Some background: Weinstein, the super-producer who helped put Sundance on the map by bidding outlandish sums for movies he hoped to turn into either modest box office hits or tempting Oscar bait, is currently on trial for rape in New York City. Miriam Haley, who worked as an assistant for Weinstein, testified at the trial Monday that “He pushed me down, he held me down by my arms. … He forced himself on me orally. I was on my period. I had a tampon on in there. I was mortified. I was just crying, ‘no.’”
Earlier in the trial, actress Annabella Sciorra testified that Weinstein had raped her. “It was just so disgusting,” she said. “He had intercourse while I was trying to fight but I couldn’t fight anymore because he had my hands locked.” Rosie Perez confirmed the story, saying that Sciorra had told her about the assault after it happened.
Patten, wandering around Sundance, found a number of industry bigshots who were shocked, shocked to learn that Weinstein was a world-class monster. The quotes are stunning both in their content and in the fact that they were still, despite Weinstein’s defenestration, delivered anonymously.
“I knew something wasn’t right with the guy,” a producer bravely says without putting her name to this foreknowledge. “What we know now of the attacks and the threats and what we are seeing at the trial is sickening and something else.”
An “award-winning male director” bravely added the following: “It disgusts me to read her testimony and what he did to her.” And here’s “a male writer” coming forward: “We all knew Harvey was a bully and could be horrible, but now to hear a woman tell her truth on the stand, I don’t know, it amplifies how truly horrible he is.”
That last quote is probably closest to the truth, and even then it’s a bit of a whitewash. The idea that anyone with any experience at Sundance could be surprised that Weinstein was an out-of-control monster is laughable. It was at best an open secret, at worst a punchline on shows and in movies.
Anyone who has read Peter Biskind’s searing look at the early days of Sundance, “Down and Dirty Pictures,” knows that Weinstein was pushy and abusive at best. But he was also a master manipulator: At one point, Biskind recalls the Weinsteins (Harvey and his brother, Bob) calling him to their office and offering him a chance to pursue his dream project if he would put aside the tawdry little book on Sundance he was working on. No one’s going to read this thing; make what you’ve always wanted to, they said.
Other reporters were less lucky. Biskind recalls a story about Weinstein physically assaulting writer Rebecca Traister, then at the New York Observer, and her colleague Andrew Goldman, during a party. Traister recounts the story here. As Biskind recounted it, Weinstein screamed at Goldman at one point, “This is going to be you and me, I want this mano-a-mano, I’m taking you outside and I’m gonna f—king kick your a—.”
Weinstein’s predilection for using and abusing starlets of all stripes was just out in the open. Seth MacFarlane cracked a joke about it at the 2013 Oscars, years before the Weinstein empire came crashing down; he later said he’d made the joke because a female colleague had confided in him that Weinstein had assaulted her. “30 Rock” made a similar jibe the year before. And as my friend and editor Alyssa Rosenberg has pointed out to me several times over the years, “Entourage” was way ahead of the curve on Harvey, treating his predilections with more honesty than just about any other program.
All of which is to say it’s a little bit rich to hear the good visitors to Park City profess their disgust with Weinstein. It’s hard to take any of this seriously — especially when it’s offered up anonymously — as a real bit of soul-searching or examination of the predations of the movie profession. Indeed, it reads much more as a bit of rear-end-covering, a way to profess innocence without actually having to put a name to a statement of ignorance.
It’s cowardly, like everything and everyone associated with Weinstein and his activities. Except, of course, for the women taking the stand against him.