HARVEY WEINSTEIN BUILT his complicity machine out of the witting, the unwitting and those in between. He commanded enablers, silencers and spies, warning others who discovered his secrets to say nothing. He courted those who could provide the money or prestige to enhance his reputation as well as his power to intimidate.
In the weeks and months before allegations of his methodical abuse of women were exposed in October, Mr. Weinstein, the Hollywood producer, pulled on all the levers of his carefully constructed apparatus.
He gathered ammunition, sometimes helped by the editor of The National Enquirer, who had dispatched reporters to find information that could undermine accusers. He turned to old allies, asking a partner in Creative Artists Agency, one of Hollywood’s premier talent shops, to broker a meeting with a C.A.A. client, Ronan Farrow, who was reporting on Mr. Weinstein. He tried to dispense favors: While seeking to stop the actress Rose McGowan from writing in a memoir that he had sexually assaulted her, he tried to arrange a $50,000 payment to her former manager and throw new business to a literary agent advising Ms. McGowan. The agent, Lacy Lynch, replied to him in an email: “No one understands smart, intellectual and commercial like HW.”
Mr. Weinstein’s final, failed round of manipulations shows how he operated for more than three decades: by trying to turn others into instruments or shields for his behavior, according to nearly 200 interviews, internal company records and previously undisclosed emails. Some aided his actions without realizing what he was doing. Many knew something or detected hints, though few understood the scale of his sexual misconduct. Almost everyone had incentives to look the other way or reasons to stay silent. Now, even as the tally of Mr. Weinstein’s alleged misdeeds is still emerging, so is a debate about collective failure and the apportioning of blame.
Executives at Mr. Weinstein’s film companies who learned of allegations rarely took a stand, cowed by their volatile boss or worried about their careers. His brother and partner, Bob, participated in payoffs to women as far back as 1990. Some low-level assistants were pulled in: They compiled “bibles” that included hints on facilitating encounters with women, and were required to procure his penile injections for erectile dysfunction. His lawyers crafted settlements that kept the truth from being explored, much less exposed. “When you quickly settle, there is no need to get into all the facts,” said Daniel M. Petrocelli, a lawyer who handled two agreements with accusers.
Agents and managers across Hollywood, who wanted in on Mr. Weinstein’s star-making films, sent actresses to meet him alone at hotels and advised them to stay quiet when things went wrong. “That’s just Harvey being Harvey,” more than one agent told a client. At C.A.A., for example, at least eight talent agents were told that Mr. Weinstein had harassed or menaced female clients, but agents there continued to arrange private meetings. Even Nick Wechsler, a talent manager at another firm who confronted Mr. Weinstein about Ms. McGowan, felt he had to maintain business ties with him: “Sometimes he was the only game in town.”
Mr. Weinstein held off press scrutiny with a mix of threats and enticements, drawing reporters close with the lure of access to stars, directors and celebrity-packed parties. Some journalists negotiated book and movie deals with him even as they were assigned to cover him. The studio chief once paid a gossip writer to collect juicy celebrity tidbits that Mr. Weinstein could use to barter if other reporters stumbled onto an affair he was trying to keep quiet. He was so close to David J. Pecker, the chief executive of American Media Inc., which owns The Enquirer, that he was known in the tabloid industry as an untouchable “F.O.P.,” or “friend of Pecker.” That status was shared by a chosen few, including President Trump.
Disney, the kingdom of family-friendly entertainment, tightly controls its operations, but it allowed the Weinstein brothers to run the Miramax studio with virtual autonomy during the 12 years they were employees. (The pair wore T-shirts boasting “Corporately Irresponsible” to one company retreat.) Along with an impressive record of Oscars, Mr. Weinstein left Disney with a trail of settlements and claims of sexual misconduct that accumulated during his tenure. Disney, which says it was not aware of his alleged abuses, now faces accusations in a lawsuit that it “knew, should have known or was willfully blind.”
Mr. Weinstein, 65, is under investigation by law enforcement authorities in three cities. Though he has acknowledged that his behavior “has caused a lot of pain,” his lawyers denied that he committed sexual assault. His spokeswoman disputed claims of inappropriate advances in this article, saying Mr. Weinstein’s recollections differed from those of his accusers.
