Movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, already suspected of decades of sexual harassment, came under withering fire Tuesday with a new report accusing him of raping three women he had worked with during his long tenure as one of Hollywood's most powerful figures.
The new report in the New Yorker magazine was followed within hours by a second article in the New York Times that included accounts from actresses Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie about Weinstein's harassment of them early in their careers.
The twin stories were a devastating blow to Weinstein's legacy and reputation, which already had been badly damaged last week by a Times story reporting that Weinstein had reached monetary settlements with eight women who alleged he had pressured them for sex. Those revelations forced the board of the Weinstein Co. to fire him as co-chairman Sunday.
The stories Tuesday coincided with public condemnation of Weinstein from Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Weinstein has been a longtime Democratic donor and was a supporter of President Bill Clinton during his campaigns and of Hillary Clinton in 2016; the Weinstein Co. also employed President Barack Obama's eldest daughter, Malia, as an intern this year.
"I was shocked and appalled by the revelations about Harvey Weinstein," Hillary Clinton said in a statement. "The behavior described by women coming forward cannot be tolerated. Their courage and the support of others is critical in helping to stop this kind of behavior."
Weinstein, 65, is one of the most successful producers in movie history. Starting with Miramax, the studio he co-founded with his brother, Bob, and named for their parents Miriam and Max, he proved to have a golden touch for both popular and critical acclaim. Miramax, and later the Weinstein Co., produced such Oscar winners as Shakespeare in Love, The English Patient, The King's Speech and The Artist. His company's television work includes the reality show "Project Runway."
By Tuesday afternoon, more than a dozen women had publicly accused Weinstein of a range of misconduct, including sexual harassment, assault and rape. Weinstein's accusers said he threatened their careers if they rejected his advances.
The reports, which also included details from unnamed former and current Weinstein company executives, have sent shock waves through Hollywood. After the initial Times story, more women came forward with their own "casting-couch" tales. Numerous stars have condemned Weinstein, including Jennifer Lawrence, Jessica Chastain and George Clooney.
Weinstein "unequivocally denied" any allegations of nonconsensual sex, spokeswoman Sallie Hofmeister said in a statement, which added that "there were never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances." Regarding on-the-record allegations, Weinstein "believes that all of these relationships were consensual," Hofmeister said.
The Times' initial story Thursday broke open what had been whispered but never explicitly stated in Hollywood and New York. On Tuesday, Paltrow and Jolie came forward, as did Heather Graham and Mira Sorvino, who won the Oscar for best supporting actress for her role in the Weinstein-produced Mighty Aphrodite in 1996.
Sorvino told the New Yorker that Weinstein sexually harassed her and tried to pressure her into a physical relationship while they worked together. At a hotel one night, she said, "he started massaging my shoulders, which made me very uncomfortable, and then tried to get more physical, sort of chasing me around."
She said she rebuffed him. Although she appeared in several more Weinstein films, she said she felt that saying no to Weinstein and reporting his harassment to a Miramax employee ultimately had hurt her career.
The New Yorker story was written by Ronan Farrow, 29, the son of actress Mia Farrow and Woody Allen, who directed Mighty Aphrodite.
The New Yorker and Times stories contain similar details and generally corroborate and complement each other. In addition to on-the-record descriptions of the encounters, both accounts describe the ways in which Weinstein and his assistants kept his accusers quiet through payoffs, direct threats and indirect intimidation, such as planting unfavorable stories about them in the news media.
The stories about Weinstein's behavior appear to fit a pattern: Weinstein, under the pretense of discussing film or TV work, would invite women to a private place, often a hotel suite. Sometimes female or male assistants would be present, giving the women a sense of security, but then they would quickly depart. Sometimes Weinstein behaved professionally for some time before appearing nude except for a bathrobe, asking for massages, exposing himself or asking women to watch him shower.
Three women - two on the record - told the New Yorker that Weinstein raped them. One of the women, an Italian actor-director named Asia Argento, said that after she reluctantly agreed to give Weinstein a massage in a hotel room in 1997, he pulled up her skirt, forced her legs apart and performed oral sex on her. She said she repeatedly told him to stop.
Weinstein "terrified me, and he was so big," she said. "It wouldn't stop. It was a nightmare."
The New Yorker also published audio, obtained during a 2015 New York Police Department sting, in which Weinstein admits to model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez that he groped her as he tried to persuade her to join him in his hotel room. "Oh, please, I'm sorry, just come on in," he tells her.
The accusers included high-profile actresses such as Paltrow, Jolie and Ashley Judd, who told the New York Times that Weinstein made unwanted advances.
The revelation from Paltrow in Tuesday's Times story was particularly stunning, as she played the lead in "Shakespeare in Love," which won the 1999 Oscar for best picture, a major upset and crowning achievement for Weinstein.
But Paltrow told the times that three years earlier, when she starred in Weinstein's Jane Austen adaptation Emma, Weinstein put his hands on her and suggested massages during a meeting at a hotel. She refused and told her then-boyfriend, Brad Pitt, who confronted Weinstein and confirmed the account to the Times via a representative.
"I was a kid, I was signed up, I was petrified," Paltrow said. Weinstein threatened her not to tell anyone else. "I thought he was going to fire me," she said. "He screamed at me for a long time. It was brutal."
Former Miramax employees and aspiring actresses also publicly described harassment by Weinstein. Some of the women said he physically tried to block them as they escaped the encounters. Others recalled him bragging that this sort of behavior was normal and that other famous model and actresses had consented.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post
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