The Jakarta Post
American actress Rosanna Arquette arrives for Lionsgate's special screening of "Bombshell" at the Regency Village Theater in Westwood, California, the United States on Tuesday. (AFP/Lisa O'Connor)
Untouchable: The Rise and Fall of Harvey Weinstein opens with rows of palm trees, so closely associated with Hollywood, the place where dreams are made in the United States.
Then, testimonies after testimonies are revealed, one never easier than the last. Long pauses and tears signify the weight of these women’s words and experiences.
Directed by Ursula MacFarlane, the exhaustive documentary features victims of Weinstein’s sexual abuse and assault, alongside testimonies of former employees and journalists who either witnessed or were on the receiving end of the producer’s bad behavior. It aims to unravel the once-acclaimed producer’s crimes and the culture of silence that shocked the industry.
Weinstein, formerly of Miramax Films and the Weinstein Company (TWC), was accused of sexual abuse and assault by dozens of women in powerful reports published in The New York Times and The New Yorker in October 2017. The list of actresses who came forward included Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Asia Argento, Ashley Judd, Mira Sorvino and Cate Blanchett.
The revelation created a snowball of effects that included the global #MeToo movement, which urges anyone who has been sexually assaulted to share their stories, the launch of the #Time’sUp campaign against sexual harassment, as well as allegations toward high-profile public figures in entertainment, politics and media.
One of the more well-known Hollywood stars to appear in Untouchable is American actress and director Rosanna Arquette, best known for her role in Desperately Seeking Susan and Pulp Fiction. She was one of the first women who publicly accused Weinstein of assaulting her in the early 1990s.
In a piece by Ronan Farrow published on Oct. 10, 2017, on The New Yorker website, Arquette said that after she rejected Weinstein’s advances or complained about them to company representatives, Weinstein had her removed from projects or dissuaded people from hiring her.
In an e-mail interview with The Jakarta Post, Arquette described how her career has been impacted by the assault. She once received an offer for “a really wonderful movie” project, though afterward, she was told that “it fell apart”. Two weeks later, she heard that the project was back on and they had cast a younger actress.
“These things happen; it's just really disappointing,” she said. “And you feel really bad and like this [is] part of the sabotage. And it's hard not to go there.”
Initially, the actress was afraid to go on the record. But then the accusers of Bill Cosby and Roger Ailes (formerly of Fox News) came out and she sensed that people were becoming restless.
“The already established #MeToo, which was Tarana Burke’s organization that she had had for many years, was elevated to the heights across the world because of our story. Then, everybody came to talk about their own stories, which caused a firestorm,” she said.
Arquette emphasized the profound and powerful impact of sharing stories can be, saying that almost everybody had a story or knew somebody who had a story. But even then, she also noted that not a lot of women came out in the Untouchable documentary.
“Other actresses like Mira Sorvino and Ashley Judd, nobody wanted to do it. They were really, really fearful,” she said.
Arquette praised MacFarlane for her respectable way of making the film. During the release of Untouchable in the United States, though, she noticed attempts in “shutting down the press” of her speaking about the film.
“Or I wasn't invited to certain screenings,” she said. “You look at this and go, wow, they're just so threatened.”
There is a particular bit in the documentary about how the abuse was enabled by the system surrounding the American film industry, made possible by powerful relationships and the complicity culture at TWC. The notion was recognized by Arquette, who said, “I know film people — they all support him.”
But she also acknowledged the attempts of bringing the stories to the forefront, such as by the movie Bombshell, which depicts the sexual harassment allegations at Fox News that led to the ouster of network founder Ailes. The movie earned four nominations at the 2020 Screen Actors Guild Awards.
Arquette praised director Jay Roach, who she referred to as a feminist.
“We need more men like Jay Roach,” she said. “There are great men who honor women and are going to tell these stories. We just need the storytellers to continue to be our allies. That's part of the healing.”
A life-long activist, Arquette was arrested alongside fellow actors and protesters Jane Fonda and Catherine Keener for being involved in the climate change action in Washington, D.C. in early November. She shared how her mother, who was involved with the antiwar movement in the 1960s, taught her to be loving, kind and to have compassion.
She founded the Alexis Arquette Family Foundation, partnered with Violence Intervention Program, which provides medical, mental health and support programs for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
Arquette received the 2019 Stockholm Achievement Award in early November for her acting career, political commitment and courage in the face of oppression and sexism. She acknowledged the many situations where offers for her were halted by studios.
“It continues to be more sabotage, which is painful because I really love to work,” she said. “But it is what it is right now. And we're not going to stop. We're not going to shut up as much as they try. The more they try to shut us up, the more powerful it's going to be.”
Untouchable: The Rise and Fall of Harvey Weinstein is available on iwonder.com.
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