Harvey Weinstein 'literally chased me..he wouldn't let me pass him to get to the door'
Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie and others on producer's harassment claims
When Gwyneth Paltrow was 22 years old, she got a role that would take her from actress to star: The film producer Harvey Weinstein hired her for the lead in the Jane Austen adaptation Emma. Before shooting began, he summoned her to his suite at the Peninsula Beverly Hills hotel for a work meeting that began uneventfully.
It ended with Weinstein placing his hands on her and suggesting they head to the bedroom for massages, she said. “I was a kid, I was signed up, I was petrified,” she said in an interview, publicly disclosing that she was sexually harassed by the man who ignited her career and later helped her win an Academy Award.
She refused his advances, she said, and confided in Brad Pitt, her boyfriend at the time. Pitt confronted Weinstein, and soon after, the producer threatened her not to tell anyone else about his come-on. “I thought he was going to fire me,” she said.
Rosanna Arquette, a star of Pulp Fiction, has a similar account of Weinstein’s behaviour, as does Judith Godrèche, a leading French actor. So does Angelina Jolie, who said that during the release of Playing by Heart in the late 1990s, he made unwanted advances on her in a hotel room, which she rejected.
“I had a bad experience with Harvey Weinstein in my youth, and as a result, chose never to work with him again and warn others when they did,” Jolie said in an email. “This behaviour towards women in any field, any country is unacceptable.”
A New York Times investigation last week chronicled a hidden history of sexual harassment allegations against Weinstein and settlements he paid, often involving former employees, over three decades up to 2015. By Sunday evening, his entertainment company fired him.
On Tuesday, the New Yorker published a report that included multiple allegations of sexual assault, including forced oral and vaginal sex. The article also included accounts of sexual harassment going back to the 1990s, with women describing how intimidating Weinstein was.
Several days ago, additional actresses began sharing with the New York Times on-the-record stories of casting-couch abuses.Their accounts hint at the sweep of Weinstein’s alleged harassment, targeting women on the way to stardom, those who had barely acted and others in between. Fantasies that the public eagerly watched onscreen, the women recounted, sometimes masked the dark experiences of those performing in them.
The encounters they recalled followed a similar narrative: First, they said, Weinstein lured them to a private place to discuss films, scripts or even Oscar campaigns. Then, the women contend, he variously tried to initiate massages, touched them inappropriately, took off his clothes or offered them explicit work-for-sex deals.
In a statement on Tuesday, his spokeswoman, Sallie Hofmeister, said: “Any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr Weinstein. Mr Weinstein has further confirmed that there were never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances. He will not be available for further comments, as he is taking the time to focus on his family, on getting counseling and rebuilding his life.”
Even in an industry in which sexual harassment has long persisted, Weinstein stands out, according to the actresses and current and former employees of the film companies he ran, Miramax and The Weinstein Co. He had an elaborate system reliant on the co-operation of others: Assistants often booked the meetings, arranged the hotel rooms and sometimes even delivered the talent, then disappeared, the actresses and employees recounted. They described how some of Weinstein’s executives and assistants then found them agents and jobs or hushed actresses who were upset.
His alleged behaviour became something of a Hollywood open secret: When comedian Seth MacFarlane announced Oscar nominees in 2013, he joked, “Congratulations, you five ladies no longer have to pretend to be attracted to Harvey Weinstein.” The audience laughed.
More established actresses were fearful of speaking out because they had work; less established ones were scared because they did not. “This is Harvey Weinstein,” Katherine Kendall, who appeared in the film Swingers and television roles, remembers telling herself after an encounter in which she said Weinstein undressed and chased her around a living room. Telling others meant “I’ll never work again and no one is going to care or believe me”, she reasoned at the time, she said in a recent interview.
Paltrow (45) is now an entrepreneur, no longer dependent on securing her next acting role. But she emphasised how much more vulnerable she felt at 22, when Weinstein had just signed her up for a star-making part. On a trip to Los Angeles, she received a schedule from her agents for the hotel meeting with Weinstein.
