Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment allegations: Why haven't male stars responded to the row?

Gautam Chintamani

October 10, 2017 12:14:21 IST

Among the reactions to the sexual misconduct allegations against film producer Harvey Weinstein’s — that have in “lightning speed brought the mogul to his knees” — the silence from some of the biggest male actors in the world is glaring indeed. An article published in The Guardian said that it tried to get a reaction from 20 high profile actors and directors who have worked with the producer, but none of them responded.

FILE - In this March 2, 2014 file photo, Harvey Weinstein arrives at the Oscars in Los Angeles. Weinstein has been fired from The Weinstein Co., effective immediately, following new information revealed regarding his conduct, the company's board of directors announced Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)

Harvey Weinstein. AP Photo

While some, such as filmmaker Kevin Smith who said that he feels ashamed did respond, many who have worked with/are working with Weinstein are yet to publicly speak on the issue. This list is a virtual who’s who of the movie business in the US and includes Quentin Tarantino, David O Russell, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Colin Firth, Bradley Cooper, Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis, Russell Crowe, George Clooney and Ewan McGregor. The list also includes the otherwise ready to comment Michael Moore, who is currently working with Harvey Weinstein on a documentary on Donald Trump. Weinstein has since been fired from The Weinstein Company, the independent outfit that he formed after selling Miramax to Disney and some companies such as Apple have scrapped projects that were in the making in the wake of the revelations. The deafening silence on the part of many top male stars, however, continues.

American writer James Baldwin had once said that ignorance allied with power is the most ferocious enemy justice can have. The fashion in which things have unravelled in this expose are similar to the allegations surrounding Bill Cosby, Bill Clinton, RK Pachauri and the likes. The manner in which Hollywood’s A-List men are silent seems to suggest a kind of a boys' club and this is perhaps the very thing that fuels men in powerful position. What is worse is that no one in Hollywood, or for that matter general public, is surprised at the allegations surrounding Weinstein because this has been called an open secret.

In 2004, Sharon Waxman, then a new reporter at The New York Times began to look into the oft-repeated allegations of sexual misconduct by Weinstein and according to her what she came up with was “gutted” due to intense pressure from the man himself. Waxman’s article came after The New York Times ran a story on 5 October on how Harvey Weinstein paid off sexual harassment accusers for decades. When Waxman wrote that the same outfit never paid heed to her original investigation 13 years ago, the newspaper’s executive editor Dean Baquet responded that he wasn’t here in 2004 and added that Waxman’s direct editor, Jonathan Landman, suggested: “she didn’t have it nailed.” Baquet also went on to add that all Waxman had, was an off-the-record account from one woman. In her piece, Waxman goes on to write how The New York Times was, in a way, Harvey Weinstein’s Media Enabler and said that big names such as Matt Damon and Russell Crowe besides others called her directly to vouch for people whom Waxman had investigated to report on Weinstein.

In an interview that went online a little while ago, George Clooney also opened up about Weinstein’s sexual misconduct and called it “disturbing on a whole lot of levels.” But would it be too wrong to believe that the silence on the part of many including Clooney, who despite hearing rumours way back in the 1990s about Weinstein, took it with ‘a grain of salt’, somewhere further fueled Weinstein?

The clout that Harvey Weinstein wielded in the 1990s was something few would have the guts to go against; after all, he was the man who produced Pulp Fiction, practically fueled the entire independent film movement of the decade, and could even guarantee an Oscar (he was the one behind Shakespeare in Love becoming an instant classic). At times, people may not have the option to call such conduct out or walk away like in the case of Jessica Chastain, who tweeted “I was warned from the beginning. The stories were everywhere. To deny that is to create an environment for it to happen again.” When asked why she worked with Weinstein on a film, Chastain replied to the tweet that the director wanted him.

What is not understandable is the manner in which actors — primarily men — continued to collaborate with Weinstein just because it was perhaps convenient or like Clooney, because they never saw this behaviour across dinners, locations, and junkets. Even now, political heavyweights such as former US President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have not commented on Weinstein, who was a long-time donor to their campaigns, despite many Democrats denouncing the former movie mogul.

Updated Date: Oct 10, 2017 19:24 PM