A master of leverage, Mr. Weinstein parlayed his films into relationships across the worlds of entertainment, politics, publishing and beyond, achieving a stature that at times proved useful in intimidating others and protecting himself. “I know the president of the United States. Who do you know?” Mr. Weinstein, a Democratic fund-raiser, would say during the years Barack Obama was in the White House, adding expletives. “I’m Harvey Weinstein,” he used to say. “You know what I can do.”
In late September, emails show, he was discussing a documentary television show he was working on with Hillary Clinton. He had long raised campaign cash for her, and her feminist credentials helped burnish his image — even though Tina Brown, the magazine editor, and Lena Dunham, the writer and actress, each say they had cautioned Mrs. Clinton’s aides about his treatment of women. Now, Mr. Weinstein exchanged questions about distribution rights for the show. “I am hopeful we can get a good price for this,” Robert Barnett, Mrs. Clinton’s lawyer, replied.
Two days later, Jeff Bezos, founder and chief executive of Amazon, interrupted a vacation in Hawaii to field advice from Mr. Weinstein, according to the emails. The Wall Street Journal was reporting on turmoil at Amazon Studios, one of Mr. Weinstein’s business partners. He recommended an aggressive response that involved hiring some of his own team, including a libel lawyer who “makes sure everyone sticks to the right narrative,” Mr. Weinstein wrote. He added, “I’m happy to coordinate with whoever you’d like, as a friend of the court.” Mr. Bezos declined to comment.
Even as Mr. Weinstein was aware that reporters were examining his behavior, he attended the Toronto International Film Festival in September and invited two women to his hotel room. He alternated between making massage requests, other unwelcome advances and offers of career help, said the women, who asked to remain unidentified, but whose account was backed up in part through text messages and a friend who was told at the time of the encounter. Then, the women said, he issued pleas and warnings not to tell anyone. Mr. Weinstein called the account “nonsense.”
He pressured his business associates, telling Lance Maerov, an outspoken member of the Weinstein Company board, that he would find embarrassing details from his past and use them against him. He pushed Irwin Reiter, an executive who had worked with him for three decades, to speak favorably of him to reporters. When Mr. Reiter refused, he said, Mr. Weinstein responded that he had damning information about him too.
About the same time, he tried to facilitate a business deal with Ms. Lynch, the literary agent consulting with Ms. McGowan, and others. “Getting together with three intelligent women would help my image immensely,” he wrote in an email, proposing a meeting. That never happened, according to Ms. Lynch. She said that she felt Mr. Weinstein was trying to ingratiate himself with her because of her relationship to Ms. McGowan, and that she was simply playing along. Jill Messick, Ms. McGowan’s former manager, never received or accepted money from the producer, her lawyer said.
Minutes before The New York Times published the first allegations about Mr. Weinstein this fall, he called the reporters who wrote it. Swinging between flattery and threats, he said that he had ways of knowing who had cooperated with the investigation and the means to undermine it.
”I am a man who has great resources,” he warned.
At Agencies, a Failure to Act
Mia Kirshner, a Canadian actress who was 19 when she starred in the film “Exotica,” traveled to New York not long after its 1994 release. Miramax distributed the movie, and her agents at C.A.A. had set up a meeting with Mr. Weinstein at her hotel. “We thought it was a coup,” she recalled. The producer had already told Ms. Kirshner, whose grandparents had survived the Lodz ghetto in Poland, that he wanted to discuss a film about the Warsaw ghetto uprising. But when he came to her room, his agenda was to exchange sex for career opportunity, the actress said. While she rejected him, the experience left her feeling “extremely upset and alarmed and scared,” and somehow, like so many other women who say he targeted them, at fault.
She told her primary agent, Lisa Grode, who sounded shocked. In a subsequent conversation, her talent manager, John Carrabino, and his boss, Sandy Gallin, joined the call. Mr. Gallin was outraged and urged Ms. Kirshner to meet with the producer again, while wearing a wire. “I remember John and Lisa were both like, ‘Sandy, no!’” Ms. Kirshner said. From the general tone of the conversation, she concluded she should drop the matter. “I was told to forget about it; it was pointless to do anything about this,” Ms. Kirshner said.
She was grateful to Ms. Grode for signing her and for encouraging her to get a college degree, she said. But in that moment, she recalled, “I was very disappointed by them.”
“It all came down to money,” she said. “It speaks to why he was protected as opposed to the actors.“ Ms. Grode and Mr. Carrabino declined to comment; Mr. Gallin is deceased.