There was no reason to suspect anything untoward, because “it’s on the fax, it’s from CAA”, she said, referring to Creative Artists Agency, which represented her. When Weinstein tried to massage her and invited her into the bedroom, she immediately left, she said, and remembers feeling stunned as she drove away. “I thought you were my Uncle Harvey,” she recalled thinking, explaining that she had seen him as a mentor.
After she told Pitt about the episode, he approached Weinstein at a theatre premiere and told him never to touch Paltrow again. Pitt confirmed the account to the New York Times through a representative. Soon after, Weinstein called Paltrow and berated her for discussing the episode, she recalled. (She said she also told a few friends, family members and her agent.)
“He screamed at me for a long time,” she said, once again fearing she could lose the role in Emma. “It was brutal.” But she stood her ground, she said, and insisted that he put the relationship back on professional footing.
Even as Paltrow became known as the “first lady of Miramax” and won an Oscar for Shakespeare in Love in 1999, very few people knew about Weinstein’s advances. “I was expected to keep the secret,” she said.
Like several of the other women interviewed for this article, she felt she had to suppress the experience. She praised Weinstein publicly, posed for pictures with him and played the glowing star to his powerful producer. Yet their work relationship grew rockier over the years, she said, and she distanced herself. “He was alternately generous and supportive and championing, and punitive and bullying,” she said.
Now, with the process of tallying the size and scope of Weinstein’s abuse allegations under way, Paltrow and others said they wanted to support women who had already come forward and help those in similar situations feel less alone. “We’re at a point in time when women need to send a clear message that this is over,” Paltrow said. “This way of treating women ends now.”
In 1984, when Roberts was a 20-year-old college junior, she waited tables in New York one summer and hoped to start an acting career. Weinstein, one of her customers, urged her to audition for a movie he and his brother were planning to direct. He sent scripts, then asked her to meet him where he was staying so they could discuss the film, she said in an email and a telephone interview.
When she arrived, he was nude in the bathtub, she recalled. He told her that she would give a much better audition if she were comfortable “getting naked in front of him” too, because the character she might play would have a topless scene.
If she could not bare her breasts in private, she would not be able to do it on film, Roberts recalled Weinstein saying. (Asta Roberts, her mother, said in an interview that Tomi-AnneRoberts told her the story shortly after the episode.) Roberts remembers apologising on the way out, telling Weinstein that she was too prudish to go along. Later, she felt that he manipulated her by feigning professional interest in her, and she doubted that she had ever been under serious consideration. “I was nobody! How had I ever thought otherwise?” she asked.
Today she is a psychology professor at Colorado College, researching sexual objectification, an interest she traces back in part to that long-ago encounter. She said that over the years she had had trouble watching Weinstein’s films. With a new release, “I would always ask, is it a Miramax movie? “
In the early 1990s, Weinstein asked Rosanna Arquette to stop by the Beverly Hills Hotel to pick up a script for a role. Born into a family of actors, Arquette had already starred in a hit film, Desperately Seeking Susan, and New York Stories, and would go on to perform in films including Crash and television shows ranging from Ray Donovan to Girls. (Her account also appeared in The New Yorker.)
At the reception desk, she was told to head upstairs, which she found odd. Weinstein was in a white bathrobe, complaining of neck pain and asking for a massage, according to Arquette and Maria Smith, a friend she told soon afterward. Arquette said she tried to recommend a professional masseuse, but Weinstein grabbed her hand and pulled it toward his crotch. She immediately drew away, she said.
He boasted about the famous actresses he had supposedly slept with – a common element of his come-on, according to several other women who had encounters with Weinstein. “Rosanna, you’re making a big mistake,” he responded, she said. She refused. “I’m not that girl,” she recalled telling him on the way out. “I will never be that girl.”
The part went to someone else, and Weinstein’s representative pointed out that he did not produce the movie. Later, Arquette was in the Miramax film Pulp Fiction but said she avoided Weinstein.
