Harvey Weinstein

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Harvey Weinstein
CBE
Harvey Weinstein 2010 Time 100 Shankbone.jpg
Weinstein in 2010
Born (1952-03-19) March 19, 1952 (age 65)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Nationality American
Alma mater University at Buffalo
Occupation Film producer
co-founder of Miramax Films and The Weinstein Company
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Eve Chilton (1987–2004)
Georgina Chapman (2007; separated 2017)
Children 5

Harvey Weinstein, CBE (honorary) (born March 19, 1952) is an American film producer and former film studio executive. He co-founded Miramax, which produced several popular independent films including Pulp Fiction, Clerks, The Crying Game, and Sex, Lies, and Videotape.[1] He won an Academy Award for producing Shakespeare in Love, and garnered seven Tony Awards for producing a variety of winning plays and musicals, including The Producers, Billy Elliot the Musical, and August: Osage County.[2]

Weinstein and his brother Bob were co-chairmen of The Weinstein Company from 2005 to 2017. In October 2017, following numerous allegations of sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape against him, Harvey Weinstein was fired by his company's board of directors,[3] and expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.[4]

Education and early career

Weinstein was born in the Flushing section of the New York City borough of Queens.[5]to a Jewish family.[6] His parents were Max Weinstein, a diamond cutter,[7] and Miriam (née Postel).[7][8] He grew up with his younger brother, Bob Weinstein, in a housing co-op named Electchester in New York City. He graduated from John Bowne High School and the University at Buffalo.[9][10] Weinstein received an honorary SUNY Doctorate of Humane Letters in a ceremony at Buffalo in 2000.[11] Weinstein, his brother Bob, and Corky Burger independently produced rock concerts as Harvey & Corky Productions in Buffalo through most of the 1970s.[citation needed]

Film career

1970s: Early work and creation of Miramax

Both Weinstein brothers had grown up with a passion for movies and they nurtured a desire to enter the film industry. In the late 1970s, using profits from their concert promotion business, the brothers created a small independent film distribution company named Miramax, named after their parents, Miriam and Max.[8] The company's first releases were primarily music-oriented concert films such as Paul McCartney's Rockshow.[12][citation needed]

1980s: Success with arthouse and independent films

In the early 1980s, Miramax acquired the rights to two British films of benefit shows filmed for the human rights organization Amnesty International. Working closely with Martin Lewis, the producer of the original films, the Weinstein brothers edited the two films into one movie tailored for the American market. The resulting film was released as The Secret Policeman's Other Ball in May 1982 and it became Miramax's first hit. The movie raised considerable sums for Amnesty International and was credited by Amnesty with having helped to raise its profile in the United States.[9][13]

Weinstein at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival

The Weinsteins slowly built upon this success throughout the 1980s with arthouse films that achieved critical attention and modest commercial success. Harvey Weinstein and Miramax gained wider attention in 1988 with the release of Errol Morris's documentary The Thin Blue Line, which detailed the struggle of Randall Adams, a wrongfully convicted inmate sentenced to death row. The publicity that soon surrounded the case resulted in the release of Adams and nationwide publicity for Miramax. In 1989, their successful launch release of Steven Soderbergh's Sex, Lies, and Videotape propelled Miramax to become the most successful independent studio in America.[14]

Also in 1989, Miramax released two art-house films, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover and director Pedro Almodóvar's film Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, both of which the MPAA rating board gave an X-rating, effectively stopping nationwide release for these films. Weinstein sued the MPAA over the rating system. His lawsuit was later thrown out, but got the MPAA to agree to introduce the new NC-17 rating.[citation needed]

1990s–2000s: Further success, Disney ownership deal

Miramax continued to grow its library of films and directors until, in 1993, after the success of The Crying Game, Disney offered the Weinsteins $80 million for ownership of Miramax.[15] Agreeing to the deal that would cement their Hollywood clout and ensure that they would remain at the head of their company, Miramax followed the next year with their first blockbuster, Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction and distributed the popular independent film Clerks. Miramax won its first Academy Award for Best Picture in 1997 with the victory of The English Patient (Pulp Fiction was nominated in 1995 but lost to Forrest Gump). This started a string of critical successes that included Good Will Hunting (1997) and Shakespeare in Love (1998), both of which won several awards, including numerous Academy Awards.[citation needed]

