Russell Simmons scandal: Entertainment mogul steps down from his companies after being accused of sexual misconduct

November 30, 2017

by Colleen McGregor

Russell Simmons
Russell Simmons (Photo by Dan Steinberg/Netflix)

Russell Simmons, an entertainment executive and producer who is best known for co-founding Def Jam Recordings and Rush Communications, has stepped down from his companies after multiple women have come forward with claims that he sexually assaulted them.

The first public accusation came from model Keri Claussen Khalighi, who told her story in a Los Angeles Times article that was published on November 19, 2017. Claussen Khalighi claimed that Simmons sexually assaulted her in 1991 when she was 17, and director Brett  Ratner stood by and did nothing. Multiple other women have come forward accusing Ratner of sexual misconduct. Ratner’s misdeeds allegedly spanned over several years, include allegations from actress Olivia Munn that Ratner masturbated in front of her without her consent in 2006 and actress Natasha Henstridge, who claims that Ratner forced her to perform oral sex on him in 1993. Ratner has denied the allegations. After Claussen Khalighi’s story was published, Simmons issued a statement saying that his encounter with her was consensual.

Then on November 30, 2017, The Hollywood Reporter published a first-hand story by screenwriter Jenny Lumet, who wrote an open letter to Simmons saying that a sexual encounter that they had in 1991 was non-consensual. Lumet, who wrote the movie screenplays to 2008’s “Rachel Getting Married” and 2017’s “The Mummy,” says that Simmons had pursued her off and on romantically for years before the alleged sexual assault, but she rejected his advances, and he seemed to accept that their relationship would remain platonic. Lumet and Simmons had mutual friends, and had at one time worked together when Lumet had a role in “Tougher Than Leather,” a 1988 movie that had Simmons as one of its producers.

That friendly relationship changed in 1991, when one night Simmons offered to give Lumet a ride home. Instead of taking her home, Simmons instructed his driver to go to Simmons’ home, where Lumet (who was 24 at the time) says Simmons pressured and intimidated her into having sex, even though she verbally protested his sexual advances many times that night. Although Simmons did not use physical violence to force her into the encounter, Lumet says she  was fearful and in shock at the time, and went along with his demands so she could get it over with and escape from Simmons.

After Lumet’s claims were published, Simmons issued the following statement: “I have been informed with great anguish of Jenny Lumet’s recollection about our night together in 1991. I know Jenny and her family and have seen her several times over the years since the evening she described. While her memory of that evening is very different from mine, it is now clear to me that her feelings of fear and intimidation are real. While I have never been violent, I have been thoughtless and insensitive in some of my relationships over many decades, and I sincerely apologize.

“This is a time of great transition. The voices of the voiceless, those who have been hurt or shamed, deserve and need to be heard. As the corridors of power inevitably make way for a new generation, I don’t want to be a distraction, so I am removing myself from the businesses that I founded. The companies will now be run by a new and diverse generation of extraordinary executives who are moving the culture and consciousness forward. I will convert the studio for yogic science into a not-for-profit center of learning and healing. As for me, I will step aside and commit myself to continuing my personal growth, spiritual learning and above all to listening.”

Simmons, who is 59, is divorced with two daughters—Ming Lee (born in 2000) and Aoki Lee (born in 2002)—from his marriage to model Kimora Lee. Simmons and Lee started dating in 1992, when she was 17 and he was 35. They were married in 1998, separated in 2006, and officially divorced in 2009.

After Claussen Khalighi’s story was published, Simmons also came under fire when actor Terry Crews posted an email that he received from Simmons in which Simmons advised Crews to back off from pursuing a sexual assault claim against Hollywood agent Adam Venit. In October 2017, Crews went public with his story about Venit aggressively grabbing Crews’ genitals twice at an industry party in 2016. Crews said that Venit called him the day after the incident to apologize and to make the excuse that he was drunk at the party.

Crews initially did not name Venit in telling the story, but a month after going public with his story, he named Venit as the assailant and filed a complaint with the Los Angeles police. Venit, who headed the motion pictures department at the William Morris Endeavor (WME) agency, was placed on leave for about one month since Crews went public. Venit no longer heads the motion pictures department at WME, but he is still working at the company.

