Academy members now regret banning Weinstein so hastily
When Hollywood’s most prestigious organization, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) — the group of nearly 7,000 actors, directors and other industry types who dole out the Oscars — expelled Harvey Weinstein on Oct. 14,audiences applauded. But by acting so swiftly, a mere nine days after the New York Times first reported allegations of sexual assault against the movie producer, the outfit now finds itself facing a dilemma.
Put simply: What to do with the rest of them?
“Harvey opened the floodgates,” said one male Academy member. “Now the Academy’s drowning in a tide of s—t. They don’t know what hit them.”
What hit, of course, were more alleged horror stories about so many other members: Kevin Spaceyassaulting multiple young men, Dustin Hoffmansticking his hands in women’s pants, director Brett Ratner forcing himself on actresses. Ben Affleck seen on video groping a female host on “Total Request Live.” Screenwriter James Toback accused of sexual misdeeds by nearly 40 women. (As of this past Tuesday, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office said it is considering criminal charges in five cases against Toback. He, Spacey, Hoffman and Ratner, deny the claims against them.)
“[We] can’t regret [kicking out Harvey] because [we] didn’t really have a choice,” said one male member of AMPAS’ board of governors. “Some members were quite vehement. But [we] didn’t have time to really weigh out the repercussions.”
The emergency meeting to deal with Weinstein was conducted by the 54-member board of governors — which includes Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, Whoopi Goldbergand Laura Dern — after it received a petition with 100,000 signatures calling for his ouster.
“But they didn’t give themselves time to plot out how to deal with this going forward,” said one prominent female AMPAS member. “Kathleen Kennedy [producer of the ‘Star Wars’ series] and some other female governors panicked and felt compelled to act. They thought [Weinstein] could hurt AMPAS’ cred. Some of them did admit this was a slippery slope. But I don’t think they imagined how slippery. It’s definitely caused some problems and fights among the board members.”
And it’s not just new allegations that are haunting the Academy. What to do about two of the most notorious accused sexual predators in Hollywood, Bill Cosby and Roman Polanski, who were charged years before the Weinstein stories broke? Or, for that matter, Casey Affleck — who last year won the Best Actor Oscar — and the two settled cases of sexual-harassment against him? (Cosby and Affleck deny the accusations.)
Now, a barrage of petitions, complaints and letters are hitting Academy CEO Dawn Hudson and newly elected president John Bailey about these other men.
Hudson had no comment, but her office reissued her original statement on the matter, which read in part: “[A] task force will finalize procedures for handling allegations of misconduct, assuring that we can address them fairly and expeditiously. This process will ultimately guide the board of governors in assessing if certain allegations warrant action regarding membership. Those procedures will be sent to you in the new year.”
Mused another AMPAS member, “Dawn may not know what they’re going to do next. That’s why the statement’s so vague. The board says they’re going to take action, but what action? It will have to be case by case. They must revisit and reinvent the rules of membership — and it’s gonna get nasty.”
To join AMPAS, you must work in the production of theatrically-released films and be recommended by two members — unless you are already an Academy Award nominee, in which case you are automatically considered for inclusion.
Before Weinstein, there had only been one example of revoked membership: “Godfather” actor Carmine Caridi in 2004, who’d loaned out Academy screeners that wound up being sold.)
Indie filmmaker Cameron Bossert filed a petition to the Academy in early November, asking it to bar Casey Affleck from presenting this year’s Best Actress trophy, as is the tradition with the reigning Best Actor.
“I just wanted to help hold the Academy responsible for their really broad statement, that ‘the era of willful ignorance and shameful complicity in workplace harassment is over,’ ” Bossert told us. “My petition wasn’t the best way of doing this, since the Affleck case was settled out of court already. But the Academy said they were taking it into consideration, and I stopped the petition at 20,000 signatures.”
Edward Lozzi, a veteran publicist who represents two of the more than 50 women who claim abuse by Bill Cosby, has written a letter to the Academy and asked AMPAS mem bers to do the same, as he simultaneously wages a social-media campaign calling for Cosby’s ouster.
“I asked. . . why people like that are still in when you’re sacking others? Most of the public doesn’t even know who Harvey Weinstein is. There’s been no response to my letter,” he said. “It would be nice for [the] Academy to let us know they are not totally apathetic.”
Meanwhile, Marianne Barnard, a Santa Barbara, Calif., artist who’s the fifth woman to claim Polanski sexually assaulted her when she was underage, launched a Care2 petition on Oct. 18, demanding the Academy eject him. So far, no response.
Some Academy members are fed up with the feet-dragging.
“None of [us] really know what the governors are thinking on this subject. They rarely tell us anything until they’ve decided. Then we have to read it in the trades or get a curt e-mail from Dawn, usually after it appears in the press. All we can do is roll our eyes,” said one longtime member. “I’m in favor of taking a very measured approach and not a knee-jerk reaction.”
Variety co-Editor-in-Chief Claudia Eller asked Hudson on Nov. 1 if the organization was “giving any thought” to the Casey Affleck situation. Hudson replied, “Yes, we are. Of course we are. We’re giving thought to all of this.”
But insiders say thinking about it isn’t enough.
“They keep saying that,” said another female member. “But, right now, it’s easier to get someone an Academy Award than to get them expelled from the Academy.”