2005–2017: The Weinstein Company

On March 29, 2005, it was announced that the Weinstein brothers would leave Miramax on September 30 to form their own production company, named The Weinstein Company, with several other media executives, directors Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, and Colin Vaines, who had successfully run the production department at Miramax for ten years.[16] In February 2011, filmmaker Michael Moore took legal action against the Weinstein brothers, claiming he was owed $2.7 million in profits for his documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004) which he said had been denied to him by "Hollywood accounting tricks".[17] In February 2012, Moore dropped the lawsuit for an undisclosed settlement.[18]

On October 8, 2017, the board of The Weinstein Company fired Harvey Weinstein, following numerous allegations of his sexual misconduct.[19]

Managerial style and controversies

While lauded for opening up the independent film market and making it financially viable, Weinstein has been criticized by some for the techniques he has allegedly applied in his business dealings. Peter Biskind's book, Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance and the Rise of Independent Film,[9] details criticism of Miramax's release history and editing of Asian films, such as Shaolin Soccer, Hero and Princess Mononoke. There is a rumor that when Harvey Weinstein was charged with handling the U.S. release of Princess Mononoke, director Hayao Miyazaki sent him a samurai sword in the mail. Attached to the blade was a stark message: "No cuts". Miyazaki commented on the incident: "Actually, my producer did that. Although I did go to New York to meet this man, this Harvey Weinstein, and I was bombarded with this aggressive attack, all these demands for cuts. I defeated him."[20] Weinstein has always insisted that such editing was done in the interest of creating the most financially viable film. "I'm not cutting for fun", Harvey Weinstein said in an interview. "I'm cutting for the shit to work. All my life I served one master: the film. I love movies."[13][21]

Another example cited by Biskind was Phillip Noyce's The Quiet American, whose release Weinstein delayed following the September 11 attacks, due to audience reaction in test screenings to the film's critical tone towards America's past foreign policy. After being told the film would go straight-to-video, Noyce planned to screen the film in Toronto International Film Festival in order to mobilize critics to pressure Miramax to release it theatrically. Weinstein decided to screen the film at the Festival only after he was lobbied by star Michael Caine, who threatened to boycott publicity for another film he had made for Miramax. The film received mostly positive reviews at the Festival, and Miramax eventually released the film theatrically, but it was alleged that Miramax did not make a major effort to promote the film for Academy Award consideration, though Caine was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor.[9]

Weinstein has also cultivated a reputation for ruthlessness and fits of anger. According to Biskind, Weinstein once put a New York Observer reporter in a headlock while throwing him out of a party. On another occasion, Weinstein excoriated director Julie Taymor and her husband during a disagreement over a test screening of her movie Frida.[13]

In a 2004 newspaper article, in New York magazine, Weinstein appeared somewhat repentant for his often aggressive discussions with directors and producers.[22] However, a Newsweek story on October 13, 2008, criticized Weinstein, who was accused of "hassling Sydney Pollack on his deathbed" about the release of the film The Reader. After Weinstein offered $1 million to charity if the accusation could be proven, journalist Nikki Finke published an email sent by Scott Rudin on August 22 asserting that Weinstein "harassed" Anthony Minghella's widow and a bedridden Pollack until Pollack's family asked him to stop.[23][24]

In September 2009, Weinstein publicly voiced opposition to efforts to extradite Roman Polanski from Switzerland to the U.S. regarding a 1977 charge that he had drugged and raped a 13-year-old, to which Polanski had pleaded guilty before fleeing the country.[25] Weinstein, whose company had distributed a film about the Polanski case, questioned whether Polanski committed any crime,[26] prompting Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley to insist that Polanski's guilty plea indicated that his action was a crime, and that several other serious charges were pending.[27]

Activism

Weinstein has been active on issues such as poverty, AIDS, juvenile diabetes, and multiple sclerosis research. He serves on the Board of the Robin Hood Foundation, a New York City-based non-profit that targets poverty, and co-chaired one of its annual benefits.[28] He is critical of the lack of gun control laws and universal health care in the United States.[29]

