This story was first published on newyorker.com on October 10, 2017, at 10:47 A . M . The version below appears in the October 23, 2017, issue.
Since the establishment of the first studios, a century ago, there have been few movie executives as dominant, or as domineering, as Harvey Weinstein . He co-founded the production-and-distribution companies Miramax and the Weinstein Company, helping to reinvent the model for independent films with movies including "Sex, Lies, and Videotape," "The Crying Game," "Pulp Fiction," "The English Patient," "Shakespeare in Love," and "The King's Speech." Beyond Hollywood, he has exercised his influence as a prolific fund-raiser for Democratic Party candidates, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Weinstein combined a keen eye for promising scripts, directors, and actors with a bullying, even threatening, style of doing business, inspiring both fear and gratitude. His movies have earned more than three hundred Oscar nominations, and, at the annual awards ceremonies, he has been thanked more than almost anyone else in movie history, ranking just after Steven Spielberg and right before God.
For more than twenty years, Weinstein, who is now sixty-five, has also been trailed by rumors of sexual harassment and assault. His behavior has been an open secret to many in Hollywood and beyond, but previous attempts by many publications, including The New Yorker , to investigate and publish the story over the years fell short of the demands of journalistic evidence. Too few people were willing to speak, much less allow a reporter to use their names, and Weinstein and his associates used nondisclosure agreements, payoffs, and legal threats to suppress their accounts. Asia Argento, an Italian film actress and director, said that she did not speak out until now—Weinstein, she told me, forcibly performed oral sex on her—because she feared that Weinstein would "crush" her. "I know he has crushed a lot of people before," Argento said. "That's why this story—in my case, it's twenty years old, some of them are older—has never come out."
On October 5th, the New York Times , in a powerful report by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, revealed multiple allegations of sexual harassment against Weinstein, an article that led to the resignation of four members of the Weinstein Company's all-male board, and to Weinstein's firing.
The story, however, is complex, and there is more to know and to understand. In the course of a ten-month investigation, I was told by thirteen women that, between the nineteen-nineties and 2015, Weinstein sexually harassed or assaulted them. Their allegations corroborate and overlap with the Times's revelations, and also include far more serious claims.
Three of the women—among them Argento and a former aspiring actress named Lucia Evans—told me that Weinstein had raped them, forcibly performing or receiving oral sex or forcing vaginal sex. Four women said that they had experienced unwanted touching that could be classified as an assault. In an audio recording captured during a New York Police Department sting operation in 2015, Weinstein admits to groping a Filipina-Italian model named Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, describing it as behavior he is "used to." Four of the women I interviewed cited encounters in which Weinstein exposed himself or masturbated in front of them.
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. They and others described a pattern of professional meetings that were little more than thin pretexts for sexual advances on young actresses and models. All sixteen said that the behavior was widely known within both Miramax and the Weinstein Company. Messages sent by Irwin Reiter, a senior company executive, to Emily Nestor, one of the women who alleged that she was harassed, described the "mistreatment of women" as a serial problem that the Weinstein Company had been struggling with in recent years. Other employees described what was, in essence, a culture of complicity at Weinstein's places of business, with numerous people throughout his companies fully aware of his behavior but either abetting it or looking the other way. Some employees said that they were enlisted in a subterfuge to make the victims feel safe. A female executive with the company described how Weinstein's assistants and others served as a "honeypot"—they would initially join a meeting along with a woman Weinstein was interested in, but then Weinstein would dismiss them, leaving him alone with the woman. (On October 10th, the Weinstein Company's board issued a statement, writing that "these allegations come as an utter surprise to the Board. Any suggestion that the Board had knowledge of this conduct is false.")
Virtually all of the people I spoke with told me that they were frightened of retaliation. "If Harvey were to discover my identity, I'm worried that he could ruin my life," one former employee told me. Many said that they had seen Weinstein's associates confront and intimidate those who crossed him, and feared that they would be similarly targeted. Four actresses, including Mira Sorvino and Rosanna Arquette, told me they suspected that, after they rejected Weinstein's advances or complained about them to company representatives, Weinstein had them removed from projects or dissuaded people from hiring them. Multiple sources said that Weinstein frequently bragged about planting items in media outlets about those who spoke against him; these sources feared similar retribution. Several pointed to Gutierrez's case: after she went to the police, negative items discussing her sexual history and impugning her credibility began rapidly appearing in New York gossip pages. (In the taped conversation, part of which The New Yorker posted online, Weinstein asks Gutierrez to join him for "five minutes," and warns, "Don't ruin your friendship with me for five minutes.")
Several former employees told me that they were speaking about Weinstein's alleged behavior now because they hoped to protect women in the future. "This wasn't a one-off. This wasn't a period of time," an executive who worked for Weinstein for many years told me. "This was ongoing predatory behavior toward women—whether they consented or not."
It's likely that the women who spoke to me have recently felt increasingly emboldened to talk about their experiences because of the way the world has changed regarding issues of sex and power. Their disclosures follow in the wake of stories alleging sexual misconduct by public figures, including Donald Trump , Bill O'Reilly , Roger Ailes , and Bill Cosby . In October, 2016, a month before the election, a tape emerged of Trump telling a celebrity-news reporter, "And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. . . . Grab 'em by the pussy. You can do anything." This past April, O'Reilly, a host at Fox News, was forced to resign after Fox was discovered to have paid five women millions of dollars in exchange for silence about their accusations of sexual harassment. Ailes, the former head of Fox News, resigned in July, 2016, after he was accused of sexual harassment. Cosby went on trial this summer, charged with drugging and sexually assaulting a woman. The trial ended with a hung jury.
In the Times piece, Weinstein made an initial effort at damage control by partly acknowledging what he had done, saying, "I appreciate the way I've behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it." In an interview with the New York Post , he said, "I've got to deal with my personality, I've got to work on my temper, I have got to dig deep. I know a lot of people would like me to go into a facility, and I may well just do that—I will go anywhere I can learn more about myself." He went on, "In the past I used to compliment people, and some took it as me being sexual, I won't do that again." In his written statement to the Times , Weinstein claimed that he would "channel that anger" into a fight against the leadership of the National Rifle Association. He also said that it was not "coincidental" that he was organizing a foundation for women directors at the University of Southern California. "It will be named after my mom and I won't disappoint her." (U.S.C. has since rejected his funding pledge.)
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