When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences expelled movie producer Harvey Weinstein from its ranks Oct. 14, headlines around the world trumpeted the latest chapter in what has become the biggest Hollywood scandal to date, yet there was neither art nor science in what the Hollywood de facto governing body needed to do. In the wake of more than 40 women revealing how Weinstein had wielded his power and massive physical frame against them, the academy distanced itself from the movie mogul ASAP. In fact, the vote by the 54-member academy board of governors may be the simplest decision it will make in the coming months. How, for example, might the academy reconcile its practice of continually honoring Woody Allen, a 24-time Oscar nominee and four-time winner, who has been accused of sexual misconduct? What about Academy award-winner Roman Polanski, who was convicted of sexual abuse? And now, Harvey Weinstein, the man Adrienne King can't mention by name.
"Let's just call him H.W.," King said. "Was I surprised by all of this? Absolutely not," she told me Oct. 13. King was in Boise to receive the Idaho Horror Film Festival Trailblazer award for her advocacy of women in film. "A long time ago, I was at an event, sitting at a table with a number of women working in the industry. In walked H.W. Everything got quiet when he sat down, and then he did most of the talking but when he got up and walked away, the stories [about him] from the women just kept coming. This was decades ago. Surprised? Not likely."
I have seen Weinstein at work, and it's not pretty. At multiple film festivals over the years, Weinstein has interrupted conversations or interviews I or another journalist was conducting, locked arms with the filmmaker we were talking to and whisked them away, often to a private room, without an apology. I often was told Weinstein was performing his "magic," but sleight of hand had nothing to do what was going on behind those closed doors: Weinstein was strong-arming filmmakers, so he could become manipulator-in-chief for a particular film's Oscar chances. There's no question Weinstein's track record with award-winning movies is impressive: Pulp Fiction, The English Patient, Good Will Hunting, Shakespeare in Love, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Chicago and The King's Speech all took home Oscars, and when Weinstein wasn't being thanked from the stage, he was often picking up his own golden statue. He has won six Best Picture awards, and his brother Bob Weinstein says the trophy-grabbing streak is directly linked to Harvey Weinstein's tyranny.
"Harvey was a bully. Harvey was arrogant. He treated people like shit all the time," Bob told the Hollywood Reporter. "I had to clean up for so many of his employee messes."
Unfortunately, Bob's comments only came after top-notch reporting by The New York Times and The New Yorker, which chronicled decades of sexual harassment and rape allegations. Soon after The Times broke the story Oct. 5, which included detailed recollections from Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan, an avalanche of accusations followed from Kate Beckinsale, Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, Mira Sorvino and dozens more. Performers, writers, directors and producers filled social media with their outrage or disgust in the days that followed. Then, Woody Allen, who worked with Weinstein on several films, including Oscar winners Bullets Over Broadway and Vicky Cristina Barcelona weighed in during an Oct. 15 interview with the BBC, saying he was "sad for everybody involved" and was worried about a "witch hunt atmosphere where every guy in an office who winks at a woman is suddenly having to call a lawyer to defend himself." Who said anything about winking? The accusations against Weinstein are for assault and/or rape, not unlike the 1992 allegation against Allen for sexually abusing his young adopted daughter.
The reluctance in Hollywood to speak out against the actions of Allen, Polanski, Bill Cosby—another current member of the Motion Picture Academy—has gone on for decades. In 2009, more than 100 filmmakers, including Martin Scorsese, David Lynch and Woody Allen, signed a petition protesting the then-detention of Polanski by Swiss authorities for his sex crimes, which read, "Filmmakers, actors, producers and technicians want him to know that he has their support and friendship."
It's time. No, strike that. It's long past time for Hollywood, and the Motion Picture Academy in particular, to say enough is enough—and the voices must be those of both women and men, who need to hold their male peers accountable. If the result is some filmmakers are put out of business and fewer movies get made, so be it. There can not be a sequel.