'Shakespeare in Love' Director on Harvey Weinstein: "It's About an Abuse of Power"

John Madden  - Getty - H 2016
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John Madden says the “disgraced” mogul was using his power “in ways that are repugnant and should be utterly condemned.”

British director John Madden has joined the chorus of industry figures condemning Harvey Weinstein, telling THR in an exclusive interview that the mogul "is a disgraced figure and, by his own acknowledgment, he’s brought this on himself.”

Speaking to THR at the Mumbai Film Festival, he said that Weinstein “craved power and had power and, as we now know, he was using it in ways that are repugnant and should be utterly condemned."

Madden had a long association with Weinstein, starting with his first film, 1993’s Ethan Frome, which was picked up for distribution by Miramax, then led by the Weinstein brothers. The studio then bought Madden’s 1997 title Miss Brown, starring Judy Dench. This was followed by Weinstein producing the Oscar-winning Shakespeare in Love, which again starred Dench, along with Gwyneth Paltrow.

When asked about his views on Paltrow going on record to say that Weinstein harassed her, Madden said: “The answer to your question is, I had no idea. We are all shocked about it." Madden again worked with Paltrow on 2005’s Proof, which was also produced by Miramax.

Madden is heading the international jury at the ongoing Mumbai festival. His connection with India goes back to his 2011 film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and its 2015 sequel, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which were filmed in the country. The films revolved around British pensioners who move to a retirement hotel in Rajasthan, with the second film introducing an American character played by Richard Gere.

Madden had earlier issued a statement condemning Weinstein, as quoted by Buzzfeed, in which he said: “I applaud the women who have been brave enough to share their testimony of profoundly damaging and deeply abusive experiences.”

Elaborating on his views on the numerous allegations of sexual harassment, and even rape, against Weinstein, Madden told THR: “It’s a dismaying discovery to say the least. I think that what is revealed and what has been spoken about by the people who are the real victims, the women who have come forward, and it seems like a limitless number who have come forward to testify, to what they have had to endure is shocking and worthy of total condemnation.”

Madden said he “thought a lot about it because I have had a long association with that studio [Miramax] and with Harvey in particular and famously, he is not an easy man to deal with.”

Admitting that he had “many, many, many creative battles” with Weinstein, Madden said he “never had any sense of what was going on" regarding the various harassment allegations.

He added: “I think the lesson we take from this is, we should all be more vigilant and more aware because the whole thing is about an abuse of power, and Harvey was a very, very, very powerful man.”

Drawing parallels with his own experiences of battling Weinstein, Madden said: “In some way, the fact that he wielded that power as best he could to get what he wanted which might, for example, in my experience, be a creative point of view, which I would do battle with him on and I held my own just fine with him, but it never occurred [to me] that the same exercise of power was being used in such an incredibly damaging way.” Madden added that  Weinstein “became so powerful, he thought he was untouchable.”

According to Madden, the result of the ongoing media focus on Weinstein has led to “a very significant moment for a kind of realignment of what’s going on particularly in terms of the role of women in the industry — how their interests are subjugated in a whole slew of ways, [for example] the kind of roles they tend to be cast in and so forth, that’s shifting dramatically.”

Commenting on Bob Weinstein’s interview with THR, in which he said he had had no idea about the “type of predator” his brother was, Madden said: “Bob Weinstein’s revelations are a very startling development. I was not aware that they haven’t spoken to each other for [five] years or something.”

As for his upcoming projects, Madden said he was developing some ideas, but couldn’t give more details except that he hoped to work again with Shakespeare in Love co-writer, playwright Tom Stoppard.

In terms of a potential third installment of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel films, Madden said, “The idea of making it a franchise out of characters who are predominantly in their 70s and 80s is a funny idea anyway. There was a lot of talk about how to make a third movie, but we all said you can’t do that...it's inevitable someone is going to die and that’s not what the studio or the audience wants.”

But he added he “could imagine strangely, the story having a new life in television. The cross-cultural idea can live in all sorts of characters, if not the same characters.”

The Mumbai Film Festival kicked off Thursday, with an opening ceremony that honored Indian actress Sharmila Tagore with an excellence in cinema award. Organized by the Mumbai Academy of Moving Images, the festival concludes Wednesday.