Weinstein is a longtime supporter and contributor to the Democratic Party including the campaigns of President Barack Obama and presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry.[30] He supported Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign,[31] and in 2012, he hosted an election fundraiser for President Obama at his home in Westport, Connecticut.[32]

Sexual assault allegations

Initial reporting and subsequent allegations

On October 5, 2017, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey published an exposé in The New York Times accusing Weinstein of three decades of sexual harassment of, and paying settlements to, several actresses, named and unnamed female Miramax and Weinstein Company production assistants, temps, and other employees.[33][34]

On October 10, 2017, Ronan Farrow reported in The New Yorker further allegations that Weinstein had sexually assaulted or harassed 13 women, and raped three of them.[3] Farrow said he had previously wanted to break the story with his employer, NBC News, but implied his editors were under pressure not to publish.[35] According to Farrow, 16 former, or current, executives and assistants connected with Weinstein said that they had witnessed or had been informed of Weinstein's non-consensual sexual advances to women.[3] Four actresses relayed their suspicion that after rejecting Weinstein's advances, and complaining about him, he had them dropped from projects, or persuaded others to do so. A number of Farrow's sources said Weinstein has referred to his success in planting stories in the media about individuals who had crossed him.[3] The New Yorker also made available an audio tape secretly recorded by the New York City Police Department in 2015. In it, Weinstein admits to groping the model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez.[3]

After the New York Times and New Yorker articles were published, many women in the entertainment business made similar allegations against Weinstein. The women who said that they were sexually harassed or assaulted by Weinstein include:

Weinstein's responses

In an initial statement to The New York Times, Weinstein said: "I appreciate the way I've behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it." An adviser described him as "an old dinosaur learning new ways". He said he was due to take a sabbatical and was working with therapists to "deal with this issue head on".[33] However, his consulting lawyer, Lisa Bloom, said that "he denies many of the accusations as patently false".[33] After criticism, Bloom announced the end of her advising Weinstein on October 7.[44] In an email to The Hollywood Reporter, Weinstein's attorney Charles Harder said his client would be suing The New York Times and any proceeds derived from the suit would be donated to women's organizations.[45] Following the New Yorker report, a Weinstein representative said all claims in both articles were false.[3][38]

Reactions

Weinstein was fired by the board of his production company, The Weinstein Company, on October 8, 2017.[46] His wife Georgina Chapman announced that she was separating from Weinstein on October 10.[47][48][49] On October 11, Bafta, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, suspended his membership from the organization.[50]

Many politicians Weinstein had supported gave his donations to charities, including Democratic Senators Al Franken,[51] Patrick Leahy and Martin Heinrich.[52] Prominent figures from entertainment and politics condemned Weinstein's actions. Hillary Clinton, Barack and Michelle Obama denounced Weinstein's reported behavior five days after the original New York Times article was published.[53][54][55] Many high-profile male actors and directors who had worked with Weinstein, however, declined to comment on the matter, leading The Guardian to conclude that while many prominent women condemned Weinstein, "most high-profile men in the industry have remained silent".[56]

FBI investigation

On Oct 11, 2017, The Daily Mail reported that the FBI had opened an investigation into Weinstein and claimed there were fears he would "do a Polanski" in reference to Roman Polanski's flight from justice in 1978.[57]

Personal life

Weinstein has been married twice. In 1987, he married his assistant Eve Chilton. They divorced in 2004.[22][58] They had three children: Remy (previously Lily) (born 1995), Emma (born 1998), and Ruth (born 2002).[59] In 2007, he married English fashion designer and actress Georgina Chapman.[60] They have a daughter, India Pearl (born 2010)[61] and a son, Dashiell[62] (born 2013).[63] In October 2017, Georgina Chapman announced that she is leaving Weinstein following allegations of sexual harassment from a string of actresses.[64]

Honors

In 2004, Weinstein was appointed an honorary Commander of the Order of the British Empire in recognition of his contributions to the British film industry. The award is "honorary" because Weinstein is not a citizen of a Commonwealth country.[65]

In March 2012, Weinstein was made a Chevalier (knight) of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Consulate in New York City in recognition of Miramax's efforts to increase the presence and popularity of foreign films in the United States.[66]

Selected filmography

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