“Since the establishment of the first studios a century ago, there have been few movie executives as dominant, or as domineering, as Harvey Weinstein,” says The New Yorker. As the co-founder of Miramax and The Weinstein Company, he helped reinvent independent film, earning more than 300 Oscar nominations and launching the careers of writers, directors and actors. Yet for more than 20 years Weinstein, 65, “has also been trailed by rumours of sexual harassment and assault”.
Last week, they exploded when The New York Times revealed multiple allegations of assault. Since then, half of Hollywood’s female A-list – including Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie – have joined ranks with his accusers. (The police in New York and London have started criminal investigations; Harvey Weinstein denies engaging in nonconsensual sex.)
Why did these stories take so long to surface? Mainly because Weinstein’s victims feared he would “crush” them if they talked. Within the business, as Meryl Streep once observed, he was “god”. And if the threat of a ruined career didn’t do the trick, “nondisclosure agreements, monetary payoffs, and legal threats” did.
Weinstein has been expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and disowned by a string of other show-business luminaries and organisations. Weinstein reportedly “feels betrayed” by his younger brother, Bob (on the left in our picture), who fired him from the company they ran together, says the New York Post.
That marked a sorry end to one of the great Hollywood partnerships. The brothers used profits from promoting rock concerts to found their independent film distribution company, Miramax, in 1979, says The Times. Their breakthrough came a decade later when they released a trio of acclaimed box-office hits in one year. The brothers sold out to Disney in 1993 for a reported $60m before forming The Weinstein Company with $1bn in backing from Goldman Sachs in 2005.
But although Weinstein later won best-picture Oscars for The King’s Speech and The Artist, it was “a difficult return to independence”, says the Financial Times. So much so that “Hollywood was abuzz with talk that Weinstein was finished”. In 2010, his firm only dodged bankruptcy after striking a $450m debt-restructuring deal that forced it to hand over the rights to 200 films to Goldman and Assured Guaranty. Can the firm survive without him?
His brother insists it can despite a string of resignations from the board. The company is now in talks to sell to private-equity company Colony Capital. But even before these allegations, The Weinstein Company was on shaky ground, says the FT. A revival of fortunes “won’t be easy” given the growing dominance of Amazon and Netflix in indie film, and the widespread belief that Harvey was central to the firm’s prospects. As for Weinstein himself, he is begging for a second chance, says Rosa Silverman in The Daily Telegraph. “It’s hard to imagine he’ll be offered one.”