WIDE ANGLE: THE DEMONS WITHINArchive
The professional trajectory of Harvey Weinstein, the famed and feared Hollywood mogul, has been as volatile as his personality.
One of Hollywood’s most powerful producers, Weinstein co-founded Miramax Films, growing the studio into a behemoth that changed the way independent films were viewed. His name has been attached to some of the most famous movies from the last few decades, and he has remained a force in the film industry that has changed substantially since he began his career in the 1970s. Along the way, he helped propel the careers of people like 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 rise and fall of the Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein
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 represents perhaps the most severe blow to his career. The story aired decades of previously unknown sexual harassment accusations against Weinstein, who now says he plans to take a leave of absence.
Here is a timeline of his ups and downs over the years.
In 1979, Weinstein and his brother, Bob, 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, 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 and 80 million dollars, 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 dollars, grossed more than 200 million dollars worldwide.
For an 11-year period from 1992 to 2003, Miramax Films saw 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 like 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 that other studios, The Washington Post reported.
But the Weinstein brothers became known for their ruthless way of doing business.
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, Weinstein 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.
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 Company, that same year.
But Harvey seemed to have lost some of his touch. Between 2005 and 2009, the Weinstein Company released some 70 films, many of which nobody wanted to watch.
Flops included the 2005 film Derailed, featuring actors Clive Owen and Jennifer Aniston. According to a New York Times profile of the brothers, more than a quarter the films in that four-year stretch fell short of the 1 million dollars box-office mark in the United States; of those, 13 took in less than 100,000 dollars.
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.
Complicating matters, NBC Universal sued the Weinstein Company in 2008, for making a deal to move the reality show Project Runway from Bravo to Lifetime. The Weinstein Company later settled with NBC Universal for an undisclosed amount.
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,” Weinstein 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 story about sexual harassment allegations against Weinstein, the Times reported that he 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 apologise 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 to the Times “is 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.”
[Editorial Note: Harvey Weinstein first announced “a leave of absence” but since this story was published he was sacked from his own company, while four other directors of the company have also resigned. But Harvey Weinstein’s problems have only grown. More women — including prominent actors such as Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow and Asia Argento — have come forward with further allegations and The New Yorker has published claims from at least three women accusing him of rape.]
— By arrangement with The Washington Post