In  the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal that broke in October 2017, Simmons is one of several high-profile and powerful men whose careers and reputations have been ruined after numerous people have accused them of sexual misconduct that took place over several years. The growing list of shamed celebrities includes Ratner, actor Kevin Spacey, TV journalist Matt Lauer, comedian Louis C.K., TV journalist Charlie Rose, actor Ed Westwick, actor Jeffrey Tambor and TV journalist Mark Halperin. All have lost jobs and/or business deals as a result of these stories being made public. Many other prominent men, although not as famous, have also been ousted from their positions of power in October and November 2017. Amazon Studios, DC Comics, National Public Radio, Nickelodeon, Pixar, Vox Media and Warner Bros. Television are just some of the entertainment and media companies that have had massive shake-ups behind the scenes after high-ranking men were fired, resigned, or were placed on leave for sexual misconduct.

Jeffrey Tambor scandal: Emmy-winning actor quits ‘Transparent’ after being accused of sexual misconduct

November 20, 2017

Jeffrey Tambor as Maura Pfefferman in "Transparent"
Jeffrey Tambor as Maura Pfefferman in “Transparent” (Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios)

by Colleen McGregor

Emmy-winning actor Jeffrey Tambor has quit Amazon Studios’ comedy series “Transparent” after being accused of sexual harassment.  On “Transparent,”Tambor played Maura Pfefferman, a transgender divorced mother whose family is dealing with her trans identity. It is believed the show will go on without Tambor, but it has not yet been announced how the Maura Pfefferman character will be written off of the show. “Transparent’s” fourth season is supposed to premiere in 2018. Tambor, who is 73, won several awards for his role on “Transparent,” including an Emmy, a Golden Globe, a Screen Actors Guild Award and a Critics’ Choice Award. He has three sons and a daughter with his wife Kasia and multiple daughters from previous relationships.

The first allegations against Tambor came to light on November 8, 2017, when his former assistant Van Barnes posted a private message on her Facebook page, where she wrote that the actor “repeatedly propositioned her, made lewd comments, groped her and threatened to sue her if she spoke up.”

Tambor then issued a statement saying, “I am deeply sorry if any action of mine was ever misinterpreted by anyone as being sexually aggressive or if I ever offended or hurt anyone. But the fact is, for all my flaws, I am not a predator and the idea that someone might see me in that way is more distressing than I can express.”

On November 16, 2017, transgender actress Trace Lysette accused Tambor of being “sexually aggressive” with her by rubbing up against her without her consent and making lewd comments while they were working together in 2015. On November 19, 2017, Tambor announced that he was quitting “Transparent.”

This is the second major sexual-harassment scandal to hit Amazon Studios in as many months. In October 2017, Roy Price was forced to resign as head of Amazon Studios after it was made public that, in 2015, he made unwanted sexual advances on a female producer of the Amazon series “The Man in the High Castle.” Price also allegedly had other troubling incidents involving female Amazon employees that led to his departure.

The downfall of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein  in October 2017 seems to have had a domino effect in business and politics, as more men in powerful positions are being publicly accused of sexual misconduct. Since the Weinstein scandal (in which the Miramax Films/The Weinstein Company co-founder was accused of sexual assaulting and raping several women), other high-profile people have have lost their jobs and/or have had their careers ruined by allegations of sexual misconduct. Those in the entertainment or media industry whose reputations have been forever tarnished include actor Kevin Spacey, comedian Louis C.K. and TV journalist Charlie Rose. In most cases, they have issued public apologies but said they thought these sexual encounters were consensual.

Louis C.K. scandal: Comedian admits he sexually harassed women; his career is ruined as he loses lucrative business deals

November 10, 2017

by Colleen McGregor

Louis C.K. and Pamela Adlon
Louis C.K. and Pamela Adlon at the Tribeca TV Festival’s sneak peek of “Better Things” Season 2 at Cinepolis Chelsea in New York City on September 22, 2017. (Photo by Ben Gabbe/Getty Images)

Emmy-winning comedian Louis C.K. has admitted that “those stories are true” that he committed sexual misconduct by asking several women (who were co-workers or colleagues) if he could masturbate or expose his penis in front of them. In a statement issued on November 10, 2017, Louis C.K. (whose real name is Louis Székely) expressed regret that he abused his power, and said he was remorseful that his actions hurt the women he mistreated, his friends, loved ones and other people. The allegations were first reported in a New York Times article (published on November 9, 2017) that detailed experiences from five women who said that Louis C.K. sexually propositioned them by showing them his penis without their consent and/or asked if he could masturbate in front of them.

After the New York Times article was published, the backlash against Louis C.K. was swift and severe: FX, HBO and Netflix have all issued statements saying that they will not work with him anymore. The Orchard, the distributor of his film “I Love You, Daddy,” cancelled the movie’s New York City premiere (which was scheduled to take place on November 9, 2017), and has decided not to release the movie. (In the movie, which was written and directed by Louis C.K., one of the characters in the movie has a penchant for masturbating in front of people.) In addition, several public appearances from Louis C.K. have been cancelled.

