Lord Of The Rings director Peter Jackson broke his silence on his experience working with Harvey Weinstein this week in an interview with New Zealand news magazine Stuff, saying that Weinstein and his brother Bob blacklisted two of the actresses who have since gone public with harassment accusations against Harvey. Apparently, in a pitch meeting about The Lord Of The Rings, the Weinstein brothers told Jackson to take Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino’s names from a casting list for the film, calling them both “a nightmare” to work with who “should [be avoided] at all costs.”
“At the time, we had no reason to question what these guys were telling us,” Jackson says, “but in hindsight, I realize that this was very likely the Miramax smear campaign in full swing. I now suspect we were fed false information about both of these talented women—and as a direct result their names were removed from our casting list.” He went on to denounce the Weinsteins as “second-rate bullies” and say that, although the Weinsteins retained an executive producer credit on The Lord Of The Rings movies for contractual reasons, they had nothing to do with the production and Jackson made a point after that to never work with them again.
As you may recall, Sorvino and Judd are two of the now more than 90 women who have accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment. Judd was interviewed for The New York Times’ initial story on the allegations, in which she told a story about being invited to Weinstein’s hotel room for a “meeting” at which he asked her to watch him shower. And in Ronan Farrow’s chilling New Yorker expose, Sorvino says that Weinstein broke into her apartment building after she rejected his advances at a film festival; in the article, she says, “There may have been other factors, but I definitely felt iced out [after that] and that my rejection of Harvey had something to do with it.”
After Stuff’s interview with Jackson was published, both women responded on Twitter, saying that Jackson’s words had validated something they had privately suspected for many years:
Just a few minutes ago, Weinstein released a statement denying Jackson’s recollection of a blacklist via Variety, which is surprising given that all the parties involved are Caucasian. (The only other accusations he’s bothered to deny came from Salma Hayek and Lupita Nyong’o.) In a statement, issued through a spokesperson, Weinstein doesn’t exactly deny that he said all the things Jackson says he did; instead, the statement says that casting for The Lord Of The Rings was done by New Line, and “while Bob and Harvey Weinstein were executive producers of the film, they had no input into the casting whatsoever.” On paper, anyway. Wink.
UPDATE: Jackson has responded to Weinstein’s denial with a lengthy statement, which you can read below courtesy of Deadline. Good for him for not just typing the word “bullshit” a couple hundred times.
Aspects of Harvey’s denial are insincere. He is basically saying that “this blacklisting couldn’t be true because New Line cast the movie”. That’s a deflection from the truth.
In the 18 months we developed the Lord of the Rings at Miramax, we had many casting conversations with Harvey Weinstein, Bob Weinstein and their executives.
During this period, no offers were made to actors because that occurs after a film is greenlit, and Miramax never greenlit these films.
However, many conversations occurred internally regarding potential casting. Fran Walsh and I recall that Morgan Freeman, Paul Scofield, David Bowie, Liam Neeson, Natascha McElhone, Claire Forlani, Francesca Annis, Max von Sydow, and Daniel Day Lewis were some of the names discussed with Miramax for possible roles in The Lord of the Rings movies.
Amongst the many names raised, Fran and I expressed our enthusiasm for Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino. In fact we met with Ashley and discussed two possible roles with her. After this meeting we were told by Miramax to steer clear of both Ashley and Mira, because they claimed to have had “bad experiences” with these particular actresses in the past.
Fran Walsh was in the same meeting, and remembers these negative comments about Ashley and Mira as clearly as I do. We have no reason to make it up.
This type of comment is not unusual – it can happen with any studio on any film, when different actor’s names come up in conversation – but once you hear negative feedback about somebody, you don’t forget it.
We were not in a position to offer Ashley or Mira a role in the movies, but we attempted to have their names added to a list, for when casting began. Each role can have many actors names listed for future auditions and meetings.
In these film maker/studio relationships, there has to be consensus in casting choices – either side can generally veto suggested names for various reasons, and in pre-Lord of the Rings days, we didn’t have the power to override the studio on casting choices.
The movies changed hands from Miramax to New Line before casting actually got underway – but because we had been warned off Ashley and Mira by Miramax, and we were naive enough to assume we’d been told the truth, Fran and I did not raise their names in New Line casting conversations.
Nearly 20 years later, we read about the sexual misconduct allegations being made against Harvey Weinstein and we saw comments by both Mira and Ashley, who felt they had been blacklisted by Miramax after rejecting Harvey’s sexual advances.
Fran and I immediately remembered Miramax’s negative reaction when we put their names forward, and we wondered if we had unwittingly been part of the alleged damage to their careers, at the hands of Miramax.
We have no direct evidence linking Ashley and Mira’s allegations to our Lord of the Rings casting conversations of 20 years ago – but we stand by what we were told by Miramax when we raised both of their names, and we are recounting it accurately.
If we were unwitting accomplices in harming their careers, Fran and I unreservedly apologise to both Ashley and Mira.