Two of Hollywood's most powerful actresses have added their voices to the growing number of accounts of systematic sexual harassment and assault against the movie producer
Harvey Weinstein's fate sealed by Jolie and Paltrow allegations
For years, film producer Harvey Weinstein’s money, power and influence ensured his hotel room advances remained one of the worst kept secrets in Hollywood.
Now, with more and more women coming forward to publicly describe his unwanted sexual attentions, his fate has been sealed by two of the film industry’s most powerful actresses.
Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie have added their voices to the growing number of accounts of systematic sexual harassment and assault.
At the same time, at least three women accused the 65-year-old of rape, while a recording has surfaced from a New York police sting in which Mr Weinstein can be heard trying to coax a starlet into his hotel room.
With the floodgates apparently opened, his wife, the fashion designer Georgina Chapman, announced she was leaving him.
“My heart breaks for all the women who have suffered tremendous pain because of these unforgivable actions. I have chosen to leave my husband. Caring for my young children is my first priority and I ask the media for privacy at this time,” she said.
The couple have two children together.
TMZ, the American celebrity news site, reported that Mr Weinstein had flown to Europe to check into a rehab centre for sex addiction treatment.
The scandal erupted into public view last week, when the New York Times published details of sexual harassment recounted by women with whom he had previously worked, including actress Ashley Judd.
At first Mr Weinstein tried to tough it out, issuing an apology and taking a leave of absence from his company.
"I came of age in the 60s and 70s, when all the rules about behaviour and workplaces were different. That was the culture then. I have since learnt it's not an excuse, in the office — or out of it. To anyone,” he said.
But by Tuesday, a growing list of women had described how the producer offered to advance their careers in return for massages or sexual favours. Several described how he wanted them to watch him shower or perform a sex act in front of them. More than one said he forcibly performed oral sex on them, or that they were forced to do so on him — offences that are defined as rape under US law.
Many were young women at the time, embarking on careers in acting and keen to find a mentor who would guide them through a notoriously fickle industry.
Those women included Jolie and Paltrow. This week they both described how Mr Weinstein was helping them make the transition from unknown to star when he propositioned them.
Paltrow said she was 22 and had just won the lead role in the film adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma. During a meeting with Mr Weinstein in his Beverly Hills hotel suite, the producer suggested going into the bedroom for massages.
Paltrow refused. Her then boyfriend, Brad Pitt, later confronted Mr Weinstein, who subsequently warned her not to tell anyone else.
“I thought he was going to fire me,” she told the New York Times.
Angelina Jolie said she also had a bad experience with Mr Weinstein early in her career. She says she chose never to work with the producer again and also warned others not to do so.
A modus operandi is common to many of the accounts. The targets are all young — actresses, models even Weinstein Company office staff — new to the world of Hollywood, reliant on Mr Weinstein for their future careers. The encounters frequently happen in private, in hotel rooms or suites, with no other witnesses.
One went to the police after Mr Weinstein allegedly groped her breasts and tried to put his hand up her skirt.
Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, a Filipina-Italian model, said the producer lunged at her during a meeting at his Manhattan offices in 2015.
When she told New York Police what happened, officers put together a sting operation. Miss Gutierrez wore a wire to a subsequent meeting with Mr Weinstein.
He can be heard pleading with her to come to his hotel room, noting that he is a “famous guy” who is “used to” touching women’s breasts.
“You must come here now,” he insists on the tape, obtained by the New Yorker magazine, as she repeatedly refuses, explaining how she feels uncomfortable, a note of panic rising in her voice.
However, prosecutors said it was not enough to proceed against the wealthy producer. They said police had gone ahead with the operation without consulting them on how best to obtain incriminating evidence.
“While the recording is horrifying to listen to, what emerged from the audio was insufficient to prove a crime under New York law, which requires prosecutors to establish criminal intent,” said Karen Friedman-Agnifilo, chief assistant district attorney, in a statement defending the decision two years later.
Ms Gutierrez’s experience illustrated what happened to women who crossed Mr Weinstein.
Within days, stories emerged casting doubt on her reputation and reliability as a witness.
Gossip columns in New York newspapers recounted how the young model had attended Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s infamous Bunga Bunga parties and as a teenager had made a complaint of sexual assault against an older Italian businessman before deciding to drop it.
“Model who says Harvey Weinstein groped her in his NYC office also accused her wealthy 70-year-old former lover of rape in Italy four years ago,” read one Mail Online headline.
The revelations also include accounts of how Mr Weinstein’s behaviour was no secret among his staff, some of whom were involved in bringing young women to meet the producer.
“Sixteen former and current executives and assistants at Weinstein’s companies told me that they witnessed or had knowledge of unwanted sexual advances and touching at events associated with Weinstein’s films and in the workplace,” wrote Ronan Farrow in the New Yorker, after spending 10 months investigating the claims.
Meanwhile, Mr Weinstein’s lawyers issued a statement denying allegations of sexual assault or that he carried out any sort of retaliation against women who complained.
“Any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr Weinstein," it said.
But this week, as the full extent of his abuse was revealed, people he considered friends — and whose careers he helped build — deserted him.
The likes of Judi Dench, George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Judd Apatow, Judi Dench, Glenn Close and more have all issued statements expressing their horror at his behaviour.
Mr Weinstein’s role as a major donor to liberal causes and Democratic candidates also added a political dimension, dragging the Clinton and Obama families into the scandal.
Former president Barack Obama issued a statement saying he and Michelle were disgusted by the reports. His words suggested he was thinking not just of Mr Weinstein but other rich, powerful men who had used their positions to take advantage women.
"Any man who demeans and degrades women in such fashion needs to be condemned and held accountable, regardless of wealth or status,” he said.
“We should celebrate the courage of women who have come forward to tell these painful stories. And we all need to build a culture — including by empowering our girls and teaching our boys decency and respect — so we can make such behaviour less prevalent in the future.”