OCTOBER 9 UPDATE: Harvey Weinstein was fired on Sunday following last week’s sensational article in The New York Times that ended years of rumours and shattered the code of omerta surrounding the film mogul.
Since Ashley Judd and former Weinstein employees alleged or alluded to sexual harassment in the exposé, others have come forward with public complants and the board of The Weinstein Company (TWC) – those remaining men who had not quit after last Thursday – fired Weinstein.
The board had already installed TWC co-chairman Bob Weinstein and president and COO David Glasser at the head of the company and have launched an investigation into alleged misconduct.
Weinstein had already stepped away before his position was terminated. Ever the brilliant marketing strategist with a knack for timing, he knew the first thing he had to do was step away.
He also instructed attorney Charles Harder – the lawyer who represented Hulk Hogan in the case that ultimately closed down Gawker – to sue The New York Times over the article and at time of writing it was unclear whether he would order more lawsuits as the complaints rolled in.
Clearly Weinstein refutes some of the article, although apparently not the gist. As he said in his statement: “I’ve brought on therapists and I plan to take a leave of absence from my company and to deal with this issue head on. I so respect all women and regret what happened.”
As Hollywood scratches its head and asks why the revelations surfaced when they did, and Weinstein digs deep into his own psyche and plots legal action, a company must battle on. Several people who had either worked for or with Weinstein at Miramax or TWC expressed the feeling that, in the right hands and with its figureheard kept at a distance, TWC or some iteration of it can live to fight another day.
“Asking if they can survive is like asking if a cockroach can survive a nuclear blast,” one former Miramax employee told Screen.
The question is, for how long can the company last? Bob Weinstein knows the genre business inside-out but is not an awards specialist like his brother, and has overseen Dimension Films mostly through years of success. Glasser in particular is a highly regarded executive with deep knowledge of the international sales space and strategic and operational expertise who has the nous to steer The Weinstein Company through choppy waters.
Glasser has focused on building the TV operation – and with good reason. Not only is it the sandpit every independent wants to play in, but it is not film, which has become a challenging arena to say the least. Weinstein won the best picture Oscar for Shakespeare In Love at Miramax and brought in more than 300 Academy Award nominations over the years. However with money reportedly drying up, a succession of mis-fires at the box office, and no best picture Oscar win for six years since The Artist (Taylor Sheridan’s Wind River is the company’s standard-bearer this season) thoughts have turned to the small screen.
The international sales division remains a provider of prestigious, commercial fare and that could continue so long as producing partners are not alarmed by Thursday’s revelations. The fact is, buyers around the world have known the rumours about Weinstein for years and it has not stopped them doing business with the company. Besides, it is Glasser and his lieutenants, recently Ennis Hensley, who are the face of that side of the company and they are well-liked.
Sources who spoke to Screen said fundraising would now be a major obstacle. It is understood Weinstein has been in advanced talks with at least one prominent Hollywood investor recently and it will be interesting to see how they, and the banks, proceed given Thursday’s revelations. A deep-pocketed entity might use events to force a merger or acquisition. Similarly, certain sponsors are expected to sever ties.
There are many who owe their careers to Weinstein, but agencies and the female talent they represent will think twice about doing business with any future company or enterprise where Weinstein has influence or a high profile. As for the staff, female and male employees have known for years what they were getting themselves into. They also knew they were dealing with a genius and while that is no excuse for appalling behavior, it counts for a lot in a monstrously ambitious industry.
It is sad to say, but privately people concede the behaviour alleged in the Times article is not uncommon. There have been notorious recent examples such as the late Fox news chief Roger Ailes and talk show host Bill O’Reilly, and there are likely to be plenty more, as yet unpublicised, abusive people in positions of power in the entertainment business. And in many cases, people will continue to work with them.
Weinstein’s days as a company figurehead may be numbered, but that is not to say he is dead and buried. Let us see who else comes forward in the days and weeks ahead. Maybe he will be able to weather the storm, maybe not. Hollywood loves a good, old-fashioned mea culpa, followed by time away for self-reflection before the triumphant return. Some who spoke to Screen suggest Weinstein lie low for a year and bounce back with an Oscar-worthy film. There will be backers. He could do it. Just ask Mel Gibson.