Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 June 2019

'I can only do what feels right': Emma Thompson reveals why she quit film after hiring of disgraced executive

The Oscar-winning actress has penned an emotive and eloquent open letter about why she refuses to work with John Lasseter

Emma Thompson withdrew from animated film 'Luck' so she didn't have to work with former Pixar executive John Lasseter. AP
Emma Thompson withdrew from animated film 'Luck' so she didn't have to work with former Pixar executive John Lasseter. AP

She is one of the silver-screen stars that has backed the Time's Up movement, and now Emma Thompson has made another stand for women who have experienced sexual harassment.

The Academy Award-winning actress has revealed she pulled out of animated film Luck while it was in production, after studio Skydance Animation hired controversial former Pixar chief John Lasseter to run its animation division.

Lasseter, who has also worked at the Walt Disney Company, came under the spotlight in 2017, after taking a leave of absence from Pixar to address "missteps", according to The Hollywood Reporter. The animator told staff "it's been brought to my attention that I have made some of you feel disrespected or uncomfortable" in a memo, the publication added, before he stepped down.

The filmmaker eventually exited Pixar in 2018, following a sexual harassment scandal, according to Variety, with female employees telling the publication Lasseter had a reputation for touching women inappropriately in the office.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on November 8, 2017, Executive producer John Lasseter attends the Disney Pixar's “COCO” premiere in Hollywood, California. British actress Emma Thompson has quit an anticipated film produced by California's Skydance studios because it hired former Disney creative director John Lasseter, who is accused of sexual harassment, her publicist told AFP on February 26, 2019. - / AFP / VALERIE MACON
John Lasseter has been hired at Skydance Animation, six months after exiting Disney amid sexual harassment claims. AFP

While Thompson's withdrawal from Luck was announced earlier this month, the Sense and Sensibility star this week revealed her reasons for leaving the film in a powerful open letter, which questioned why Skydance would hire someone with "Lasseter’s pattern of misconduct".

"If a man has been touching women inappropriately for decades, why would a woman want to work for him if the only reason he’s not touching them inappropriately now is that it says in his contract that he must behave 'professionally'?" queried Thompson, 59.

"If a man has made women at his companies feel undervalued and disrespected for decades, why should the women at his new company think that any respect he shows them is anything other than an act that he’s required to perform by his coach, his therapist and his employment agreement? The message seems to be, 'I am learning to feel respect for women so please be patient while I work on it. It’s not easy.'"

The mother-of-two acknowledged that the situation was "complicated", but asserted her belief that women should have the opportunity to choose whether they wanted to work with Lasseter.

"I can only do what feels right during these difficult times of transition and collective consciousness raising," said Thompson, expressing her regret at stepping away from the production.

"I am well aware that centuries of entitlement to women’s bodies whether they like it or not is not going to change overnight. Or in a year.

"But I am also aware that if people who have spoken out – like me – do not take this sort of a stand then things are very unlikely to change at anything like the pace required to protect my daughter’s generation."

Emma Thompson and her daughter, Gaia Romilly Wise, at the 2014 Golden Globe Awards. AP
Emma Thompson and her daughter, Gaia Romilly Wise, at the 2014 Golden Globe Awards. AP

Her words were praised widely on social media, with the Time's Up movement posting on Twitter: "This is what it looks like to walk the walk. Thank you."

While Skydance has not yet publicly responded to Thompson's letter, CEO David Ellison defended the hiring of Lasseter earlier this year, following outcry from anti-harassment groups such as Time's Up.

“While we would never minimise anyone’s subjective views on behaviour … we are certain that John has learned valuable lessons and is ready to prove his capabilities as a leader and a colleague," said Ellison.

Lasseter, whose filmography includes Toy Story, also issued his own statement at the time, saying, "I am resolute in my commitment to build an animation studio upon a foundation of quality, safety, trust and mutual respect."

Updated: February 27, 2019 10:52 AM

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