The 50-year-old entertainer is known for his raunchy stand-up comedy routine, in which he often talks about sex and sometimes mentions that his addiction to porn caused problems in his marriage.  Louis C.K.  and artist Alix Bailey got divorced in 2008, after 13 years of marriage. The former spouses have two daughters together.

Louis C.K. is among the growing list of celebrities whose reputations and careers have been ruined in 2017, after several people went to the media to accuse them of sexual harassment and other sexual misconduct. Entertainment mogul Harvey Weinstein, actor Kevin Spacey and filmmaker Brett Ratner are just three examples of those who have been accused of committing physical sexual assault in addition to verbal harassment. Weinstein and Ratner have denied any sexual contact that was non-consensual. Spacey made an apology to his first public accuser (actor Anthony Rapp, who told BuzzFeed his story), but Spacey claimed to not remember making any sexual advances on Rapp, who said he was 14 when a 26-year-old Spacey tried to have sex with him in 1986. Weinstein and Spacey have issued public statements saying that they are seeking treatment for their harmful actions that led to these problems. It remains to be seen if there will be any criminal charges or lawsuits filed against the accused as a result of the accusers going public.

Actress/writer/producer Pamela Adlon, who worked with Louis C.K. on the FX shows “Louie” and “Better Things,” issued this statement on November 10, 2017: “Hi. I’m here. I have to say something. It’s so important. My family and I are devastated and in shock after the admission of abhorrent behavior by my friend and partner, Louis C.K. I feel deep sorrow and empathy for the women who have come forward. I am asking for privacy at this time for myself and my family. I am processing and grieving and hope to say more as soon as I am able.”

Although FX has cut ties with Louis C.K. and his Pig Newton production company, which co-created “Better Things,” the show has not yet been taken off of the network’s schedule.

Brett Ratner scandal: Business relationships with Playboy, Warner Bros. affected after director is accused of sexual misconduct

November 1, 2017

by Colleen McGregor

Brett Ratner
Brett Ratner (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Netflix/AP Images)

Director/producer Brett Ratner is under fire after being accused by at least six women, including actresses Olivia Munn and Natasha Henstridge, of sexual misconduct, as detailed in a Los Angeles Times article. According to The Wrap: “Playboy Enterprises is putting all projects with Ratner’s production company, Ratpac Entertainment, on hold. This includes the biopic on Playboy founder Hugh Hefner that Ratner was attached to direct and produce … Jared Leto was attached to play Hefner in the film, which was a co-production between Ratpac and Playboy/Alta Loma Entertainment and had Hefner attached as executive producer prior to Hefner’s death on September 27. Ratner, who is 48, was also planning to develop a reboot of Hefner’s 1960s variety show ‘Playboy After Dark.'”

A Playboy spokesperson issued this statement to The Wrap: “We are deeply troubled to learn about the accusations against Brett Ratner. We find this kind of behavior completely unacceptable. We are putting all further development of our projects with RatPac Entertainment on hold until we are able to review the situation further.”

Warner Bros. Pictures, which has a co-financing deal with RatPac, issued a statement saying that it is reviewing its relationship with Ratner.

Munn claims that when she was visiting the set of Ratner’s 2004 film “After the Sunset,” she was asked to bring food to a trailer, where she found Ratner, who masturbated in front of her. She detailed the encounter in her 2010 book, “Suck It, Wonder Woman: The Misadventures of a Hollywood Geek,” but she did not name Ratner at the time. After the book was published, Ratner claimed that he had a brief consensual sexual relationship with Munn, but later he admitted it was a lie, and that he and Munn never had sex and never dated each other. In the Los Angeles Times article, Henstridge says that Ratner forced her to perform oral sex on her in the 1990s when they were hanging out and watching a movie together.

Ratner has denied these stories through his attorney, Marty Singer, who says that Ratner has never had any sexual misconduct claims against him that resulted in a lawsuit, settlement or arrest. Ratner got his start in the entertainment industry as a director of music videos; over the years, he has worked with artists such as Mariah Carey, Jodeci and Michael Jackson. Ratner has directed such films as the “Rush Hour” movies, “X-Men: The Last Stand,” “Red Dragon,” “Tower Heist” and “Hercules.” As a producer, Ratner’s credits include “The Revenant,” “Horrible Bosses,” “Horrible Bosses 2” and “Mirror Mirror.”

