Harvey Weinstein is a persona non grata... for now

While Hollywood is turning its back on Harvey Weinstein, will he see the same rebound as Mel Gibson and Roman Polanski?

Harvey Weinstein poses on the Red Carpet after arriving at the 89th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California, US, February 26, 2017. (photo credit: REUTERS/MIKE BLAKE)
Harvey Weinstein poses on the Red Carpet after arriving at the 89th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California, US, February 26, 2017.
(photo credit: REUTERS/MIKE BLAKE)
After Harvey Weinstein had already been fired from his film studio, coming on the heels of an extensive New Yorker article detailing decades of sexual assault, he remained defiant.
Weinstein himself told The New York Post’s Page Six last week: “I will definitely be back making movies, perhaps in a year, with a new company, once I’ve been through treatment, taken a long hard look at myself and who I am, and got better.”
Many were appalled at the gall of his claims. But perhaps he might be right after all.
Since the producer’s comments to Page Six, he has been summarily kicked out of the Academy of Motion Pictures, and French President Emmanuel Macron said he is seeking to strip him of the Legion of Honor.
While Weinstein appears to be shunned, Hollywood has a notoriously short memory for bad behavior, especially by those behind so many hits.
While Weinstein may no longer be a member of the academy, the illustrious body still counts among its members Mel Gibson, Bill Cosby and Roman Polanski.
I’m not seeking to compare and contrast the crimes of any of these men. I’m not here to rank their levels of guilt and responsibility. But, amid the backdrop of Weinstein, it’s hard not to see how certain behavior is tolerated – and forgotten.
Cosby has been accused of dozens of counts of rape and sexual assault over the past 50 years, and his trial ended in a mistrial in June, and is set to restart in April 2018. While nobody is talking seriously about Cosby returning to show business, it is more likely because he is 80 and legally blind. But close to 60 women publicly claimed that Cosby raped or assaulted them. Yet he wasn’t voted out of the academy.
Why not? In fact, Weinstein is only the second member to ever be expelled – the first was actor Carmine Caridi. His crime? Illegally disseminating screener copies of films.
More interesting is the case of Gibson – a man who was once a Hollywood pariah – but it didn’t stay that way. In fact, he was nominated for a best director Oscar earlier this year. In just a few weeks, his latest acting project, Daddy’s Home 2, a feel-good comedy featuring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg, will hit theaters. He is also appearing in the upcoming films The Professor and the Madman and Dragged Across Concrete.
After all, 10 years have passed since Gibson’s drunken driving arrest where he railed against Jews, and even less since audio tapes were released of his racist, expletive-laden, abusive rant against his then-girlfriend.
In 2011, he pleaded no contest to battery charges against his ex-girlfriend.
There was a time that Gibson was not a guy anyone wanted to work with. In 2010 he was booted from a cameo role in The Hangover 2 after the cast and crew objected to him taking part.
Despite the actor and director’s protestations and attempted apology tour, many consider it no question that he is no friend of the Jews.
US journalist Jeffrey Goldberg, who has interviewed Gibson in the past, wrote in The Atlantic several years ago that the actor is “Hollywood’s leading antisemite” and on Twitter that he is “the most charming spittle-flecked antisemitic nut job I’ve ever met.”
After his drunken rant in 2006 that “F***ing Jews… the Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world,” Gibson’s “apology” included the fact that the comments were made amid the background of the Second Lebanon War.
But by last year, Gibson told Variety that, “I don’t understand why after 10 years it’s any kind of issue.” And the truth is, for him, it no longer is.
Polanski, the French-Polish film director and producer, is an even more disturbing case. He was arrested and charged with raping a 13-year-old girl in 1977.
He cut a deal and pleaded guilty to statutory rape, but fled the US before he could be sentenced or imprisoned. He has largely lived in France, escaping extradition, ever since.
But it was just two years later that Polanski’s film Tess was nominated for six Oscars. His 2002 film, The Pianist, was nominated for seven Oscars, winning three, including best director.
In 2010 an actress accused him of sexually assaulting her when she was 16. And earlier this year, his film Based on a True Story was screened at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival.
Then of course there’s Casey Affleck, brother of Ben and actor and director in his own right. Despite being sued in 2010 by two women who worked with him on a film, accusing him of sexual harassment and assault, Affleck has continued to be embraced by Hollywood. The lawsuit was settled outside of court for an undisclosed amount, and the actor was greatly lauded for last year’s Manchester by the Sea.
Does Hollywood have its own set of red lines for what’s acceptable and what isn’t? Assault is okay, but rape is not? Verbal abuse and antisemitism acceptable, but other behavior isn’t? Raping two women is okay, but raping 10 pushes you over the line? Or perhaps it’s just a statute of limitations in the hallowed halls of the film industry, the thought that if you wait long enough, you’ll eventually be welcomed back.
After all, when Gibson was nominated for an Oscar this year, actor Josh Malina told The Jerusalem Post that he’s “been around long enough to recognize that Hollywood will welcome back just about anyone that might bring in a dollar.”
Sure, it seems like the past couple weeks have been a turning point. Those who aren’t disgusted by Weinstein’s behavior are certainly playing along with the idea that they are. And women speaking up loudly about sexual assault and harassment in the workplace - and being taken seriously – is a significant step forward. But it’s hard not to look at the events of the past couple of weeks through jaded eyes.
Yes, Weinstein is a dirty name – for now. But will Hollywood quietly welcome him back in a few years?