Along the way, he helped propel the careers of people such as Quentin Tarantino and Steven Soderbergh and won the admiration of countless critics and others.
But his reputation for abrasiveness and his legendary temper have earned him more than a few enemies along the way, making Weinstein the frequent target of award-ceremony jokes and pointed anecdotes.
Matt Damon once compared him to a scorpion. There has been bad blood, too, with a former protege, Kevin Smith.
The complicated relationship Weinstein has with the industry was perhaps best summed up by a speech Meryl Streep gave at the Golden Globes one year.
“I want to thank God — Harvey Weinstein,” she joked. “The punisher. Old Testament, I guess.”
But a blockbuster story published by the New York Times last week represented the most severe blow to his career.
The story aired decades of previously unknown sexual harassment accusations against Weinstein, who said he planned to take a leave of absence.
Then, on Sunday night, the Weinstein Co. board of directors announced that Weinstein had been fired from the company he co-founded.
Four directors — including Weinstein’s brother Bob — said they were firing the high-profile, high-powered mogul “in light of new information about misconduct.”
The firing was effective immediately, bringing the latest chapter in Weinstein’s up-and-down career to an ignominious end.
The glory years
In 1979, Bob and Harvey Weinstein co-founded Miramax, which would help bring art-house cinema into the mainstream.
The studio broke through in the late 1980s with a trio of hits: Soderbergh’s “Sex, Lies, and Videotape,” Jim Sheridan’s “My Left Foot,” which won Daniel Day-Lewis an Oscar, and Giuseppe Tornatore’s “Cinema Paradiso,” which won the Oscar for best foreign-language film.
Disney bought the studio in 1993 for between $60 million and $80 million, giving it an infusion of cash and the backing of a major company. Miramax continued its success, financing Tarantino’s 1994 hit “Pulp Fiction,” which went on to be one of the most influential films of the decade. The film, which was made for $8.5 million, grossed more than $200 million worldwide.
For an 11-year period from 1992 to 2003, Miramax Films had at least one its films nominated for an Oscar each year, winning best picture for several of them, including “The English Patient” (1996), “Shakespeare in Love” (1998) and “Chicago” (2002).
Other acclaimed films that came out of Miramax included “Good Will Hunting” (1997) and “The Cider House Rules” (1999).
And hits such as “Scream” (1996) and “Jackie Brown” (1997) kept the money flowing.
Miramax was known for pursing “Oscars with a drive — and a budget — previously unknown in the industry,” placing more advertisements, lobbying more voters, dismissing more rivals and sending out more freebies than other studios, The Washington Post reported in 2008.
But the Weinstein brothers became known for a ruthless way of doing business.
“Miramax ran on fear. They’re intimidating, they shout a lot, they foam at the mouth,” Stuart Burkin, who started at the company in 1991, told Vanity Fair.
Even as he was dominating Hollywood, according the Times, Harvey Weinstein was accused of serial sexual harassment.
The actress Ashley Judd said that while she was shooting the 1997 film “Kiss the Girls,” he lured her to his hotel room for a “meeting,” trying to force her to give him a massage or watch him shower.
“How do I get out of the room as fast as possible without alienating Harvey Weinstein?” she recalled in an interview with the Times.
Throughout the 1990s, the Times reported, he settled with numerous women, including a young assistant in New York in 1990, actress Rose McGowan in 1997 and an assistant in London in 1998.
The painful years
Things took a downturn professionally for Weinstein in the 2000s.
Disney parted ways with the Weinsteins in 2005 after arguments over the studio’s ballooning movie budgets and disagreements over the degree of their autonomy. Harvey and Bob started a new independent studio, the Weinstein Co., that same year.
But Harvey Weinstein seemed to have lost some of his touch. Between 2005 and 2009, the Weinstein Co. released some 70 films, many of which nobody wanted to watch.
Flops included the 2005 film “Derailed,” featuring actors Clive Owen and Jennifer Aniston, which critics derided as “a glossy and often risible bit of trash,” and “laughable.” According to a 2009 New York Times profile of the brothers, more than a quarter of the films in that four-year stretch fell short of the $1 million box-office mark in the United States; of those, 13 took in less than $100,000.
“I think I took my eye off the ball,” Harvey Weinstein told Vanity Fair in 2011. “From about 2005, 2006, 2007, I was out of it. I thought I could oversee movies and have it done for me, so to speak.”
During that period, Weinstein also branched out into other fields, buying part of the Halston fashion brand, part of the cable network Ovation, and the social networking site A Small World.
“When I first got there, in 2008, the focus was not on movies,” David Glasser, the president of the Weinstein Co., told Vanity Fair. “Harvey was focused on Internet and fashion and the global media picture.”
The year 2011 marked Harvey Weinstein’s professional resurgence. “The King’s Speech,” starring Colin Firth, was nominated for 12 Oscars, taking home the best-picture trophy.
Critics piled on praise, calling Weinstein the “comeback kid.”
“Look, there are four, five businesses we never should have been in and we ended up humbled and learned from that experience,” he told the Times in 2011. “We are concentrating on movies, pulling the band back together, and I think the coming year could be as good or better than any we ever had at Miramax.”
The next year, Weinstein cleaned up at the Golden Globes for “The Iron Lady,” “My Week with Marilyn” and “The Artist,” which would win best picture at the Oscars.
Streep paid him homage during that Globes ceremony with her “God” quote. As Gawker put it, Weinstein had “risen from the grave to feast on the bones of his enemies.”
That year, he was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world.
In its investigative report about sexual harassment allegations against Weinstein, the Times reported that he had reached at least eight settlements with women over the years.
In a statement to the Times, Weinstein said: “I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it. Though I’m trying to do better, I know I have a long way to go. That is my commitment. My journey now will be to learn about myself and conquer my demons.”
As The Washington Post’s Stephanie Merry put it, Weinstein’s statement was “a mix of remorse, rap lyrics, and an attempt to distract from his indiscretions by bringing up his fury at the NRA. Most importantly, it doesn’t contradict the allegations.”
One of his attorneys, Charles Harder, told the Hollywood Reporter that Weinstein plans to sue the newspaper, charging that the story “relies on mostly hearsay accounts and a faulty report.”
Another lawyer who is advising Weinstein said in a statement that “he denies many of the accusations as patently false,” according to the Times.
Two days later, that lawyer, Lisa Bloom, said she was stepping down as Weinstein’s adviser.
By that point, Weinstein was on “an indefinite leave of absence” from the Weinstein Co. while an internal investigation was conducted on the allegations, the board said.
“As Harvey has said, it is important for him to get professional help for the problems he has acknowledged,” the board said in a statement. “Next steps will depend on Harvey’s therapeutic progress, the outcome of the Board’s independent investigation, and Harvey’s own personal decisions.”
By Sunday night, he was gone.
“The directors of The Weinstein Company — Robert Weinstein, Lance Maerov, Richard Koenigsberg and Tarak Ben Ammar — have determined, and have informed Harvey Weinstein, that his employment with The Weinstein Company is terminated, effective immediately,” the board said.