This isn’t the first public scandal for Ratner. In 2011, Ratner was hired to produce the 84th Academy Awards in 2012 with Don Mischer, but Ratner resigned on November 8, 2011, after being quoted as saying “rehearsal is for fags.” Brian Grazer replaced Ratner on the production. Eddie Murphy, who was set to host the show, also exited the production, and he was replaced by Billy Crystal.

Kevin Spacey scandal: Netflix suspends ‘House of Cards’ production and announces show’s cancellation

October 31, 2017

by Colleen McGregor

Kevin Spacey
Kevin Spacey (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images)

Netflix has suspended production of “House of Cards” following allegations that the show’s star Kevin Spacey (who is also an executive producer of “House of Cards”) made a sexual advance on actor Anthony Rapp in 1986, when Rapp was 14 and Spacey was 26. Rapp detailed the story in article published by Buzzfeed on October 29, 2017.

Spacey then issued this statement on his Twitter account on October 30, 2017:

“I have a lot of respect and admiration for Anthony Rapp as an actor. I’m beyond horrified to hear his story. I honestly do not remember the encounter, it would have been over 30 years ago. But if I did behave as he describes, I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior, and I am sorry for the feelings he describes having carried with him all these years.

“This story has encouraged me to address other things about my life. I know that there are stories out there about me and that some have been fuelled by the fact that I have been so protective of my privacy. As those closest to me know, in my life I have had relationships with both men and women. I have loved and had romantic encounters with men throughout my life, and I choose now to live as a gay man. I want to deal with this honestly and openly and that starts with examining my own behavior.”

Kevin Spacey at a "House of Cards" promotional appearance
Kevin Spacey (pictured at left) as President Frank Underwood at a “House of Cards” promotional appearance in Washington, D.C., on May 22, 2017. (Photo by Pete Souza)

On October 30, 2017, after Spacey released that statement, Netflix announced that “House of Cards” would end with the show’s sixth season that was set to premiere in 2018. The show’s fifth season premiered on May 30, 2017. Netflix claimed that the cancellation of “House of Cards” had already been planned before the scandal. But suspending production in the midst of filming the show’s sixth season indicates that the “House of Cards” could end sooner than expected. Netflix and “House of Cards” production company Media Rights Capital issued a joint statement saying that production of “House of Cards” was halted “until further notice, to give us time to review the current situation and to address any concerns of our cast and crew.”

In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, the abrupt suspension of “House of Cards” could mean the beginning of serious career damage for Spacey, who has won several major awards, including two Oscars, three Screen Actors Guild Awards, one Golden Globe Award and one Tony Award. Spacey hosted the Tony Awards in 2017, but it’s highly unlikely he will ever be offered that kind of job again. Several high-profile organizations are already distancing themselves from Spacey, and more backlash can occur if more people come out against him accusing Spacey of sexual misconduct. If allegations come out against Spacey that he actually raped anyone (as Weinstein is accused of doing), then the damage to his career will be permanent.

November 8, 2017 UPDATE: After several other men (including “House of Cards” employees) came forward with stories about Spacey sexually harassing or abusing them, Netflix and Media Rights Capital announced that they have completely severed ties with Spacey. In addition, Creative Artists Agency and publicist Staci Wolfe of Polaris PR have dropped Spacey from their client rosters and will no longer represent him. Spacey has also been removed from the movie “All the Money in the World,” and has been replaced by Christopher Plummer. The AFI Fest premiere of “All the Money in the World” (which was set for November 16, 2017) has been cancelled. According to Sony Pictures Entertainment, despite the abruptly scheduled reshoots and re-edits required for the movie, “All the Money in the World” is still set to be released in December 2017.

December 5, 2017 UPDATE: Netflix has announced that the sixth and final season of “House of Cards” will be filmed with Robin Wright (who plays Claire Underwood, Frank Underwood’s wife) as the star. It has not been announced yet how the Frank Underwood character will be written out of the show.

Harvey Weinstein scandal: How it has changed award shows in the entertainment industry

October 16, 2017

by Colleen McGregor

Harvey Weinstein and Nicole Kidman
Harvey Weinstein and “Lion” star Nicole Kidman at the Weinstein Company’s Pre-Academy Awards Dinner at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, on February 25, 2017. (Photo by Hagop Kalaidjian/BFA)

The Harvey Weinstein scandal has made this year’s award-show season a turning point in the entertainment industry that has largely shunned and condemned Weinstein, one of the most powerful award-show campaigners of the past 30 years. Since October 5, 2017, dozens of stories about 65-year-old Weinstein have been made public (most notably in articles published by the New York Times and the New Yorker), accusing the former movie mogul of sexual misconduct, including verbal harassment, indecent exposure, groping, rape and other forms of non-consensual assault spanning nearly 30 years. The reported victims (all women) include actresses, assistants, producers and executives, who all claim to either have been personally harassed or assaulted by Weinstein, or know those who have been victims of Weinstein’s misconduct but were pressured to stay silent about it.

