Harvey Weinstein's downfall comes after decades of Hollywood silence over harassment
Three days after The New York Times published details drawn from years of allegations of sexual harrassment, Mr Weinstein was fired by the company he co-founded and that bears his name
Harvey Weinstein, the movie mogul, stood astride Hollywood for more than four decades, using a mix of star power and a strong arm to steer film after film to glittering success at the Academy Awards.
Throughout it all, the stories of sexual harassment – meetings with starlets in hotel bathrooms and the financial settlements - were an open secret throughout an industry known for its lopsided power relationships.
When it came, his downfall was swift.
Three days after The New York Times published details drawn from years of allegations, Mr Weinstein was fired by the company he co-founded and that bears his name.
"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 said on Sunday night.
It marks an extraordinary fall from grace for a man whose films were a feature of Oscar nomination lists, and who won best picture for The English Patient, Shakespeare in Love, Chicago and others.
Weinstein founded Miramax films in 1979 with his brother Bob before selling it to Disney and going on to create the Weinstein Company. Along the way he helped launch the careers of dozens of actors and filmmakers, producing all of Quentin Tarantino’s films and picking up the script to Good Will Hunting, which made stars of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck in 1997.
Such is his influence, that many leading industry figures have kept their counsel rather than speak out against the 65-year-old producer even after the allegations came to light.
Meryl Streep, the Oscar-winning actress, was one of the rare exceptions, on Monday giving a statement to the Huffington Post.
“The disgraceful news about Harvey Weinstein has appalled those of us whose work he championed, and those whose good and worthy causes he supported,” she said. “The intrepid women who raised their voices to expose this abuse are our heroes.”
According to the Times investigation, Mr Weinstein settled at least eight cases.
Ashley Judd, the most high-profile actress to speak publicly about the matter, said she was invited to a hotel room for a supposed business meeting before the producer asked her to watch him shower.
When the claims first surfaced last week, Mr Weinstein signalled he planned to tough it out. He offered an apology, said he was working with therapists to change his behaviour and said he would be taking a leave of absence from his company, which would in turn launch an investigation before deciding his future.
“The way I've behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologise for it,” he said.
After the allegations surfaced it emerged he was being advised by Lisa Bloom, a lawyer better known for representing women bringing sexual harassment claims against the comedian Bill Cosby and Roger Ailes, the former Fox News host.
She outlined an aggressive approach in an email to Weinstein Company board members. According to The New York Times, the strategy involved “more and different reporting,” including “photos of several of the accusers in very friendly poses with Harvey after his alleged misconduct”, an approach rejected by executives for effectively blaming the victims.
She resigned on Saturday as more women came forward with allegations.
Lauren Sivan, a TV anchor, described to the Huffington Post how in 2007 she was allegedly cornered by the film producer in a private, Manhattan restaurant corridor who then proceeded to perform a sex act in front of her.
Democratic politicians who had benefited from Mr Weinstein’s donations to liberal causes said they were passing the money to charities.
And the Weinstein Company found itself under intensifying pressure to do more. The studio was already struggling to find another hit, having not recorded a US$100m domestic success since Lee Daniels’ The Butler in 2013, and Mr Weinstein was reportedly feuding with his brother.
The company reportedly hoped Mr Weinstein would resign but acted when it became clear he planned to stay on.
Streep’s statement may now encourage other Hollywood stars to publicly denounce the disgraced movie hit maker. Right-wing commentators have pointed out that liberals were quick to condemn Fox News presenters and executives subject to similar complaints, but appeared to have closed ranks when it was a figure from their world.
For her part, Steep used most of her statement to insist that she knew nothing about the allegations before they were published on Thursday.
“Harvey supported the work fiercely, was exasperating but respectful with me in our working relationship, and with many others with whom he worked professionally,” she said.
“I didn’t know about these other offences: I did not know about his financial settlements with actresses and colleagues; I did not know about his having meetings in his hotel room, his bathroom, or other inappropriate, coercive acts.”
Others, from a younger generation, were more damning. Lena Dunham, an actress and writer, said: “Easy to think Weinstein company took swift action but this has actually been the slowest action because they always always knew.”
And Rose McGowan, who has not confirmed claims she received a settlement from the producer, said the entire board should resign.
“Men in Hollywood need to change ASAP," she told The Hollywood Reporter. “Hollywood's power is dying because society has changed and grown, and yet Hollywood male behaviour has not.”
Updated: October 9, 2017 08:05 PM