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Harvey Weinstein: Hollywood kingmaker with feet of clay

Frankie Taggart

Agence France-Presse

Los Angeles, United States | Tue, October 10, 2017 | 01:31 pm
Harvey Weinstein: Hollywood kingmaker with feet of clay

This file photo taken on May 23, 2017 shows US film producer Harvey Weinstein posing during a photocall as he arrived to attend the De Grisogono Party on the sidelines of the 70th Cannes Film Festival, at the Cap-Eden-Roc hotel in Antibes, near Cannes, southeastern France. Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein issued an apology on Oct. 5, 2017 and announced he was taking leave after the New York Times published a bombshell report accusing him of sexual harassment over several decades. (Agence France -Presse/Yann COATSALIOU )

Meryl Streep famously called him "God" but Harvey Weinstein has emphatically fallen to Earth amid lurid accusations of sexual harassment that threaten to end his glittering career.

The Oscar-winning movie mogul, one of Hollywood's most influential powerbrokers who was able to make or break careers, was forced out of his own company on Sunday as the scandal mushroomed. 

The Weinstein Company's board said it had sacked him "in light of new information about misconduct" in an explosive New York Times article detailing decades of legal settlements stemming from sexual harassment allegations by numerous women. 

The 65-year-old tycoon, who was said to have been fighting to remain at the company, issued a bizarre statement apologizing for his actions without addressing any specific allegations, misquoting the rapper Jay Z, and appearing in part to justify his behavior.

"I came of age in the '60s and '70s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different. That was the culture then," said Weinstein, a prominent Democratic Party donor whose personal wealth is estimated at around $150 million.

Despite the apology, the father-of-two, who is married to English fashion designer Georgina Chapman, says he is planning to sue the Times over reporting his legal team denounced as "saturated with false and defamatory statements."

According to the Times, Weinstein's allegedly inappropriate behavior goes back nearly three decades and he has reached private settlements with at least eight women.

Many of his accusers were young women hoping to break into the industry, including celebrities such as Rose McGowan and Ashley Judd.

They allege a range of misconduct, including that Weinstein forced them to massage him or watch him naked and promised to help advance their careers in exchange for sexual favors.

Read also: Hollywood mogul Weinstein fired after sex harassment claims: reports

Therapy 

One woman accused him in a follow-up article by the Huffington Post of cornering her in a New York restaurant and pleasuring himself in front of her.

Weinstein "has acknowledged mistakes he has made" and is "reading books and going to therapy" his advisor, the celebrity lawyer Lisa Bloom, said after the Times story broke. 

Bloom, known for her rights advocacy and representation of women who lodged allegations against Bill Cosby and Bill O'Reilly, announced on Saturday however that she was resigning from Team Weinstein.

President Donald Trump -- who has faced sexual misconduct allegations of his own from more than a dozen women -- weighed into the controversy over the weekend, saying he was "not at all surprised" by the claims targeting Weinstein.

The movie magnate's scandal looks certain to destroy his status as something of a legend in Hollywood, earned over decades of producing movies loved by the public and critics alike.

Before the Weinstein Company, with his younger brother Bob he co-founded Miramax Films -- named after his mother Miriam and father Max -- in 1979.

Miramax was sold to Disney in 1993 and the Weinstein brothers left the company in 2005 to start their own movie studio. 

The numerous films he has steered to Academy Awards glory include "The Artist," "The King's Speech," "The Iron Lady" -- which won best actress Oscar for Streep as former British premier Margaret Thatcher -- as well as "My Week with Marilyn" about screen idol Marilyn Monroe.

Miramax hits include 1998's "Shakespeare in Love," for which Weinstein shared a best picture Oscar.

Over his three-decade career he has produced more than 300 projects, including Cannes-winning "Pulp Fiction" ( 1994 ), "Pret a Porter" in 1994, "The English Patient" ( 1996 ), and "Gangs of New York" in 2002.

The burly executive is famous for his ability to orchestrate Oscars campaigns and reputedly works his films' cast and crew hard.

Read also: Streep, Dench voice outrage at Weinstein sex revelations

'The Punisher' 

Streep -- who is famously protective of her family life, shunning the Hollywood publicity machine -- was apparently made to earn every penny of her fee on the promotion circuit for "The Iron Lady."

At the 2012 Golden Globes, she followed the advice of the host, British comic Ricky Gervais, who joked that winners should limit their acceptance speeches to thanking their agents and God.

"I just want to thank my agent and God -- Harvey Weinstein," retorted Streep, prompting laughter and raised eyebrows from the audience. 

"The punisher. Old Testament, I guess," added the actress.

Streep, 68, broke her silence on the controversy on Monday in a statement first published by the Huffington Post, in which she said she was "appalled" by the "disgraceful" news and had no idea about the allegations.

Fellow Oscar winner Judi Dench, who has credited much of her success to Weinstein and famously revealed she had a fake tattoo of his initials applied to her buttocks, said in a statement to Newsweek she was "horrified" and also denied any knowledge of the accusations. 

As the firestorm of controversy threatening to bury the producer's career has continued to escalate, several other entertainment industry figures have spoken out to condemn Weinstein.

They include actors Seth Rogan, Lena Dunham and Patricia Arquette, director James Gunn, fellow producer Judd Apatow and Mika Brzezinski, co-host of MSNBC's "Morning Joe" news program.

Ann Fromholz, an employment lawyer in Pasadena, southern California, said however people shouldn't assume that Tinseltown has heard the last of Harvey Weinstein.

"There would be risks in a company bringing him back, hiring him again, contracting with him again," she told AFP. 

"And yet I wouldn't be remotely surprised if, after some period of time had passed, he were to come back."   

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