J.J. Abrams on Harvey Weinstein: "He's a Monster"

At the Hammer Museum's Gala in the Garden, Abrams, Emmy Rossum, Sam Esmail, Ruth Wilson and others talk to The Hollywood Reporter about Weinstein and the landscape of misconduct in Hollywood.
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic
J.J. Abrams

The Hammer Museum opened its doors Saturday night for a parade of elegantly dressed art lovers, philanthropists, filmmakers, actors and other creatives, many of whom were draped in designs by sponsor Bottega Veneta to attend the 15th annual Gala in the Garden. 

The cocktail hour that preceded the dinner and awards presentation, which honored Ava DuVernay and New Yorker writer Hilton Als, gave guests ample time to spin through the galleries on the museum's upper deck, sip wine and peruse works in the current (and well-timed) exhibit, Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960-1985.

Small crowds gathered in front of one wall on the Lindbrook Terrace just outside a main gallery space where Sam Durant's bold work is positioned. It's a large-scale light box lit up with an orange/tomato red hue with the words "End White Supremacy" scrawled across it in black letters.

In short: There's a lot to talk about here, from art and politics to fashion and culture. (And plenty of Instagram-friendly set-ups.)

But Hollywood news seemed inescapable on this night as the shocking story of Harvey Weinstein continues to unfold. While many industry insiders skipped interviews on the red carpet down below, others agreed to share their perspective with The Hollywood Reporter even if the glamorous backdrop did not immediately seem an appropriate place to discuss sexual misconduct, rape and shocking abuses of power several decades over. 

J.J. Abrams, in attendance to introduce DuVernay, said the conversation is a must. 

"Someone said to me the other day that they are sick of hearing people talk about how disgusting it is," explained Abrams, referencing the story swirling around Weinstein, who now stands accused of horrifying advances, violations and propositions by more than 30 women including Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Rose McGowan, Ashley Judd and Lea Seydoux, among others. "I don't think enough can be said about how viciously repulsive his abuse of power was. He's a monster. There are other monsters but there are those who fight monsters and tonight is all about those who fight monsters." 

The latter proved to be a nice tie-in back to the night's program, which would see his friend DuVernay take the stage alongside the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Als, a staffer at The New Yorker, which coincidentally helped break the Weinstein story wide open with an exposé by Ronan Farrow. 

"I love her, I admire her, I would do anything for her," Abrams told THR of DuVernay. "Being here is an absolute joy. I just think we are riding a very unpredictable and tumultuous and in many cases, painful wave. Being here tonight to honor someone like Ava who is doing such incredible work and is such a beacon of activism and optimism is a wonderful antidote to everything else."

It's a sentiment shared by Emmy Rossum and Sam Esmail. The couple said they are fans of DuVernay, Bottega and museums — they spent their wedding night celebrating at Manhattan's Guggenheim Museum — but they can't ignore the constant stream of shocking headlines. "We are all still processing," said Rossum, in Bottega. "Some new information for all of us; some of us seem to have known. Sarah Polley just wrote something for The New York Times that we read five minutes before we left the house that we feel very stirred by. We definitely want to condemn actions that don't reflect how we want the culture of our industry and our society to be, and we also want to look within ourselves to see what we can do better." 

The Mr. Robot creator added that there is much to be done in regard to how women are treated overall. "The stuff that goes on is really despicable and has no place in any work environment, let alone in our industry," he detailed. "There is something about our industry where women especially are asked to be vulnerable and sexualized. That has to be treated with more sensitivity not less."

Just as he finished, more stars walked to the top of the stairs where they were met by flashbulbs and greetings from museum director Ann Philbin. People like Jessica Chastain, Diane Keaton, Jessica Lange, Sarah Jessica Parker, Priyanka Chopra, Evan Rachel Wood, Armie Hammer, January Jones, Marisa Tomei and the Haim sisters, who performed. Also there: Bottega-clad Ruth Wilson, who stars in Dark River, about a woman with sexual abuse in her past. 

"It needs to be addressed," she said. "It's in every element of the industry; it's not just producers, it's the work environments for women in general. It's about time that Hollywood and the rest of the industries — the TV industry, the movie industry in the U.K. — start dealing with it. Women have not been on an equal platform for a very long time."