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Emma Thompson Asks Skydance Hard Questions In Wake Of John Lasseter Hire

By Kristy Puchko | Film | February 26, 2019 |

By Kristy Puchko | Film | February 26, 2019 |


Earlier this month, Emma Thompson ran out on Luck. She had begun her voice recording sessions for the upcoming Skydance Animation film, but in the wake of the studio’s troubling hire of an admitted sexual harasser John Lasseter, the esteemed English star bowed out. Though her departure was reported as having been “quietly” done, she made her reasons crystal clear to Skydance with a letter that asked them a series of hard-hitting questions about their decision to employ a man with decades of sexual misconduct allegations against him.

The Academy Award-winning screenwriter wrote:

As you know, I have pulled out of the production of Luck — to be directed by the very wonderful Alessandro Carloni. It feels very odd to me that you and your company would consider hiring someone with Mr. Lasseter’s pattern of misconduct given the present climate in which people with the kind of power that you have can reasonably be expected to step up to the plate.

I realise that the situation — involving as it does many human beings — is complicated. However these are the questions I would like to ask:

*If a man has been touching women inappropriately for decades, why would a woman want to work for him if the only reason he’s not touching them inappropriately now is that it says in his contract that he must behave “professionally”?

*If a man has made women at his companies feel undervalued and disrespected for decades, why should the women at his new company think that any respect he shows them is anything other than an act that he’s required to perform by his coach, his therapist and his employment agreement? The message seems to be, “I am learning to feel respect for women so please be patient while I work on it. It’s not easy.”

*Much has been said about giving John Lasseter a “second chance.” But he is presumably being paid millions of dollars to receive that second chance. How much money are the employees at Skydance being paid to GIVE him that second chance?

*If John Lasseter started his own company, then every employee would have been given the opportunity to choose whether or not to give him a second chance. But any Skydance employees who don’t want to give him a second chance have to stay and be uncomfortable or lose their jobs. Shouldn’t it be John Lasseter who has to lose HIS job if the employees don’t want to give him a second chance?

*Skydance has revealed that no women received settlements from Pixar or Disney as a result of being harassed by John Lasseter. But given all the abuse that’s been heaped on women who have come forward to make accusations against powerful men, do we really think that no settlements means that there was no harassment or no hostile work environment? Are we supposed to feel comforted that women who feel that their careers were derailed by working for Lasseter DIDN’T receive money?

I hope these queries make the level of my discomfort understandable. I regret having to step away because I love Alessandro so much and think he is an incredibly creative director. But I can only do what feels right during these difficult times of transition and collective consciousness raising.

I am well aware that centuries of entitlement to women’s bodies whether they like it or not is not going to change overnight. Or in a year. But I am also aware that if people who have spoken out — like me — do not take this sort of a stand then things are very unlikely to change at anything like the pace required to protect my daughter’s generation.

Yours most sincerely,

Emma Thompson

In the letter, Thompson notes several of Skydance’s cringe-worthy attempts to curtail Lasseter’s notorious behavior. There is a contract meant to dissuade him from sexually harassing or groping female employees, which also leaves Skydance out of liability should he re-offend. A town hall meeting was called to entreat the staff to give Lasseter—who apologized for his “missteps”—a second chance. Female employees were invited to not work with Lasseter, a move that could potentially disrupt their work or career advancement considering he was given a high-power position. And they promoted Holly Edwards, making her Lasseter’s right-hand, and potential wrangler. Some say it’s not enough. We say it’s not enough. But for Skydance to get the memo, it’s going to mean people with real pull saying it. And that’s where Thompson steps in.

If she had only backed out of Luck, cynics might be able to say she didn’t want to deal with a press tour where her feminist credentials would be called into question for working with Lasseter. But she didn’t just leave, she left Skydance with that letter telling them exactly why. She’s not just done with this project. It seems Thompson will never do a project with Skydance as long as Lasseter is in their employ. And with the release of this letter, the gauntlet is thrown down. Anyone who chooses to work with Skydance is choosing a side: Me Too or Alleged Abusers.

This is bad news for Skydance Animation. It’s a newly minted animation studio and Luck was slated to be its debut. Now, its only attached star has pulled out, and in a way that makes the project radioactive. So, while Skydance was hoping Lasseter would bring a Midas Touch to their new animation endeavor, it seems he is instead an infection that could kill this studio in its infancy.

Source: LA Times