Actresses who have claimed that Weinstein sexually harassed them include Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Mira Sorvino, Ashley Judd, Rosanna Arquette, Kate Beckinsale, Angie Everhart, Minka Kelly and Cara Delevingne, while actresses Rose McGowan and Asia Argento have accused Weinstein of rape. Weinstein has denied that he had non-consensual sexual contact with any of his accusers. According to the New York Times, Weinstein settled at least eight sexual harassment cases out of court, most recently in 2015. Police in New York, California and London are reportedly investigating claims of sexual misconduct by Weinstein, and are urging anyone with information to contact the proper authorities.

Weinstein co-founded Miramax Films in 1979, and left the company in 2005 to co-found The Weinstein Company (TWC). He has since been ousted from TWC, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the organization behind the Oscars) and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (the organization behind the BAFTA Awards). Weinstein is the second person to ever be expelled from AMPAS. (The other person, actor Carmine Caridi, was expelled in 2004 for leaking Academy movie screeners.) Although he has been expelled from AMPAS and BAFTA, Weinstein can still keep any awards that he has won from those organizations. (He won an Oscar for being one of the producers of 1998’s “Shakespeare in Love.”) TWC, which has publicly condemned Weinstein, has announced that it is changing the company name, and the company will probably be put up for sale.

The End of an Era

“Shakespeare in Love” producers David Parfitt, Donna Gigliotti, Harvey Weinstein, Edward Zwick and Marc Norman at the 71st Academy Awards in Los Angeles on March 21, 1999. (Photo courtesy of AMPAS)

Miramax first made a big impact at the Oscars with 1989’s “My Left Foot,” which was nominated for five Oscars (including Best Picture), and won two Oscars: Best Actor (for Daniel Day-Lewis) and Best Supporting Actress (for Brenda Fricker). Miramax’s Oscar-winning streak continued with numerous movies, including 1994’s “Pulp Fiction,” 1996’s “The English Patient,” 1997’s “Good Will Hunting,” 1998’s “Shakespeare in Love,” 2002’s “Chicago,” 2003’s “Cold Mountain,” 2004’s “The Aviator,” 2007’s “No Country for Old Men” and 2007’s “There Will Be Blood.”

TWC also has many films that won Oscars. It can be said that TWC’s power peaked from 2010 to 2012. The company had back-to-back wins for Best Picture with 2010’s “The King’s Speech” and 2011’s “The Artist,” two movies that won Oscars in several other major categories, including Best Director and Best Actor. In 2012, TWC had Oscar-winning box-office hits with “Silver Linings Playbook”(for which Jennifer Lawrence was named Best Actress) and “Django Unchained,” which won Oscars for Quentin Tarantino (Best Original Screenplay) and Christoph Waltz (Best Supporting Actor). Waltz also won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for 2009’s “Inglourious Basterds,” a Tarantino film distributed by TWC. Tarantino (who has worked with Miramax or TWC for all the movies that Tarantino has directed) has since released a statement condemning Weinstein, as have former Weinstein colleagues such as Meryl Streep, Kate Winslet, Ben Affleck and Judi Dench.

In recent years, TWC’s clout during awards season has significantly decreased. The 2013 African-American drama “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” which was once predicted to be a dominate force at the Oscars, was famously snubbed by not getting any Oscar nominations. The 2015 Western crime drama “The Hateful Eight” (directed by Tarantino) was a box-office disappointment, failed to win in major categories at several award shows, and ultimately won only one Oscar:  for Best Original Score. The 2015 lesbian drama “Carol” didn’t win any Oscars, despite getting six nominations. The 2016 adoption drama “Lion” was also nominated for six Oscars, but didn’t win any.  Although nominated at several other award shows, “Lion” was also shut out of winning prizes at the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards.

“Wind River” actress Julia Jones and Harvey Weinstein at The Weinstein Company party in celebration of “Wind River” at Nikki Beach in Cannes, France, on May 20, 2017. (Photo by Dave Benett)

TWC had a sleeper hit and critical acclaim with the 2017 crime mystery “Wind River,” but the movie didn’t get much Oscar buzz after it debuted at the Cannes Film Festival. Now, TWC movies have virtually no chance of getting any nominations at the Oscars or other major award shows for the forseeable future, which is why the company is changing its name and will likely be sold in order to reinvent itself.

