Peter Jackson Says Harvey Weinstein Told Him to Blacklist Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino
The filmmaker says that he was told to avoid working with the actresses "at all costs" when he was packaging his blockbuster franchise 'Lord of the Rings.' Judd, Sorvino and Weinstein have all responded to Jackson's claims.
Mira Sorvino recently told The Hollywood Reporter that she couldn't say "for certain" that her career was impacted after she refused Harvey Weinstein's advances when she was a young actress on the verge of stardom and about to win a best supporting actress Oscar for Mighty Aphrodite. "I was not offered any movie roles past 1996," she said, wondering just how Weinstein may have retaliated against her. "Radio silence."
Now she knows.
In a new interview with New Zealand's Stuff, blockbuster director Peter Jackson addressed the Weinstein scandal and said that he was told by Weinstein's company not to hire actresses Sorvino and Ashley Judd, the latter of whom also had rejected Weinstein's sexual advances in a Beverly Hills hotel room around the same time. "I recall Miramax telling us they were a nightmare to work with and we should avoid them at all costs. This was probably in 1998," Jackson told writer Dani McDonald. "At the time, we had no reason to question what these guys were telling us — but in hindsight, I realize that this was very likely the Miramax smear campaign in full swing."
Jackson and Weinstein were in business together as Jackson was putting the pieces together for what would be his massively successful three-picture franchise The Lord of the Rings. The first film originally was slated to be a Miramax picture, but Jackson and Weinstein had a falling out over the number of installments Jackson intended to make, he has said, so he took his project to New Line. Weinstein and his brother Bob Weinstein both have executive producer credits on all three films.
"I now suspect we were fed false information about both of these talented women — and as a direct result their names were removed from our casting list," Jackson continued.
Jackson's statements immediately struck a nerve, not only with Judd and Sorvino, but with women who have experienced similar harassment in the workplace. A throughline of nearly every single story is the lingering fear of losing career opportunities or advancement, or simply, losing a stable job. Judd just summed it up to Esquire, saying, "Our greatest fear is being thrown out of a tribe, and that’s what happens when we’re being aggressed upon — we’ll get thrown out if we don't comply."
Jackson's quotes elicited an emotional response from Sorvino. "Just seeing this after I awoke, I burst out crying," she tweeted Friday morning. "There it is, confirmation that Harvey Weinstein derailed my career, something I suspected but was unsure. Thank you Peter Jackson for being honest. I’m just heartsick."
As for Judd, she confirmed that she recalled the LOTR situation. "I remember this well," the actress posted Thursday night. By Friday, Judd followed it up with a more specific memory, tweeting about a meeting with Jackson and his wife and longtime collaborator Fran Walsh. "Peter & Fran had me in — showed me all the creative, the boards, costumes, everything. They asked which if the two roles I preferred, and then I abruptly never heard from hem again. I appreciate the truth coming out. Thank you, Peter."
Weinstein has issued a statement countering this wave of claims.
Through his rep at Sitrick and Co., the disgraced mogul denied all of Jackson's allegations in a lengthy statement sent to media outlets Friday morning, saying that both women were considered for other Weinstein projects. As an executive producer, Weinstein asserts that he had "no input" on casting, and that he continued to work with Judd and Sorvino's husband, Christopher Backus. "Mr. Weinstein has nothing but the utmost respect for Peter Jackson. However, as Mr. Jackson will probably remember, because Disney would not finance the Lord of the Rings, Miramax lost the project and all casting was done by New Line," the statement read.
The rep also said that there were no indications that Judd or Sorvino had any issues with Weinstein until he read about their allegations in the press — first with Judd in Variety two years ago, and then with Sorvino in The New Yorker. "Until Ashley Judd wrote a piece for Variety two years ago, no one at the company knew that she had a complaint and she was cast in two other films by Mr. Weinstein — Frida and Crossing Over — and Mira Sorvino was always considered for other films as well," countered the rep.
The rep added that Sorvino called "Mr. Weinstein" earlier this year to ask if her husband could join the cast of his SEAL Team TV project Six. "Mr. Weinstein cast him; when Christopher Backus received a better offer, Mr. Weinstein allowed him to amicably break his contact to pursue the opportunity," the rep added. (Backus has a role on the Amazon series Bosch, though it is not known if that is the project.)
Sorvino's rep on Friday dismissed Weinstein's rep's claim, saying that the actress has not called Weinstein "for any reason for many, many years."
Jackson said to Stuff that following his experience with Weinstein on LOTR, he elected to avoid working with him and his brother. "My experience, when Miramax controlled the Lord of the Rings (before New Line took over production of the film), was of Weinstein and his brother behaving like second-rate Mafia bullies. They weren't the type of guys I wanted to work with — so I haven't," the filmmaker said. "Movie-making is much more fun when you work with nice people."
