Shut It Down: What To Do With The Weinstein Company
In all honesty, I really don’t care what happens to The Weinstein Company, in the aftermath of its co-founder Harvey Weinstein being uncovered as one of the industry’s most prevalent abusers and harassers. Truly, the fate of a few movies and a company whose power was on the wane is of so little importance to me, given the extent of Weinstein’s predatory behaviour, and sacking him from the company does little to weed out the rot that dominated that place from its inception. It’s near impossible to believe that nobody in that place knew anything about his abuse, and to read the statement of Bob Weinstein insisting that everything is fine now and business will continue as planned was a staggering display of sleaze, even by Hollywood standards. Distributing Carol and the Paddington movies does not balance out the evil of what Harvey Weinstein perpetuated under the banner of protection his company possibly provided. According to TMZ, Weinstein’s contract included a clause preventing dismissal on harassment grounds as long as he paid the appropriate settlements and fines.
Still, this is a business, one where money has always mattered before people, and seeing not only what The Weinstein Company will do but how the rest of the industry will react, can give us a piercing insight into how Hollywood views abusive behaviour as well as what it perceives to be the tipping point into a bad deal. After all, this is the industry that still gives Woody Allen money to make a movie a year and lets convicted child molester Victor Salva continue to direct. I’m actually kind of surprised that they took action against Weinstein as swiftly as they did, given their history of not giving a shit about the fates of harassed or abused women, but that decision probably wasn’t one made solely with good intentions.
Over the weekend, it was announced that, as rumours suggested, Amazon TV (whose studio head is under a leave of absence after his sexual harassment case became public again) would be dropping their planned series with The Weinstein Company, which was to be developed by Oscar nominee David O. Russell. The show was set to cost around $160m, with around $40m having already been spent on only a handful of turned in scripts. Julianne Moore and Robert De Niro were attached to star. Russell, another notorious Hollywood bully who is so nasty that George Clooney felt the need to punch him in the face, was previously accused of groping his transgender niece. He didn’t deny the claim but insisted his niece had been acting provocatively. An admittance of sexually assaulting a trans woman didn’t put the slightest dent in Russell’s career, nor did years of screaming in people’s faces. He is an abuser and harasser who has received punishment by proxy, although the chances are nothing more impactful will happen to Russell as a result. Hollywood is the great enabler of toxic masculinity, at least until it gets too publicly embarrassing for them to ignore.
The company wasn’t in great shape before Harvey’s abuse came to light. Their films weren’t making bank at the box office, they weren’t bringing in the glowing acclaim that used to come so naturally to their brand, and that Oscar magic had long since died off. Sadly, that’s one of the reasons this story came out when it did: Harvey the Kingmaker is no more, and that’s what the industry cares about. This year, the studio had already faced numerous reports that their finances weren’t up to scratch and that a major hit was desperately needed. Given the near parodic fiasco that was the long delayed release of Tulip Fever and the pushing back of release dates for intended awards favourites like The Current War and Mary Magdalene, the chances are that wasn’t going to happen even before the abuse came to light.
Boycotts may be inevitable now, or at the very least a blanket refusal to pay money to the company who are pretending business as usual is an option. In a statement released to Variety, Bob Weinstein blithely insisted that ‘business is continuing as usual as the company moves ahead’, and that they were expecting great success with the Paddington sequel. Regarding distribution deals or options already in place, the rush to get out of those contracts has already begun. Quiara Alegría Hudes and Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creators of the musical In The Heights, have asked for The Weinstein Company to return the film rights, while director Tara Wood also released a statement asking that the company drop their distribution deal with her. The writer of The Current War dropped out of a talk to promote the film while its star Benedict Cumberbatch was one of many actors to release a statement condemning Weinstein. While he didn’t say he wouldn’t promote the film, there’s a solid chance the cast and crew may just sit that process out.
Then there are the major names, the ones who stayed loyal to the Weinsteins for decades and are as indelible a part of their brand as the brothers themselves. Quentin Tarantino, arguably the most prominent example of that, released a statement condemning Weinstein. Does that mean he’ll break his loyalty to the company and go elsewhere? The Weinstein Company always needed Tarantino more than he needed them.
The Weinstein Company is a toxic name, but even if they drop the name as has been rumoured, the taint will remain. The board who probably stood back and did nothing while Weinstein abused his power to prey on possibly hundreds of women remain in place, inspiring little trust or hope for change. Rose McGowan, the most vocal voice against Weinstein in the acting world, has called for the entire board to resign and frankly, I see no other option. There have been varying rumours of possible buyouts, including a supposed offer from Jay-Z, but in my opinion, The Weinstein Company cannot be saved, and indeed, it should not be saved. They have solid assets - according to some reports, the TV division, behind shows like Project Runway, has a value of around $400m - that can be sold off at a decent price, even with the decrease in value since the news broke. Ultimately, the monetary value of this company and its property is nothing compared to the emotional and mental cost suffered by more women than we may ever be able to estimate.
The Weinstein Company aren’t just toxic: They’re poison in a way Hollywood cannot justify. This isn’t something they can dismiss as rumours or spite. None of what has happened and will continue to happen can be swept under the rug or considered a worthy sacrifice in the name of business and art. It’s now bad business to work with them and so it won’t be worth their while. The problem is that this rule has not been applied consistently to the industry or the world outside la la land. Roman Polanski is still a darling of the European cinema circuit, including Cannes (who ironically released a statement condemning Weinstein), and Woody Allen’s latest got full Amazon backing. Audiences are more vocal than ever and feel empowered to say no to these figures who the industry props up time and time again. It’s too late for The Weinstein Company, but perhaps the rest of Hollywood can follow suit.
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