Movies

Latest to deem Harvey Weinstein persona non grata: Motion Picture Academy

Harvey Weinstein.
ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images
Harvey Weinstein.

LOS ANGELES — Hollywood’s de facto governing body, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, voted overwhelmingly Saturday to “immediately expel” Harvey Weinstein, breaking with 90 years of precedent and turning one of the biggest Oscar players in history into a hall-of-fame pariah.

The academy’s 54-member board of governors made the decision at an emergency session after investigations by The New York Times and The New Yorker that revealed sexual harassment and rape allegations against him going back decades.

In a statement, the academy said the vote was “well in excess of the required two-thirds majority.”

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It added, “We do so not simply to separate ourselves from someone who does not merit the respect of his colleagues but also to send a message that the era of willful ignorance and shameful complicity in sexually predatory behavior and workplace harassment in our industry is over. What’s at issue here is a deeply troubling problem that has no place in our society.”

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The academy said it would “work to establish ethical standards of conduct that all academy members will be expected to exemplify.”

Weinstein, who was fired by the movie and television studio he cofounded, the Weinstein Co., has denied rape allegations while acknowledging that his behavior “caused a lot of pain.”

Although largely symbolic, the ouster of Weinstein from the roughly 8,400-member academy is stunning because the organization is not known to have taken such action before — not when Roman Polanski, a member, pleaded guilty in a sex crime case involving a 13-year-old girl; not when women came forward to accuse Bill Cosby, a member, of sexual assault; and not when Mel Gibson allegedly went on anti-Semitic tirade during a drunken driving arrest in 2006 or pleaded no contest to a charge of battery against an old girlfriend in 2011.

Now, the academy may be forced to contend with other problem members.

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Scott Feinberg, the longtime awards columnist for The Hollywood Reporter, said, “This may well be the beginning of a very tough chapter for the academy. The next thing that is going to happen, rightly or wrongly, is that a wide variety of constituencies are going to demand that the academy similarly address other problematic members.”

Feinberg added that he was speaking of academy members like Polanski and Stephen Collins, the “7th Heaven” actor who admitted in 2014 that he molested teenage girls in past decades, which resulted in police investigations in New York and Los Angeles but no charges.

Before Weinstein — who built two studios on the back of the Academy Awards, securing more than 300 nominations for his movies — only one person was known to have been permanently expelled from the academy. Carmine Caridi, a character actor, had his membership revoked in 2004 for violating an academy rule involving Oscar voting. He got caught lending DVD screeners of contending films; copies ended up online. (In the 1990s, a couple of people were temporarily suspended for selling their allotted tickets to the Oscar ceremony.)

The academy’s board, roughly 40 percent female, includes Hollywood titans like Steven Spielberg, Whoopi Goldberg, Lucasfilm chief Kathleen Kennedy, Tom Hanks, documentarian Rory Kennedy and Jim Gianopulos, chairman of Paramount Pictures.

In an example of Weinstein’s reach, at least 10 governors have worked on films that he produced or that his studios have released. One board member, Christina Kounelias, now an executive vice president at Participant Media, started her career at Miramax, working in publicity for four years.

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The board’s president is Jim Bailey, a cinematographer whose credits include “Ordinary People,” a winner of the 1981 Academy Award for best picture, and “Groundhog Day.” Lois Burwell, who is listed as its first vice president, is a makeup artist who won an Oscar in 1996 for her work on “Braveheart.”

No person has been more closely associated with the Academy Awards in recent decades than Weinstein, who won a best picture Oscar in 1999 for “Shakespeare in Love” and who orchestrated campaigns that resulted in more than 80 statuettes for films released by the studios he ran, including five best picture Oscars for “Shakespeare in Love,” “The English Patient,” “Chicago,” “The King’s Speech” and “The Artist.”

The adulation afforded him power — so much power that many women feared reporting his alleged abuses — and gave him the credibility he was able use as a shield whenever rumors of his behavior started to swirl.

In total, Weinstein has overseen campaigns that resulted in five best-picture Oscars, for “Shakespeare in Love,” “The English Patient,” “Chicago,” “The King’s Speech” and “The Artist.”

His fall has come hard and fast. The first article to appear in The New York Times on women’s accusations against Weinstein was published Oct. 5. While authorities in New York and London are investigating Weinstein, no charges have been filed against him.

Pressure had been building on the academy to purge Weinstein. Earlier in the week, as actresses including Ashley Judd, Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow came forward with horrifying tales and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts kicked him out, the academy essentially punted, releasing a statement condemning Weinstein’s alleged behavior as “repugnant, abhorrent” and saying it would meet Saturday to discuss “any actions warranted.”

The Producers Guild of America was also scheduled to meet Saturday to discuss revoking Harvey Weinstein’s membership. Late Friday, the group abruptly moved the special meeting to Monday. Under that group’s bylaws, Weinstein will have two weeks to respond to any action. The same guild gave the Weinstein brothers its Milestone award in 2013, citing their “historic contributions to the entertainment industry.”

In a sign of the international nature of the condemnation of Weinstein, the French government on Saturday said it had started a process that could strip him of his Legion of Honor, the country’s highest civilian distinction. (He received it in 2012.) Earlier in the week, a government spokesman had said that France would wait for definitive legal action before considering such action.