It is impossible to say how many women might have been spared Mr. Weinstein’s alleged sexual aggression had more agents responded with the impulse to act. At C.A.A., at least eight agents had heard about Mr. Weinstein’s behavior, largely from actresses they represented, but several former senior C.A.A. agents said they were unaware of it or any formal agency response.
In a statement, C.A.A. said it apologized “to any person the agency let down for not meeting the high expectations we place on ourselves.” Like other agencies, it said it had begun revising its management structure to include more women and improve its sexual harassment policies.
When asked if he had known of Mr. Weinstein’s alleged harassment of clients, Bryan Lourd, a partner at C.A.A., declined to comment, citing client confidentiality. In mid-September, Mr. Weinstein stormed into Mr. Lourd’s office to complain about an article that Ronan Farrow, a C.A.A. client, was writing on Mr. Weinstein’s alleged misconduct for The New Yorker, according to someone familiar with C.A.A.’s dealings with Mr. Weinstein. Later that month, Mr. Lourd tried to set up a meeting at the producer’s request. “This guy won’t meet right now,” he wrote to Mr. Weinstein on Sept. 26. “He did say he will call you soon. I think he is absolutely pursuing the story.”
The top agencies are among Hollywood’s most male institutions; none has ever been led by a woman. “Given everything that has happened, agencies are suddenly on a very steep learning curve, but I think they are doing the work to create a better environment,” said Marti Noxon, a television producer. She had been disappointed in the past by an agent’s response when she reported that she had been sexually harassed.
Two decades ago, Ashley Judd, who met Mr. Weinstein in his hotel room for what she thought was a business meeting, said she turned down the producer’s repeated offers of a massage, as well his efforts to steer her toward the bathroom so she could watch him shower. After the encounter, the actress made no secret of what had transpired, and told her agent, Michelle Bohan, who was then at the William Morris Agency. “I know my agent would have done whatever I asked her to do,” Ms. Judd said. “I honestly didn’t know what to ask anyone to do.” Ms. Bohan, who remains Ms. Judd’s agent, declined to comment.
Failure to take action in the face of misconduct accusations was hardly limited to cases involving Mr. Weinstein. After complaints about his treatment of women became public, Reese Witherspoon said in a recent speech that a director had sexually assaulted her when she was 16, and she expressed anger toward “the agents and the producers who made me feel that silence was a condition of my employment.”
Agents often sign actresses when they are at peak value to the industry — just out of their teens, if not still in them — and also at peak vulnerability, given their youth. Although agents are charged with protecting their clients’ interests, they earn their living, indirectly, from the executives who write their clients’ paychecks. For agents, actors and actresses might come and go, but Mr. Weinstein was one of Hollywood’s seemingly permanent fixtures, distributing as many as 30 films a year.
In the absence of any collective discussion of Mr. Weinstein’s alleged behavior, stories circulated in the industry, tainting many of those associated with him. More than two decades ago, Gwyneth Paltrow reported advances he made in a hotel room to her agent, Rick Kurtzman of C.A.A. Mr. Kurtzman “looked incredulous” and expressed revulsion, Ms. Paltrow said, but he did not suggest discussing the episode with the agency’s leaders. Mr. Kurtzman declined to comment.
Ms. Paltrow went on to become known as the first lady of Miramax, winning an Oscar in 1999 for her performance in “Shakespeare in Love.” But without her knowledge, Mr. Weinstein was tarnishing and trading on her golden-girl image. Ms. Paltrow said she rebuffed Mr. Weinstein. But now, she is hearing that as he tried to coerce other women, he repeatedly boasted that he had sex with her. Complying with him was “the best thing you can do for your career now,” Mr. Weinstein told one young actress in 2000, mentioning Ms. Paltrow and others. Another woman, who alleged that Mr. Weinstein assaulted her in 2004, recalled a photo of Ms. Paltrow prominently displayed in the room.
In recent weeks, Ms. Paltrow has started to connect with some of those who said Mr. Weinstein cited her name in disturbing encounters. She said the phone calls with the other women have been devastating. “He’s not the first person to lie about sleeping with someone,” she said in an interview, “but he used the lie as an assault weapon.”
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SOURCE: NY Times, Megan Twohey, Jodi Kantor, Susan Dominus, Jim Rutenberg and Steve Eder