In addition to being a powerful awards campaigner, Weinstein (and TWC and Miramax) developed a reputation for throwing lavish, star-studded parties during awards season. That Weinstein party era is effectively over. It’s likely that Netflix and Amazon will take over the reigns as the companies outside the major studio system that will throw the most lavish parties during awards season, while older major studios such as Fox and Warner Bros. will still have considerable influence in the party circuit. In addition, A24 (which won big at the Oscars this year with “Moonlight”) is poised to become the independent movie studio with the most clout during awards season—a reputation that TWC had back in the early 2010s. One thing is for certain: Weinstein will not be invited to the most important industry parties for the forseeable future, although it’s probable that he will eventually be invited to less influential events several years after the scandal.

Weinstein’s second (and future ex) wife, Georgina Chapman, has also had her career ruined by the scandal. Chapman, who married Weinstein in 2007, co-founded the luxury fashion label Marchesa in 2004, around the time that she started dating Weinstein. Numerous stories have since come out that Weinstein told many famous actresses to wear Marchesa outfits at important events, and he allegedly threatened to hurt their careers if they didn’t wear the outfits. Marchesa’s rapid rise to success has been so interwined with Weinstein’s influence that people have found it difficult to separate Marchesa’s identity from Weinstein, even though Chapman announced on October 10, 2017, that she was leaving Weinstein. She hasn’t officially filed for divorce yet, but it’s only a matter of time until she does. Marchesa has already lost important business deals because of the scandal, and the label is unlikely to be worn by any star at major events this awards season.

As heinous as the crimes are that Weinstein has been accused of committing, AMPAS’s decision to expel Weinstein might strike many people as hypocritical, considering that convicted rapist Roman Polanski won an Oscar for Best Director for 2002’s “The Pianist,” even though he has famously avoided serving his sentence for raping a 13-year-old girl in Los Angeles in 1977. Polanski (who pled guilty to the crime) fled to France in 1978, and his status as a fugitive from the law means that since 1978, he has not been in the United States or countries that could extradite him back to the U.S., because he knows he would be sent immediately to prison.

[May 3, 2018 UPDATE: Convicted rapists Roman Polanski and Bill Cosby have been expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The Academy released this statement: “The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Board of Governors met on Tuesday night (May 1) and has voted to expel actor Bill Cosby and director Roman Polanski from its membership in accordance with the organization’s Standards of Conduct. The Board continues to encourage ethical standards that require members to uphold the Academy’s values of respect for human dignity.”]

Amazon Studios and the Effects of the Weinstein Scandal

“Manchester by the Sea” Oscar winners Kenneth Lonergan and Casey Affleck at Amazon Studios’ Oscar Celebration at Delilah in West Hollywood, California, on February 26, 2017 . (Photo by Todd Williamson/Getty Images for Amazon)

But now it’s 2017, and AMPAS is clearly sending a message that any Academy member or potential Oscar nominee who is publicly accused of multiple incidents of sexual misconduct will no longer be as tolerated as they once were. That’s why Amazon Studios’ “Manchester by the Sea” dodged several bullets, but the company could still feel the effects of the Weinstein scandal. Casey Affleck, who settled two sexual-harassment lawsuits in 2010, won an Oscar and several other major awards for Best Actor for 2016’s “Manchester by the Sea.” Casey Affleck’s sexual-harassment scandal was reported many times in media coverage of “Manchester by the Sea” and during the movie’s awards campaign. However, in the wake of the Weinstein scandal, it’s doubtful that Casey Affleck (the younger brother of Oscar winner/former Weinstein colleague Ben Affleck) would have much of a chance of being nominated if he were eligible for the same awards today.

In fact, considering how much the award-show campaigning will be affected by the Weinstein scandal, “Manchester by the Sea” (which was nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture) is an example of the type of movie that probably wouldn’t have been nominated for as many Oscars or other major awards in this post-Weinstein-scandal era. If “Manchester by the Sea” (which also garnered writer/director Kenneth Lonergan an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay) had been released in 2017, not 2016, the movie might have been passed over for any Oscar nominations altogether if there had been enough boycott pressure around the movie. And it wouldn’t have just been because of Casey Affleck. Matt Damon, one of the producers of “Manchester by the Sea,” has been tainted by the Weinstein scandal because Damon was accused of pressuring the Los Angeles Times to kill a story in 2004 that would have exposed Weinstein’s alleged sexual misconduct. Damon, who won a screenwriting Oscar with Ben Affleck for Miramax’s “Good Will Hunting,” has vehemently denied that he knew about or tried to cover up for Weinstein’s misdeeds, and Damon has publicly condemned Weinstein since the scandal broke.

