While Harvey Weinstein’s victims wait to see whether prosecutors in Los Angeles and New York decide to charge him with crimes, at least one other will make sure she sees the disgraced Hollywood producer in court. Ashley Judd will sue Weinstein for defamation and retaliation for rejecting his sexual overtures. Judd has an advantage that other alleged victims may not — public testimony of Weinstein’s actions:
.@ABC EXCLUSIVE: "My career was damaged because I rebuffed Mr. Weinstein's sexual advances. I know it for a fact." @AshleyJudd one-on-one with @arobach as she sues Harvey Weinstein: https://t.co/eR4lNo6hTB pic.twitter.com/AYIOdfTrcb
— Good Morning America (@GMA) May 1, 2018
Actress Ashley Judd and her lawyers have filed a lawsuit today against disgraced movie producer Harvey Weinstein, claiming that he damaged her career by blocking her from getting major movie roles in retaliation for turning down his advances.
“I lost career opportunity. I lost money. I lost status and prestige and power in my career as a direct result of having been sexually harassed and rebuffing the sexual harassment,” Judd told ABC News today. “My career opportunities, after having been defamed by Harvey Weinstein, were significantly diminished. … My career was damaged because I rebuffed Mr. Weinstein’s sexual advances. I know it for a fact.”
She knows it for a fact because Peter Jackson went public with it not long after Ronan Farrow and others finally exposed Weinstein’s predations. The Lord of the Rings producer-director told Stuff magazine that Weinstein had warned them off of hiring Judd, who was being considered for the two major female roles in the series. Jackson also added that Mira Sorvino, another Weinstein accuser, was the target of the “Miramax smear campaign”:
Weinstein and Jackson crossed paths in the late 1990s when Jackson was pitching his early plans for The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings films to the Weinstein-led studio Miramax.
“I recall Miramax telling us they were a nightmare to work with and we should avoid them at all costs. This was probably in 1998,” Jackson said.
“At the time, we had no reason to question what these guys were telling us – but in hindsight, I realise 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.”
If Jackson’s willing to testify to that in court, then this makes it a fairly easy case to present. Most victims of retaliation don’t get that kind of corroboration to their allegations, having to go through a difficult process of building a picture of lost opportunities and circumstantial evidence linking them to the initiating event that prompted the retaliation.
That doesn’t necessarily make it a slam-dunk, however. Weinstein’s lawyers have already responded by claiming that the mogul “championed her work” and didn’t have any reason to retaliate in the first place. If Weinstein wanted retaliation, they wonder, how did Judd end up in two films distributed by Weinstein after Lord of the Rings?
“The most basic investigation of the facts will reveal that Mr. Weinstein neither defamed Ms. Judd nor ever interfered with Ms. Judd’s career, and instead not only championed her work but also repeatedly approved her casting for two of his movies over the next decade,” said a statement from Weinstein’s attorney, obtained by CNN.
Judd starred in “Frida,” which was distributed by Miramax in 2002, and “Crossing Over,” which was distributed by The Weinstein Company, in 2009.
The statement from Weinstein’s attorney also claims he “fought for Ms. Judd as his first choice for the lead role in ‘Good Will Hunting’ and, in fact, arranged for Ms. Judd to fly to New York to be considered for the role.”
Good Will Hunting was produced and released in 1997, though, a year before Jackson says that Weinstein torpedoed Judd and Sorvino. The other two films were not produced by Weinstein either, although certainly distribution deals can give plenty of leverage. Salma Hayek claims that Weinstein demanded a full-nudity lesbian sexual scene be added to Frida as a means to humiliate her, for instance, and he got his way. No doubt the court case will give us lots of education on the nuances of distribution deals and their impact on production.
That’s if it gets to trial at all. With all of the other legal issues Weinstein faces, his attorneys might want to get this particular case off the docket and out of the public eye as quickly as possible. Jackson’s testimony sets up a good enough case for a jury to consider, and Weinstein hardly needs the extra opportunities a trial will provide for others to testify under oath about his retaliatory ways. Judd wants her vindication, and perhaps a public settlement with an acknowledgment of guilt will suffice:
“What I want is for Mr. Weinstein to be held accountable for his illegal conduct. … His behavior and his conduct [were] illegal. And, that accountability is not just for me, but it’s for all people who experience sexual harassment in the workplace with a particular — and this is really important in why this case is groundbreaking — emphasis on economic retaliation and damage to our careers over time,” she said.
It will be interesting to see who else sues Weinstein, and who else might get named in lawsuits like these. After all, Weinstein didn’t run his alleged reign of terror in Hollywood all by himself. He had plenty of collaborators, and perhaps some of his victims might be looking for some vindication from them, too.