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Harvey Weinstein

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Harvey Weinstein
CBE
Harvey Weinstein 2011 Shankbone.JPG
Weinstein in 2011
Born (1952-03-19) March 19, 1952 (age 65)
New York City, U.S.
Alma mater University at Buffalo
Occupation Film producer
co-founder of Miramax Films and The Weinstein Company
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Eve Chilton (1987–2004)
Georgina Chapman (2007; separated 2017)
Children 5
Relatives Bob Weinstein (brother)

Harvey Weinstein (/ˈwnstn/ WYNE-steen), CBE (born March 19, 1952) is an American film producer and former film studio executive. He and his brother Bob Weinstein co-founded Miramax, which produced several popular independent films including Pulp Fiction, Clerks, The Crying Game, and Sex, Lies, and Videotape.[1] Weinstein won an Academy Award for producing Shakespeare in Love, and garnered seven Tony Awards for producing a variety of winning plays and musicals, including The Producers, Billy Elliot the Musical, and August: Osage County.[2]

Weinstein and his brother Bob were co-chairmen of The Weinstein Company from 2005 to 2017; in October 2017, following numerous allegations of sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape against him, he was fired by his company's board of directors,[3] and expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.[4]

Education and early career

Weinstein was born in the Flushing section of the New York City borough of Queens,[5] to a Jewish family.[6] His parents were Max Weinstein (1924–1976), a diamond cutter,[7] and Miriam (née Postel; 1926–2016).[7][8] He grew up with his younger brother, Bob Weinstein, in a housing co-op named Electchester in New York City. He graduated from John Bowne High School and the University at Buffalo,[9][10] and received an honorary SUNY Doctorate of Humane Letters in a ceremony at Buffalo in 2000.[11] Weinstein, his brother Bob, and Corky Burger independently produced rock concerts as Harvey & Corky Productions in Buffalo through most of the 1970s.[9][12]

Film career

1970s: Early work and creation of Miramax

Both Weinstein brothers had grown up with a passion for movies, and they desired to enter the film industry; in the late 1970s, using profits from their concert promotion business, the brothers created a small independent film distribution company named Miramax, named after their parents, Miriam and Max.[8] The company's first releases were primarily music-oriented concert films such as Paul McCartney's Rockshow.[13]

1980s: Success with arthouse and independent films

In the early 1980s, Miramax acquired the rights to two British films of benefit shows filmed for the human rights organization Amnesty International. Working closely with Martin Lewis, the producer of the original films, the Weinstein brothers edited the two films into one movie tailored for the American market, the resulting film was released as The Secret Policeman's Other Ball in May 1982, and it became Miramax's first hit. The movie raised considerable sums for Amnesty International and was credited by Amnesty with having helped to raise its profile in the United States.[9][12]

Weinstein at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival

The Weinsteins slowly built upon this success throughout the 1980s with arthouse films that achieved critical attention and modest commercial success. Harvey Weinstein and Miramax gained wider attention in 1988 with the release of Errol Morris' documentary The Thin Blue Line, which detailed the struggle of Randall Adams, a wrongfully convicted inmate sentenced to death row. The publicity that soon surrounded the case resulted in Adams' release and nationwide publicity for Miramax; in 1989, their successful launch release of Steven Soderbergh's Sex, Lies, and Videotape propelled Miramax to become the most successful independent studio in America.[14]

Also in 1989, Miramax released two arthouse films, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, and director Pedro Almodóvar's film Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, both of which the MPAA rating board gave an X-rating, effectively stopping nationwide release for these films. Weinstein sued the MPAA over the rating system, his lawsuit was later thrown out, but the MPAA introduced the NC-17 rating two months later.[15]

1990s–2000s: Further success, Disney ownership deal

Miramax continued to grow its library of films and directors until, in 1993, after the success of The Crying Game, Disney offered the Weinsteins $80 million for ownership of Miramax,[16] the brothers agreed to the deal that would cement their Hollywood clout and ensure that they would remain at the head of their company, and the next year Miramax released their first blockbuster, Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, and distributed the popular independent film Clerks.

Miramax won its first Academy Award for Best Picture in 1997 with the victory of The English Patient. (Pulp Fiction was nominated in 1995 but lost to Forrest Gump).[17] This started a string of critical successes that included Good Will Hunting (1997) and Shakespeare in Love (1998), both of which won several awards, including numerous Academy Awards.[18][19][20][21]

2005–2017: The Weinstein Company

Weinstein in 2010

The Weinstein brothers left Miramax on September 30, 2005, to form their own production company, The Weinstein Company, with several other media executives, directors Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, and Colin Vaines, who had successfully run the production department at Miramax for ten years.[22] In February 2011, filmmaker Michael Moore took legal action against the Weinstein brothers, claiming he was owed $2.7 million in profits for his documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004), which he said had been denied to him by "Hollywood accounting tricks".[23] In February 2012, Moore dropped the lawsuit for an undisclosed settlement.[24]

Managerial style and controversies

While lauded for opening up the independent film market and making it financially viable, Weinstein has been criticized by some for the techniques he has allegedly applied in his business dealings. Peter Biskind's book Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance and the Rise of Independent Film[9] details criticism of Miramax's release history and editing of Asian films, such as Shaolin Soccer, Hero, and Princess Mononoke. There is a rumor that when Harvey Weinstein was charged with handling the U.S. release of Princess Mononoke, director Hayao Miyazaki sent him a samurai sword in the mail. Attached to the blade was a stark message: "No cuts." Miyazaki commented on the incident: "Actually, my producer did that. Although I did go to New York to meet this man, this Harvey Weinstein, and I was bombarded with this aggressive attack, all these demands for cuts. I defeated him."[25] Weinstein has always insisted that such editing was done in the interest of creating the most financially viable film. "I'm not cutting for fun," Harvey Weinstein said in an interview. "I'm cutting for the shit to work. All my life I served one master: the film. I love movies."[12][26]