Amazon Studios, the distributor for “Manchester by the Sea,” is also caught up in the Weinstein fallout in other ways. On October 12, 2017, the company suspended Amazon Studios head Roy Price after “The Man in the High Castle” producer Isa Hackett accused him of sexual harassment. Meanwhile, McGowan (who has accused Weinstein of raping her in 1997) claims that she told Price about the rape, and urged him not to work with Weinstein, but he did nothing about it because Price allegedly told McGowan that there wasn’t enough proof. In the wake of the scandal, Amazon has announced that it is reviewing its relationship with TWC.

[October 17, 2017 UPDATE: Price has officially exited Amazon Studios. Although he resigned, his resignation was reportedly forced. In other words, he was fired.]

Amazon also has a contract with Woody Allen, who has had his own sex scandals that have negatively affected his reputation, including accusations that he molested his adopted daughter Dylan in the 1980s. Allen has vehemently denied the allegations, and was cleared in a police investigation. Allen has also commented on the Weinstein scandal by condemning sexual harassment but also cautioning against the dangers of false accusations and having a “witch hunt” mentality. But given Amazon Studios’ association with Weinstein and two other high-profile men accused of sexual misconduct, it remains to be seen if Amazon will be a major contender for movies during this awards season. Amazon’s comedy film “The Big Sick” has gotten overwhelmingly positive reviews, but will acclaim from movie critics be enough for the movie to get Oscar nominations?

For TV awards, it remains to be seen how Amazon Studios (which has award-winning shows such as “Transparent,” “Mozart in the Jungle” and “The Man in the High Castle”) will fare at the 2018 Emmy Awards, since the Weinstein scandal broke after the 2017 Emmy Awards took place.

TWC TV Fallout

TWC’s TV series include “Project Runway,” “Spy Kids: Mission Critical,” a still-untitled show from former NBC News host Tamron Hall and a still-untitled show from “Silver Linings Playbook” director David O. Russell. Of those series, “Project Runway” is the only one likely to survive long past the Weinstein scandal and possibly win awards.

“Project Runway” host/executive producer Heidi Klum (who won an Emmy for hosting the show in 2013) is one of numerous people in the entertainment industry who have issued statements condemning Weinstein and sexual misconduct. “Project Runway” debuted in 2004, and has been renewed through 2019. The series spinoffs “Project Runway All-Stars” and “Project Runway: Junior” also are renewed. Even before the Weinstein scandal, “Project Runway” has won just two Emmy Awards out of 44 Emmy nominations. But in the wake of the scandal, the show’s chances of winning an Emmy again have significantly diminished.

Weinstein Broadway Backlash

Weinstein’s recent Broadway credits include “Finding Neverland,” “The Elephant Man” and the Tony-winning “All the Way.” His biggest Broadway success was 2002’s “The Producers,” which holds the record for the most Tony Awards (12 Tonys) won by a production in a single year. However, in light of the scandal, Weinstein will likely be shunned from working on Broadway productions for the next several years.

Golden Globes Litmus Test

The first major award show to feel the effects of the Weinstein scandal will be the 75th annual Golden Globe Awards, which will take place on January 7, 2018. Nominations for the show will be announced on December 11, 2017. The Golden Globes, which are voted for by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, give prizes to movies and TV shows. Considering that Weinstein will be virtually shut out of major award shows for many years to come, any project associated with him is unlikely to end up being a winner.

Harvey Weinstein scandal: Meryl Streep, Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Kate Winslet and more celebrities speak out against sexual harassment

October 10, 2017

by Colleen McGregor

Harvey Weinstein
Harvey Weinstein at The Weinstein Company’s party for “Wind River” at Nikki Beach in Cannes, France. (Photo by Dave Benett)

Meryl Streep, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Mira Sorvino and Judi Dench—five actresses who have won Oscars for their roles in movies distributed by Harvey Weinstein-founded The Weinstein Company (TWC)  and Miramax Films—have joined the growing list of celebrities who are speaking out against the sexual harassment and sexual assault that TWC co-founder Weinstein is accused of committing for more than 30 years.

Streep has publicly praised Weinstein over the years, but on October 9, 2017, she issued a statement saying, in part: “The disgraceful news about Harvey Weinstein has appalled those of us whose work he championed, and those whose good and worthy causes he supported. The intrepid women who raised their voices to expose this abuse are our heroes.  One thing can be clarified. Not everybody knew … Each brave voice that is raised, heard and credited by our watchdog media will ultimately change the game.” Other stars—such as Glenn Close, Lena Dunham, Judd Apatow and Mark Ruffalo—have also made public statements condemning Weinstein. (Click here to read many of their statements.)

