Dozens of women—including 100-watt stars like Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, and Lupita Nyong’o—have now detailed disturbing encounters with once powerful producer Harvey Weinstein, and several police departments have opened inquiries into alleged sexual crimes, including rape (Weinstein has denied all allegations of nonconsensual sex). Investigations from The New York Times and The New Yorker first exposed decades of alleged incidents of sexual harassment and assault by Weinstein.
But Hollywood has more than one ugly troll hiding in its honeyed hills. At Miramax, which Weinstein founded in 1979 with his brother to produce independent films, sexual harassment was part of the culture, as more and more women have begun to establish now for the first time. Women say that in the industry, the lack of accountability in both company structures and the press keeps this culture alive and well.
In the early 2000s, Miramax had offices at Piazza del Sol, a historic building that was a famous brothel in the 1930s. According to a former female employee who worked at Miramax in the early 2000s, the office received regular shipments of porn videos, which were distributed to employees. In her early 20s at the time, she recalls a general understanding (though it was never explicitly stated) among women that sexual favors led to promotions, and groping wasn’t unusual. WORLD granted the source anonymity because, as her career is in its early stages, going on the record could blackball her in the close-knit movie industry.
The bombshell investigation from The New Yorker confirmed this general pattern too. From dozens of interviews with former employees, Ronan Farrow reported “a culture of silence about sexual assault inside Miramax and the Weinstein Company and across the entertainment industry more broadly.”
Our Miramax source argued the film industry doesn’t have a structure in place to prevent or police such behavior. Women in their early 20s starting their careers in the industry don’t typically have the protection that organizations such as unions sometimes provide, and they often don’t know any recourse against misconduct when it happens.
“I couldn’t move up in the company because I wasn’t willing to play the game,” the source said about her time at Miramax. “That was the most scuzzy environment I ever worked in.” Other parts of the industry had “scuzzy” environments too, she said. On sets after she left Miramax, she was used to male crew members grabbing her rear end, and she felt little recourse at the bottom of the food chain. That in turn led her to want to keep from “standing out,” an unhelpful posture for someone starting a career in one of the most competitive industries.
Aside from the general vulnerabilities young women face when they enter the industry, company non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) also keep a lid on bringing misdeeds to light. An anonymous statement from the Weinstein Co. employees argued that the culture of silence in the industry will continue as long as companies like the Weinstein Co. require employees to sign non-disclosure agreements. (The statement was anonymous because the employees had all signed NDAs.) The Weinstein Co. is the production company Harvey and Bob Weinstein began after they left Miramax in 2005.
Peter Biskind’s 2004 book about Miramax, Down and Dirty Pictures, helps the reader understand the culture of protection around Weinstein, from press to employees—a structure likely repeated in other parts of the industry. Biskind recounts how Weinstein tried to talk him out of doing the book by offering him a Miramax book deal. Previously when he worked on an investigative piece about Miramax for Premiere magazine, the Weinsteins threatened to pull ads from the magazine, and higher-ups killed the story.