant sense about Weinstein from the many A-list actresses he’s worked with.
“I never have heard the specifics of that case,” Murphy said. “But I do know my way around an Oscar-winning lady or two, and whenever he would come up in conversation, it would always be the same ‘ick.’ All of the girls, all of the women would say that. So to me, I always took it as a systemic, as a gay man dealing with a lot of women and famous women and celebrated women, that there was always this sort of land mine that you navigate when you are a woman as you go through in the system of Hollywood.”
He added, “I think most women have a Harvey Weinstein in their lives, so I think what’s come out is not surprising. I had never heard personal abuse stories, but it was just sort of an ick factor that made me say, ‘What’s up with that?'”
Weinstein is far from the first high-profile Hollywood figure to have been accused of sexual harassment, with Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly among the prominent media titans accused of harassment in recent years. And Murphy said he’s seeing a change in terms of the tolerance (or lack thereof) for this behavior.
“It’s interesting to me the timing of [the Harvey Weinstein scandal],” said Murphy. “I do feel that the business and the world are changing, and I see it every day. I sort of feel like how men in the business used to behave and how quickly now you are slapped to the ground if you try that, particularly in a corporate environment, that is radically different, just in the last year or two years that I have witnessed. You know, I work in a major corporation, I have a deal at Fox, and I see it. I see how certain ways of behavior are no longer tolerated.”
On a much lighter note, Nussbaum relayed a question she’d received via Twitter, regarding the controversy over Sex and the City 3, with star Kim Cattrall making it clear that she had no interest in reprising her role as Samantha Jones for a third film. How would Murphy resolve that situation and make Sex and the City 3?
“Why don’t they just recast Samantha?,” he offered, adding that he didn’t know who should replace her. Or perhaps the writers should “do a different script that includes people who want to be in it.” Or “do a Sex and the City 3 where Samantha is dead and that’s the opening and the three of them show up and start their lives over.”
In any event, Murphy was confident that Sarah Jessica Parker would figure it out.
“Sarah’s quite talented and she’s a great producer and I think she has a great business acumen,” Murphy said. “But I’m sure I would be very devastated if I had created something cultural like that and 95 percent of the team was like, ‘Yes, let’s go.’ And then there was a holdout that like, ‘No.’ I don’t blame Kim Cattrall. I don’t know anything about her or why she would say no, but if I was the creator of that show I’d be sad. It’s a sadness, because people do, I love those characters, I love seeing them together, they mean something to me. I watched them every week. They were important and they were cultural and they changed the discussion of women and sexuality in our culture.”