Jackson said that he "vaguely" remembers bumping into Weinstein at a LOTR event, but that it has been 20 years since their last interaction "of any substance." However, Jackson did read Friday's statement from Weinstein's rep and decided to weigh in again, releasing his own statement that offered additional details about the casting process and his recollections of that time when he was working with Weinstein.
"Aspects of Harvey’s denial are insincere. He is basically saying that 'this blacklisting couldn’t be true because New Line cast the movie.' That’s a deflection from the truth," Jackson said in a statement obtained by THR. "In the 18 months we developed the Lord of the Rings at Miramax, we had many casting conversations with Harvey Weinstein, Bob Weinstein and their executives."
Jackson noted that there were many actors in the mix for roles in the film, including Morgan Freeman, Paul Scofield, David Bowie, Liam Neeson, Natascha McElhone, Claire Forlani, Francesca Annis, Max von Sydow and Daniel Day Lewis. (Forlani also came forward with her own allegations against Weinstein.) "Amongst the many names raised, Fran and I expressed our enthusiasm for Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino. In fact, we met with Ashley and discussed two possible roles with her. After this meeting, we were told by Miramax to steer clear of both Ashley and Mira, because they claimed to have had 'bad experiences' with these particular actresses in the past," the filmmaker continued. "Fran Walsh was in the same meeting, and remembers these negative comments about Ashley and Mira as clearly as I do. We have no reason to make it up. Fran and I immediately remembered Miramax’s negative reaction when we put their names forward, and we wondered if we had unwittingly been part of the alleged damage to their careers, at the hands of Miramax. ... If we were unwitting accomplices in harming their careers, Fran and I unreservedly apologize to both Ashley and Mira."
On Saturday afternoon, Weinstein issued another statement through his representatives, reiterating that he "did not blacklist Mira Sorvino, and was in fact working with her during the timeframe in question on Mimic, the Guillermo Del Toro film." He went on to say that "during that time, [Sorvino] was dating Quentin Tarantino, who was the foundation and backbone of Miramax."
Weinstein claims that at the time, "no one could have blacklisted or derailed the career of Ms. Sorvino, who had recently won both an Academy and a Golden Globe award and was being courted for leading roles by all seven studios and every major broadcast network," and further claims that Jackson was so "powerful" following the success of LOTR that "he could have cast anyone he wanted in the Hobbit. Neither Ms. Judd nor Ms. Sorvino had roles in the film."
It has now been more than two months since reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey published their first Weinstein story in the Times on Oct. 5, an account that was followed by Ronan Farrow's multiple pieces in The New Yorker. Since then, there has been a steady stream of stories detailing harassment and sexual misconduct in Hollywood and beyond. As previously mentioned, nearly all of the stories address the often troubling aftermath of these types of encounters or attacks and the risks associated with coming forward: retaliation, emotional distress, damage to one's reputation and the loss of opportunities or career advancement. In some cases, accusers have elected to leave the industry altogether.
According to a study by U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 75 percent of survivors face some sort of retaliation. Further, one study found that the psychological effects of sexual harassment can rise to "the level of diagnosable Major Depressive Disorder or PTSD," and can be tied to other psychological effects such as disordered eating, self-blame, reduced self-esteem, emotional exhaustion, lowered satisfaction with life and abuse of prescription drugs and alcohol. Retaliation and loss of opportunity has been addressed in stories involving Weinstein and other high-profile Hollywood men like Louis C.K and Matthew Weiner, among many others.
Friday's statement from Weinstein comes during the same week when he went on the defensive against Salma Hayek following her blistering essay in the Times about her interactions with Weinstein, focused specifically on their collaboration surrounding the 2002 biopic Frida. She called Weinstein "my monster" too, and detailed allegations of his advances and her subsequent rejections to those advances. "No to opening the door to him at all hours of the night, hotel after hotel, location after location, where he would show up unexpectedly, including one location where I was doing a movie he wasn't even involved with," Hayek wrote. "No to me taking a shower with him. No to letting him watch me take a shower. No to letting him give me a massage. No to letting a naked friend of his give me a massage. No to letting him give me oral sex. No to my getting naked with another woman."
Weinstein, through his rep, denied her claims. "All of the sexual allegations as portrayed by Salma are not accurate and others who witnessed the events have a different account of what transpired," the statement adds.
Dec. 15, 12:16 p.m. Updated to include comment from Sorvino's rep about the alleged phone call.
Just seeing this after I awoke, I burst out crying. There it is, confirmation that Harvey Weinstein derailed my career, something I suspected but was unsure. Thank you Peter Jackson for being honest. I’m just heartsick https://t.co/ljK9NqICbm— Mira Sorvino (@MiraSorvino) December 15, 2017