Photo Credit: Peter Strain for Variety Magazine
It was 2003 at the Toronto Film Festival and I was a newly minted Canadian stringer for People magazine.
I can’t say I wasn’t enjoying the power that my press badge afforded me that year; doors opened, publicists waved me through, A-list celebrities stopped to talk to me on a dime.
Because smart phones were still a new phenom, and the iPhone ephemera non-existent, I had a bird’s eye view of celebrities unguarded and letting loose at various parties that simply wouldn’t be possible today.
Over imbibed on champagne and enjoying the exclusivity of VIP after hours access, I recall a young male Los Angeles director telling me about the nefarious practices of Harvey Weinstein. He mentioned Gwyneth Paltrow and the Machiavellian sex pact that she previously had to make with Weinstein to sustain all of her Miramax roles.
I balked in disbelief.
Gwyneth Paltrow—she of the alpha female variety, with baked-in familial ties to Hollywood, seemed pristinely above something as seedy as the clichéd Hollywood casting couch?
“Trust me it’s true,” he said with an authority that made me feel sheepishly naïve.
Why do I mention this instance in the wake of the recent Harvey Weinstein scandal?
Before I go on, I want to make it abundantly clear, I believe all women, full stop.
It’s just that when we speak of entertainment, or specifically Hollywood, lines become blurred and statements are vetted, or alternately—fully written by publicists. This is a business based on public opinion, likability and keeping up appearances, and the truth isn’t always applicable. The truth can put brands and businesses in peril.
Many celebrities came forward since the New York Times piece about Harvey Weinstein broke two weeks ago. Each of them a unique weather system of their own truths, accounts, and opinions. I could not help but become obsessed with championing Rose McGowans Twitter feed, and thought Canadian Mia Kirshner had written the most compelling and moving op ed, that is until I read Canadian Sarah Polley’s op ed.
Meryl Streep had a statement of veritable shock and awe, George Clooney had a ‘safe statement’ that pivoted in every direction but straight—specific enough to mention that he “never saw anything,” and Gwyneth Paltrow had soft core allegations towards the man that she worked with repeatedly.
Gretchen Mol took the opportunity to tell the world that she was never one of Harvey’s girls.
Jessica Alba remained silent and continued to tweet about Haircare + Decluttering Ones Life for her business The Honest Company ←yes the irony is thick.
Blake Lively another rumoured compliant, was radio silent for 48 hours until her latest film “All I See is You” is due out and a story about her being harassed by someone ‘other’ than HW is added to the mix. The title alone: Blake Lively Shares Her Own Story of Hollywood Harassment feels like publicity driven clickbait pablum, and I wonder if again this was a choice, a buffer, a diversion to be put out as to not takeaway from her new film. It’s hard to believe she was spared Harvey’s advances.
Georgina Chapman announces she is divorcing her husband, articles about Marchesa’s fate hanging in the balance are written and within this maelstrom of empathy, support, accusations and announcements, I can’t help but feel like I’m witnessing a “Wag the Dog” performance on the part of many. The mechanism of the statements themselves, are like a Shakespearian play with “entrances and exists,” the perfectly synchronized press releases in conveyer belt succession feel like an expertly played chess game.
Beyond the victims statements and brilliant op eds, plus anything and everything Lena Dunham wrote, it felt like a parade of people TRYING to save their own asses?
The truth? Maybe far more of our favourite actors, the ones who even put out statements of accusations did so as a defense mechanism. Perhaps they were even in touch with Weinstein’s crisis team as they put out their statements. Perhaps, some were even willing (insofar as it wasn’t under forced duress) participants in the unthinkable trade of sex for the promise of career advancement.
I don’t want to shame anyone, but where are all these A list celebrities who, according to Weinstein’s recurring trade pitch/preamble, went along with his offer? And, am I terrible for even thinking this? Does it even matter who they were or weren’t in light of this bigger picture?
One of the few people to expose the truth that “everybody knew” and admit his own personal culpability of silence was director Scott Rosenberg. It’s a must read. Yes, it’s brave, but let’s face it, he has far less to lose with his transparency than the above aforementioned.
Even Vanity Fair featuring a black and white photo of Weinstein on their latest issue with the sobering caption Game Over, took Miramax’s ad dollars for decades. They actively sacked stories that were percolating about Weinstein and yet here they are to add their truths into the ‘shake down’ Cuisinart.
I revert back to that night in 2003 when, whether fact or fiction, I became privy to the Weinstein rumours/heresy and I was not remotely seeking it out. I was merely an off-duty/unknown freelancer and even I got an earful.
You want the truth about Harvey Weinstein and the rest of Hollywood, their knowledge and or complicities’?
Maybe we can’t handle the truth.
Maybe it’s obliquely liminal like one of my favourite quotes from August: Osage County the Pulitzer play turned film, distributed by the Weinstein Company, natch.
In the scene, character Tracy Letts played brilliantly by Juliette Lewis tells her judgemental sister about sacrifices that she’s had to make. Sacrifices she’s not proud of but that were made for her own survival.
“My point is, it’s not cut and dried, black and white, good and bad. It lives where everything lives: somewhere in the middle. Where everything lives, where all the rest of us live, everyone but you.”
― Tracy Letts, August: Osage County