For years, Ashley Judd felt her career was being stifled by something “unseen.” Though the actress appeared in movies like “Double Jeopardy” and “Heat,” she never had a blockbuster hit on par with the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy — even though she was reportedly in talks with director Peter Jackson and producer Fran Walsh about a starring role in the franchise.
Those talks — which took place in 1998 — mysteriously evaporated.
For nearly 20 years, Judd wondered why. Until December, when Jackson told Stuff that Harvey Weinstein — the powerful Hollywood producer accused by dozens of women of decades of sexual abuse — and his brother Bob told him that Judd and fellow actress Mira Sorvino “were a nightmare to work with and we should avoid them at all costs.”
“At the time, we had no reason to question what these guys were telling us — but in hindsight, I realise that this was very likely the Miramax smear campaign in full swing,” Jackson said. “I now suspect we were fed false information about both of these talented women — and as a direct result their names were removed from our casting list.”
The interview was a eureka moment for Judd, who said she rebuffed Weinstein’s sexual advances around that time.
Now, the actress is on the offensive.
She filed a lawsuit against Weinstein in Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday evening, claiming that the producer “torpedoed Ms. Judd’s incredible professional opportunity” after she refused to watch him shower or allow him to give her a massage in his hotel room in “late 1996 or early 1997.”
Weinstein denigrated her to Jackson and Walsh, ensuring that she wasn’t cast in “Lord of the Rings,” the lawsuit states.
“Ultimately though, this case is about business, and the central harm is economic,” the lawsuit continues. “Weinstein’s wrongful and outrageous conduct has not just deprived Ms. Judd of the specific opportunity to play a prominent role in a blockbuster film trilogy; it has had a long-lasting ripple effect on the trajectory of her whole career.”
A representative for Weinstein said in a statement, “The most basic investigation of the facts will reveal that Mr. Weinstein neither defamed Ms. Judd nor ever interfered with Ms. Judd’s career, and instead not only championed her work but also repeatedly approved her casting for two of his movies over the next decade.”
Judd also appeared on “Good Morning America” on Tuesday to describe her decades of confusion and the career that could have been.
“I lost career opportunity. I lost money. I lost status and prestige and power in my career as a direct result of having been sexually harassed and rebuffing the sexual harassment,” she told Amy Robach. “I was on such a roll. My career opportunities after being defamed by Harvey Weinstein were significantly diminished.”
“It’s wonderful to be able to take a stand on behalf of the younger self that I was,” she added.
Many of the woman who were allegedly sexually harassed or abused by Weinstein said they didn’t report his behavior because they feared for their careers. Weinstein wielded a tremendous amount of power in Hollywood.
Many other actresses, including Uma Thurman and Salma Hayek, have said Weinstein sexually propositioned them and then would fly into a rage when they refused — often threatening to hurt them physically or irrevocably damage their careers.
Theodore Boutrous Jr., one of Judd’s lawyers, told The Washington Post that a major goal of the lawsuit is “to deter this sort of highly reprehensible misconduct in the future by shining a light on the broader economic damages caused when individuals in positions of authority attempt to punish those who have resisted their improper advances.”
Judd is seeking both punitive damages and restitution as well as an injunction that would disallow Weinstein from “engaging in unfair competition.”
The actress has promised to donate any money she might receive from the lawsuit to the Time’s Up legal defense fund to help any other potentially maligned actresses gain retribution.