NEW YORK: The allegations against Harvey Weinstein spanned three decades. His downfall came in three days. That was all it took to topple one of Hollywood’s most high-profile and sharp-elbowed moguls – a combative power player who, like few ever have, regularly dominated the Academy Awards.
But it was the all-powerful Weinstein who was ousted Sunday night from the company he co-founded and that bears his name. Following a devastating New York Times expose that detailed years of sexual harassment allegations against Weinstein, the Weinstein Co. co-chairman was unceremoniously fired by his brother, Bob, and three other directors on the film company’s board.
“In light of new information about misconduct by Harvey Weinstein that has emerged in the past few days, the directors of The Weinstein Company ... have determined, and have informed Harvey Weinstein, that his employment with The Weinstein Company is terminated, effective immediately,” the company board said in a statement Sunday night.
For a domineering studio head long known for intervening in the edit room, this is very likely the final cut. His career in Hollywood, many in the industry believe, is finished.
Of course, it took much longer than three days for Weinstein’s fall. The reporting took months, and followed years of previous efforts by other journalists to nail down details of the behavior that was roundly considered “an open secret” in Hollywood. And it took years for the alleged victims, including actress Ashley Judd, to work up the courage to go on the record.
Not everyone was applauding the firing for its swiftness. Actress Lena Dunham tweeted Sunday night, “Easy to think Weinstein company took swift action but this has actually been the slowest action because they always always knew.”
Weinstein had previously taken an indefinite leave of absence following a New York Times expose chronicling decades of allegations of sexual harassment by the Oscar winner. The board Friday endorsed that decision and announced an investigation into the allegations, saying it would determine the co-chairman’s future with the company.
But The Weinstein Co. board went further Sunday, firing the executive who has always been its primary operator, public face and studio chief. Under his leadership, the company has been a dominant force at the Oscars, including the rare feat of winning back-to-back best picture Academy Awards with “The King’s Speech” and “The Artist.” In recent years, however, Weinstein’s status has diminished because of money shortages, disappointing box-office returns and executive departures.
The company has attempted to continue with business as usual, including a promotional event Sunday night for its 2017 awards hopeful, the indie hit thriller “Wind River.” While it has a handful of films scheduled for release in the coming months, much of the company’s business has recently angled toward television, producing shows like “Project Runway.”
An attorney for Weinstein didn’t immediately return messages Sunday. But Weinstein will surely be heard from soon.
Thursday he issued a lengthy statement that acknowledged causing “a lot of pain.” He also asked for “a second chance.” But Weinstein and his lawyers also criticized The New York Times’ report in statements and interviews, and vowed an aggressive response. The New York Times said it was “confident in the accuracy of our reporting.”
The Times article chronicled sexual harassment settlements Weinstein made with actresses and former employees at both The Weinstein Co. and Weinstein’s former company, Miramax. Weinstein made his name with Miramax, the company he founded with his brother in 1979. They sold it to Disney in 1993 for $60 million. The company was a fixture of the 1990s independent film movement, launching the careers of filmmakers Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith and Steven Soderbergh, and winning best picture with “Shakespeare in Love” and “The English Patient.”
The allegations triggered cascading chaos at the Weinstein Co. A third of the all-male board has stepped down since Thursday. The prominent attorney Lisa Bloom, daughter of well-known Los Angeles women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred, Saturday withdrew from representing Weinstein, as did another adviser, Lanny Davis.
A spokesperson for The Weinstein Co. declined to provide further details on the firing. Messages left for attorney John Keirnan, who had been appointed to lead an investigation, weren’t immediately returned Sunday.
Pressure to act continued to mount on the board as more developments followed. Congressional Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, donated to charities thousands of dollars in donations they had received from Weinstein.
TV anchor Lauren Sivan Friday detailed an alleged 2007 encounter with Weinstein in a HuffPost report. Sivan, then working at a New York cable channel, Long Island 12, alleged that Weinstein cornered her in the hallway of a Manhattan restaurant closed to the public and masturbated in front of her.
Sivan said she had rejected an attempt by Weinstein to kiss her. “Well, can you just stand there and shut up,” she claims he responded. She is scheduled to appear on Megyn Kelly’s NBC show Monday.
Bob Weinstein and David Glasser, chief operating officer, are now running The Weinstein Co. But it remains to be seen not only if the company can continue without its prominent producer but also whether it can weather questions of culpability in its former co-chairman’s behavior. In reaction to Thursday’s report, many in Hollywood called Weinstein’s behavior “an open secret.” The settlement funds paid out also may have come from The Weinstein Co.
Many in the movie industry vented their disgust with the allegations against Weinstein in recent days, including Lena Dunham and Brie Larson. For them, the allegations against Weinstein not only compare to those against Bill Cosby and Roger Ailes, but reflect Hollywood’s deep-rooted gender inequality. Imbalances in pay between actors and actresses and the continued paucity of women directors behind the camera for the biggest productions have been ongoing issues in Hollywood.
Still most of the A-listers who Weinstein led to Academy Awards nominations have been largely silent since Thursday’s report. Sunday night, others celebrated Weinstein’s exit.
“If even 1/10th of the stories about Harvey Weinstein are true [and I believe they are], then good riddance,” said “Guardians of the Galaxy” director James Gunn, who added an expletive. “The enabling needs to end.”