Another example cited by Biskind was Phillip Noyce's The Quiet American (2002), whose release Weinstein delayed following the September 11 attacks owing to audience reaction in test screenings to the film's critical tone towards United States past foreign policy. After being told the film would go straight to video, Noyce planned to screen the film in Toronto International Film Festival in order to mobilize critics to pressure Miramax to release it theatrically. Weinstein decided to screen the film at the Festival only after he was lobbied by star Michael Caine, who threatened to boycott publicity for another film he had made for Miramax. The Quiet American received mostly positive reviews at the festival, and Miramax eventually released the film theatrically, but it was alleged that Miramax did not make a major effort to promote the film for Academy Award consideration, though Caine was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor.[9]

Weinstein has also cultivated a reputation for ruthlessness and fits of anger.[27] According to Biskind, Weinstein once put a New York Observer reporter in a headlock while throwing him out of a party, on another occasion, Weinstein excoriated director Julie Taymor and her husband during a disagreement over a test screening of her movie Frida.[12]

In a 2004 newspaper article, in New York magazine, Weinstein appeared somewhat repentant for his often aggressive discussions with directors and producers.[28] However, a Newsweek story on October 13, 2008, criticized Weinstein, who was accused of "hassling Sydney Pollack on his deathbed" about the release of the film The Reader, after Weinstein offered $1 million to charity if the accusation could be proven, journalist Nikki Finke published an email sent by Scott Rudin on August 22 asserting that Weinstein "harassed" Anthony Minghella's widow and a bedridden Pollack until Pollack's family asked him to stop.[29][30]

Weinstein has been thanked by several actresses for their professional success, including Jennifer Lawrence[31] and Penélope Cruz.[32] Meryl Streep referred to him as a God.[33]

In September 2009, Weinstein publicly voiced opposition to efforts to extradite Roman Polanski from Switzerland to the U.S. regarding a 1977 charge that he had drugged and raped a 13-year-old, to which Polanski had pleaded guilty before fleeing the country.[34] Weinstein, whose company had distributed a film about the Polanski case, questioned whether Polanski committed any crime,[35] prompting Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley to insist that Polanski's guilty plea indicated that his action was a crime, and that several other serious charges were pending.[36]

In Oscar acceptance speeches since 1966, Weinstein was thanked a total of 34 times by actors and actresses – just as many times as God, and second only to Steven Spielberg with 43 mentions.[37]

Activism

Weinstein has been active on issues such as poverty, AIDS, juvenile diabetes, and multiple sclerosis research. He serves on the Board of the Robin Hood Foundation, a New York City-based non-profit that targets poverty, and co-chaired one of its annual benefits,[38] he is critical of the lack of gun control laws and universal health care in the United States.[39]

Weinstein is a longtime supporter and contributor to the Democratic Party including the campaigns of President Barack Obama and presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry.[40] He supported Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign,[41] and in 2012, he hosted an election fundraiser for President Obama at his home in Westport, Connecticut.[42]

Fashion

Weinstein was active in the fashion industry, he produced Project Runway, the fashion reality show, making stars of designer Michael Kors, model Heidi Klum and editor Nina Garcia.[43] He was instrumental in the revival of Halston, collaborating with Tamara Mellon, Sarah Jessica Parker and stylist Rachel Zoe. He licensed the option to revive the Charles James brand. Celebrities were asked to wear Marchesa (his wife's line) at least once if they were in a Weinstein movie, his production companies were frequently involved in fashion themed movies, including Madonna's W.E., Robert Altman's Prêt-à-Porter, and Tom Ford's A Single Man. Stars of Weinstein's films appeared on more than a dozen of Vogue covers.[44]

Allegations of sexual harassment, assault and rape

In October 2017, The New York Times[45][46] and The New Yorker[3] reported that more than a dozen women accused Weinstein of sexually harassing, assaulting, or raping them. Many other women in the film industry subsequently reported similar experiences with Weinstein,[47][48][49] who denied any non-consensual sex, as a result of these accusations, Weinstein was fired from his production company,[50] suspended from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, [51] expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences,[4] his wife Georgina Chapman left him,[52] and leading figures in politics whom he had supported denounced him.[53] The Los Angeles Police Department opened a criminal investigation for alleged rape,[54] and New York and London police are investigating other sexual assault allegations.[55]

Personal life

Weinstein's right eye was injured in an accident when he was 12 years old.[56]

Weinstein has been married twice; in 1987, he married his assistant Eve Chilton. They divorced in 2004,[28][57] they had three children: Remy (previously Lily) (born 1995), Emma (born 1998), and Ruth (born 2002).[58] In 2007, he married English fashion designer and actress Georgina Chapman,[59] they have a daughter, India Pearl (born 2010),[60] and a son, Dashiell[61] (born 2013).[62] On October 10, 2017, Chapman announced she was leaving Weinstein after the sexual harassment accusations.[63]

Honors

On April 19, 2004, Weinstein was appointed an honorary Commander of the Order of the British Empire in recognition of his contributions to the British film industry, the award is "honorary" because Weinstein is not a citizen of a Commonwealth country.[64]

On March 2, 2012, Weinstein was made a knight of the French Legion of Honour, in recognition of Miramax's efforts to increase the presence and popularity of foreign films in the United States.[65]

Selected filmography

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