On October 7, 2017, Weinstein issued an apology that read, in part: “I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it.” He also said he was in therapy for his admitted anger issues and “demons.” Through his representatives, Weinstein has denied the most serious allegations of sexual harassment and assault.

Weinstein was fired from TWC on October 8, 2017—three days after a New York Times article gave detailed accounts of these accusations, which included allegations made by actresses Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan that Weinstein sexually harassed them in the 1990s. The New York Times investigation reported that over the past several years, Weinstein had least eight sexual-harassment cases against him that were settled out of court; the most recently known case was in 2015.

Allegations published by the New York Times and the New Yorker on October 10, 2017,  give first-hand accounts by numerous women with various jobs in the entertainment industry (including assistants, producers, executives and actresses) who talk about being the targets of sexual misconduct by Weinstein. Angelina Jolie, Paltrow, Sorvino and Rosanna Arquette are among the other actresses who claim that they have been sexually harassed by Weinstein early in the actresses’ careers. Meanwhile, actress/filmmaker Asia Argento told the New Yorker that Weinstein raped her in 1997, and she felt pressured to have other sexual encounters with him over the next five years.

According to the reports, Weinstein’s main tactic would be to lure a woman to be alone with him in a hotel room or other private area, with Weinstein leading the woman to believe that it was a business meeting to help her career. The allegations often included salacious details such as Weinstein getting naked and asking the woman he was alone with to give him a nude massage, watch him take a shower and/or have sex with him. In some cases, Weinstein would allegedly masturbate in front of the woman or force the woman to touch his penis.

Lucia Evans, a former aspiring actress, told the New Yorker of a disturbing encounter with Weinstein in which she claims he forced her to perform oral sex on him during what she thought would be a business meeting with him in 2004.

Weinstein, who is 65, has been married to fashion mogul Georgina Chapman (co-founder of the Marchesa brand) since 2007, but she announced on October 10, 2017, that they have separated. Weinstein was married to his first wife, Eve Chilton, from 1987 to 2004. His has three daughters with Chilton: Remy (previously Lily), born  in 1995; Emma, born 1998; and Ruth, born in 2002. Weinstein has two children with Chapman: daughter India Pearl (born in 2010) and son Dashiell (born in 2013).

In 2015, Weinstein was investigated by the New York Police Department for groping actress  Ambra Battilana Gutierrez during a private business meeting at TWC headquarters in New York City, but the Manhattan District Attorney declined to file charges. On October 10, 2017, New Yorker released a NYPD sting  audio tape made at a hotel a few days after the incident that has Weinstein admitting to the groping her breast and trying to convince Gutierrez to come into his hotel room.

Weinstein was a major donor to several progressive causes and Democratic politicians, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Since the scandal broke, Obama and Clinton have issued statements condemning Weinstein. Some of the politicians, such as Senators Chuck Schumer and Elizabeth Warren, have stated that they would take the amount of money that Weinstein donated to them and give it to charitable causes.

Over the years, Weinstein  earned a reputation for being a vengeful bully to many people in the industry, but he earned just as much praise and admiration from those who benefited from his help. He was considered one of the movie industry’s most powerful campaigners for prestigious awards. TWC’s Oscar-winning movies include “The King’s Speech” and “The Artist.” Streep won an Oscar for her role as Margaret Thatcher in TWC’s “The Iron Lady,” while Winslet won an Oscar for TWC’s “The Reader.” Among the other celebrities who have won Oscars for TWC films include Jennifer Lawrence (“Silver Linings Playbook”),  Penélope Cruz (“Vicky Cristina Barcelona”), Quentin Tarantino (“Django Unchained”), Colin Firth (“The King’s Speech”) and Christoph Waltz (“Inglourious Basterds,” “Django Unchained”).

Weinstein co-founded TWC in 2005 with his brother Bob Weinstein. The Weinstein brothers co-founded Miramax Films in 1979, and headed the company until 2005. Miramax, which was bought by Disney in 1993, is the movie studio behind such Oscar-winning films as “Shakespeare in Love” and “Chicago.” Paltrow and Dench won Oscars for “Shakespeare in Love,” while Sorvino won an Oscar for Miramax’s “Mighty Aphrodite.”

In recent years, TWC’s power has been waning. The company, which also has departments for television and books, has not had a big movie hit since 2012’s “Django Unchained.” And although 2016’s “Lion” received six Oscar nominations, the movie did not win any Oscars.