“Lord of the Rings” director Peter Jackson said Harvey Weinstein’s company once told him that actresses Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino were difficult to work with, a warning that the New Zealand native now sees as an attempt to discredit the women.
Judd and Sorvino are among the women who have accused Weinstein of sexual harassment or assault, which has sparked a national reckoning about sexual misconduct, with dozens of prominent men falling from their positions of power in entertainment, business, media and politics.
In an interview published this week, Jackson told the publication Stuff that in the late 1990s, he was pitching early plans for “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” films to Miramax — Weinstein’s first studio and a cultural force throughout the decade — and was told the two actresses “were a nightmare to work with and we should avoid them at all costs.”
After the recent allegations against Weinstein, Jackson said he recalled the warning.
“At the time, we had no reason to question what these guys were telling us — but in hindsight, I realize that this was very likely the Miramax smear campaign in full swing,” he said. “I now suspect we were fed false information about both of these talented women.”
Miramax’s comments led Jackson to avoid considering them for the films, he said.
Jackson’s statements raise the question of the degree to which alleged harassment and abuse by prominent men affects the careers of those working for them. Some women subjected to harassment or misconduct say they felt ostracized by their abusers after rejecting their advances. Others who spoke to colleagues about the incidents were told to stop talking. In some cases, women left their jobs or their professions altogether.
Sorvino thanked Jackson on Twitter on Friday.
“Just seeing this after I awoke, I burst out crying,” she said in a tweet. “There it is, confirmation that Harvey Weinstein derailed my career, something I suspected but was unsure.”
Judd said in a tweet that she was approached about a role in the “Lord of the Rings” but never heard back.
Judd and Sorvino could not immediately be reached for further comment.
The public relations firm Sitrick and Co., which represents Weinstein, said in an emailed statement that the film producer “has nothing but the utmost respect for Peter Jackson. However, as Mr. Jackson will probably remember, because Disney would not finance the ‘Lord of the Rings,’ Miramax lost the project and all casting was done by New Line. While Bob and Harvey Weinstein were executive producers of the film they had no input into the casting whatsoever.”
The statement added that until Judd wrote an article for Variety in 2015, in which she accused an unnamed Hollywood mogul of misconduct, Weinstein cast Judd in two additional films — “Frida” and “Crossing Over.” Sorvino, the statement said, had been considered for other films as well.
In October, Judd and several other women spoke out in a New York Times exposé alleging that Weinstein used his position to sexually harass and abuse aspiring young actresses.
Judd alleged that in the 1990s, Weinstein invited her to his hotel room and asked whether he could give her a massage and then whether she would watch him shower. Sorvino told the New Yorker that Weinstein tried to pressure her into a physical relationship.
Weinstein, who is under investigation on suspicion of sexual assault in four cities, partly acknowledged what he had done in a statement to the Times in October, after its initial report of the allegations: “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 for the allegations made by Sorvino and other women in the New Yorker, a spokeswoman for Weinstein, Sallie Hofmeister, said he denies any accusations of nonconsensual sex and that he believes his relationships with the women named in the story — such as Sorvino — were consensual.
In the many allegations that have surfaced in recent months, women have spoken about what they say has been the cost to their careers.
A woman said she was discouraged from pursuing comedy because of an alleged incident with comedian Louis C.K. A former clerk of Judge Alex Kozinski, a powerful jurist on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit who has been accused by a group of former clerks or more junior staffers of inappropriate sexual conduct or comments, said she feared that not leaving with a good recommendation from Kozinski might jeopardize her career.
C.K. said the allegations against him were true. Kozinski told The Post he “would never intentionally do anything to offend anyone.”
On Wednesday, Salma Hayek became the latest woman to come forward about Weinstein’s alleged sexual harassment and bullying, writing in the Times that “for years, he was my monster.” He tried to exert power over her not just with demands for massages and sex, but also by insisting that Hayek add an unscripted sex scene with another woman while he produced her dream project, the 2002 film “Frida.”
Hayek wrote that she felt that complying was the only way she could get the film made. It was already five weeks into production, she wrote, and she worried about disappointing a cast of stars such as Judd and Edward Norton, whom she had convinced to sign on. A representative for Weinstein denied in a statement the sexual harassment allegations and said Weinstein did not pressure Hayek to add the sex scene.
The representative could not be immediately reached for comment.
Jackson’s comments about casting decisions sparked a conversation about what many said they had already assumed: that women could suffer consequences for rejecting the advances of powerful superiors.
Jackson denied having “direct experience or knowledge of the sexual allegations” against Weinstein. He added that he hadn’t interacted with Weinstein in 20 years.
But he remembers Weinstein and his brother acting like “second-rate Mafia bullies” during the early stages of the “Lord of the Rings” films, he told Stuff. Weinstein had threatened to fire Jackson from the adaptation of the films if he didn’t follow his demands to turn his proposed two-part film into one movie. When New Line eventually took over production, that company suggested making three films instead of two, which would align with J.R.R. Tolkien’s books.
“Movie making is much more fun when you work with nice people,” Jackson told Stuff.
Weinstein’s name still appears in the credits of the “Lord of the Rings” films for contractual reasons, Jackson told Stuff. Jackson won an Oscar for best director in 2003 for “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” and the trilogy earned $2.91 billion in global ticket sales, according to Forbes.