MIPCOM: Harvey Weinstein Scandal Hangs Over Cannes

Cannes's Croisette

The sexual assault scandal is the talk among executives and actors at the TV industry gathering in Cannes.

At MIPCOM in Cannes, Harvey Weinstein is the elephant in every room.

Industry attendees walking through the Carlton bar or the Majestic restaurant can hear his name, once whispered in hushed terms out of either reverence or fear, as the topic of every table following the avalanche of accusations of decades of sexual assault and harassment of actresses.

The Weinstein scandal also dominated talk at the Women in Global Entertainment lunch Monday, where Catherine Zeta-Jones said she was “shocked and disgusted” over the revelations, while both panelists and guests at the tables discussed the fallout.

“It is something that has been going on for decades, forever really, and this maybe marks a shift in what is acceptable and can be a positive thing for women in the business,” said one British TV buyer who recalled years ago women would go along with such behavior for fear of “rocking the boat.”

As the #metoo hashtag has caught on, with Alyssa Milano writing on Twitter Sunday afternoon that sharing it as a social media status "might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem" of sexual harassment and assault, executives in Cannes were taken aback by how common such problems are in Hollywood and beyond.

"I just saw this morning the staggering number of people who have posted on the #MeToo hashtag, it was almost every women I knew. It really shocks and appalls,” said Russell Rothberg, former head of drama development at Universal Television, at MIPCOM promoting his new drama series Jerusalem. “I have worked with a lot of fantastic women who have either been showrunners, producers or directors, and I don't think I've ever thought or seen in any way shape or form that someone was going to do a better job because they were a man.”

Talent on the Croisette is also discussing the fallout from the revelations that have rocked Hollywood.

“What he was able to do, it's heartbreaking. Weinstein had access to money and power in a business where there's women everywhere,” said Kristin Kreuk, in town to promote her show Burden of Truth. “We have all gone through this. In our industry, that's how sets run, where actresses are harassed without it being called harassment.”

Jeremy Sisto, promoting his Audience Network drama Ice, said the Weinstein controversy could mark a turning point in how Hollywood operates. “We're in the midst of a revolution of culture, and it's a great thing and a needed thing," he said, also mentioning "the crassness of Donald Trump and his campaign." He added: “You had a bunch of people who just accepted the way things are. Now it's a complex transition.”

Former Sony Corp. boss Howard Stringer on Monday had also told THR that he feels the Weinstein scandal was "a watershed moment" for Hollywood. "Now the women are organized and united and together will beat the system, whether the men want it or not," he said.

Sisto said the change is already visible. “Comedians are being held to a different standard. Everyone's apologizing for their jokes. It's weird, because the people saying those jokes, they're not bad people," he said. "But because there is a necessary shift of an entire consciousness, it's necessary that every time you talk about a subject, talk about a joke, you have to watch yourself. It's not the most comfortable place to be, but it's necessary for change. It's a very positive thing.”

Etan Vlessing contributed to this report.