“Welcome to the Miramax family,” Weinstein told Katherine Kendall in 1993, she said. She was 23, and about that time he was selling his small movie company to Disney, which supplied the cash that would turn it into a cultural force. After a meeting set up by her agent, he gave her scripts, including for the film Beautiful Girls, and invited her to a screening, which turned out to be a solo trip with Weinstein to a cinema near Lincoln Centre in Manhattan. Afterward, he asked if they could swing by his apartment to pick something up.
Kendall said she was nervous, but it was daytime, and she relaxed when she saw pictures of his wife on the wall. “He’s keeping it professional, he makes me a drink, we talk about movies and art and books for about an hour,” she recalled. “I thought: He’s taking me seriously.”
He went to the bathroom, came back in a robe and asked her to give him a massage, she said. “Everybody does it,” he said, according to Kendall, and mentioned a famous model’s name. She refused; he left the room, and returned nude, she said. “He literally chased me,” she said. “He wouldn’t let me pass him to get to the door.”
Kendall said his advances had a bargaining quality: He asked if she would at least show her breasts, if nothing else. She said no to all of it, she recounted. “I just thought to myself: ‘I can’t believe you’re doing this to me. I’m so offended – we just had a meeting,’” she said. (Her mother, Kay Kendall, said in a brief interview that her daughter had told her the story at the time.)
Kendall appeared in the film Swingers, distributed (but not produced) by Miramax, and has worked on and off as an actor since then. But she said the episode had dampened her enthusiasm for the business. “If this is what it takes, I can’t do it,” she said.
When Weinstein invited Judith Godrèche to breakfast at the Cannes Film Festival in 1996, she had no idea who he was. At 24, she was already a star in France, and a new film she was in, “Ridicule,” was opening the festival. He had just acquired the movie and said he wanted to discuss it.
They had breakfast at the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc, joined by a female Miramax executive. After the executive left, Weinstein invited Godrèche up to his suite to see the view, and to discuss the film’s marketing and even an Oscar campaign, she said in an interview.
“I was so naive and unprepared,” she said. Upstairs, he asked to give her a massage, Godrèche said. She said no. He argued that casual massages were an American custom – he gave them to his secretary all the time, Godrèche recalled him saying. “The next thing I know, he’s pressing against me and pulling off my sweater,” she said. She pulled away and left the suite. (Alain Godrèche , her father, said in an interview that his daughter told her about the episode the next morning.)
Seeking advice, she later called the female Miramax executive, who told her not to say anything, lest she hurt the film’s release. “They put my face on the poster,” she said. “This is Miramax,” she said. “You can’t say anything.”
Since then, Godrèche has starred in films in France and the United States. Like Paltrow, she felt she had to maintain a rapport with Weinstein, and sent him friendly emails inquiring about party invitations and potential work. “I tried to negotiate the situation over the years, and negotiate with myself and pretend it kind of never happened, “ she said.
“I wish I’d had someone to talk to, to say, ‘How do you deal with this?’”
In 2003, Dunning was doing small acting gigs, attending design school and waitressing in a nightclub where she met Weinstein. The 24-year-old was wary, but Weinstein was friendly, professional and supportive, she said, offering her a screen test at Miramax, inviting her to lunch and dinner to talk about films and even giving her and her boyfriend tickets to see The Producers on Broadway.
Then his assistant invited her to a meal with Weinstein at a Manhattan hotel. Dunning headed to the restaurant, where she was told Weinstein’s earlier meeting was running late, so she should head up to his suite. There was no meeting. Weinstein was in a bathrobe, behind a coffee table covered with papers. He told her they were contracts for his next three films, according to Dunning. But she could only sign them on a condition: She would have to have three-way sex with him.
Dunning said she laughed, assuming he was joking, and Weinstein grew angry. “You’ll never make it in this business,” she said he told her. “This is how the business works.” Dunning fled, she said, and when the assistant called her the next day, she hung up.
She told her father, Rick Dunning, of the episode within a few months, he said in an interview. “I was like: Maybe this is how the business works,” she said. She left acting soon after and became a costume designer.
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