END HOLLYWOOD: Harvey Weinstein and the culture of silence
Author: Ken Aulette
As you’d expect, there aren’t many laughs in Hollywood end, the new biography of Ken Auletta from the cradle to prison of Harvey Weinstein, the movie mogul convicted of third-degree rape and another sex crime in New York and awaiting trial on other charges in California. When Auletta calls Weinstein’s relationship with his brother Bob “Shakespeare worthy,” he puts the story squarely in the tragedy column of the ledger.
But then Broadway star Nathan Lane makes a brief appearance, like Puck doing cartwheels on the set of Coriolanus.
The year was 2000, and Weinstein’s cultural capital was perhaps at its peak. He still ran Miramax, the prestigious studio he and Bob launched in 1979, though now under the incongruous but lucrative watch of Disney. He had recently founded Talk magazine with editor Tina Brown, then New York’s most agile puppeteer on high and low culture. He dated politicians, co-hosted a lavish birthday party, and raised money for then-senator Hillary Clinton at the Roseland Ballroom. And he didn’t like some of the jokes that Lane, everyone’s dream MC, had written for the occasion.
“I’m going to ruin your career,” threatened Weinstein, in Auletta’s account.
“You can’t hurt me,” Lane retorted. “I don’t have a film career.”
On stage, Lane said in a smirking tone, “I’m going to do all the jokes that Harvey Weinstein wanted me to cut.”
It wasn’t the last time that theater somehow trumped the producer’s favorite medium. Auletta attended every day of Weinstein’s trial in 2020, recounting the experience here in four chapters. “The essays are not movies, shot under controlled conditions and subject to editing in the editing room,” he wrote. “These are live productions, dependent on the chemistry of their participants, and not a bit of luck.”
The books, which Weinstein is obviously fond of — his media mini-empire included an editorial imprint — can look like movies. Auletta effectively, if perhaps a bit too elegiacly, frames this one in the long shadow of Citizen Kane. Auletta is, of course, Jerry Thompson, the reporter searching for his anti-hero’s rosebud: the mysterious missing object or influence that will explain his personality. But he is also Citizen Ken, magnanimous and avuncular when he encourages his New Yorker boss, David Remnick, to publish young journalist Ronan Farrow’s investigation into Weinstein’s misdeeds. Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey of The New York Times announced the story five days before Farrow’s article was published.
The well-connected Auletta draws on the work of these reporters and his own interviews with major players, including many surely fascinating hours with beleaguered brother Bob. As for Harvey, he emails terse responses to questions, and his reps haggle over possible interview terms before ghosting his biographer — but Hollywood end also pulls out a detailed profile that Auletta wrote of him 20 years ago, and his results. At that time, he had heard of Weinstein’s sex crimes, an open secret for years, but was unable to register any victims, and so focused on bullying and prodigious appetites. of his subject.
Weinstein’s reputation for sexual intrusion had begun early, when he was a concert promoter in Buffalo. As he got older, his influence waned — the whole movie industry waned — just as he sought younger prey, from a cohort who “increasingly spent their free time on social media like Facebook,” Auletta recalls. , “rather than going to the movies.”
After the producer, then in his 60s, rushed from his office couch to Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, a 22-year-old Miss Italy finalist, in 2015, she did what many previous women who had been in her shoes , frightened by Weinstein’s towering power, had shied away from doing: She called the police. The fourth wave of feminism had come with a big splash, dragging Weinstein and his ilk into the backwash.
And yet the male jury foreman who convicted Weinstein, Auletta points out, cited the testimony and demeanor of male witnesses, not female victims — “suggesting,” Auletta writes, “that ‘believing women’ can do facing a steep climb.” Instead, he suggests “listening to women”; but the voice of a key woman is overwhelming.
As there was a roving “fifth Beatle”, so there was a series of Miramax executives dubbed the “third brother” – loyalists who helped enable bad behavior – and, chillingly, a kind of “system ferry to funnel women” to Weinstein’s hotel suites. If you’re not interested in NC-17 and the often disgusting details of what happened in those sequels, or the jaw-dropping convolutions of nondisclosure agreements, you might prefer one of the recommendations. of the disgraced protagonist of the finer era he adored, Elia Kazan’s autobiography, A Life, or a book Weinstein was often seen carrying while preparing for trial: The Brothers Mankiewicz, from Sydney Ladensohn Stern. Herman Mankiewicz is credited with the screenplay of Citizen Kane; his brother, Joe, wrote All About Eve.
Remembering those great films, and even some of Miramax’s glory days in the 1990s, is daunting, as the pictures keep getting smaller. Participating in Weinstein’s slow rise and fall, even with the capable Auletta by his side, can feel even more daunting, like riding one of those creaking roller coasters on a faded municipal playground.