thu 01/12/2022

Ken Auletta: Hollywood Ending - Harvey Weinstein and the Culture of Silence review - if the tide had turned in 2002 | reviews, news & interviews

Ken Auletta: Hollywood Ending - Harvey Weinstein and the Culture of Silence review - if the tide had turned in 2002...

Ken Auletta: Hollywood Ending - Harvey Weinstein and the Culture of Silence review - if the tide had turned in 2002...

The renowned American writer had earlier come close to revealing the truth about Weinstein

Ken AulettaPublicity photo

It was not until October 2017 that The New York Times ran a front page story by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey with the title “Harvey Weinstein Paid Off Sexual Harrassment Accusers for Decades.”

A few days later, the board of the Weinstein Company, including the crucial vote of his younger brother Bob, ejected him. And from then on, the prosecution started to put together the case against Weinstein, which, after over a hundred women had testified against him, resulted in his conviction and imprisonment in February 2020.

But could the tide have turned against him many years earlier? Why didn’t it? What would it have taken for the "culture of silence" to have been exposed far earlier, for several women to be spared from becoming his victims? Just before the half-way mark in Ken Auletta’s new, meticulously researched and well-written bookHollywood Ending: Harvey Weinstein and the Culture of Silence (Penguin Press) he explains quite how close he was in 2002 to substantiating the claim that Harvey Weinstein had committed crimes of rape, and going public with them. “I believed Harvey was guilty of beastly sexual behaviour. But I lacked proof,” he reflects in the book.

The context is as follows: in 2002, Auletta was writing a profile of Weinstein for The New Yorker magazine, which was close to being published. He knew for a fact that two Miramax employees had signed non-disclosure agreements. So, in his final interview with Weinstein, Auletta confronted him with what he knew to be either the truth, or certainly something very close to it:

“Harvey, at the Venice Film Festival in 1998, did you rape Rowena Chiu? Did you pay her and Zelda Perkins each £125,000 to sign NDAs?”

Weinstein’s reaction, says Auletta, was to “start to sob uncontrollably” and to wail about the harm which publishing the story would do to his family. After two more meetings with lawyers present, in which Weinstein reverted to his more ‘normal’ shouting, bullying and controlling ways, The New Yorker’s editor decided that the magazine would publish the article – but without the allegation.

This is the pivotal episode in Auletta’s book, and explains at least in part how it came to be written. Auletta's approach, while telling the story of Weinstein’s life and business career chronologically, is to keep a series of questions ever-present. The first, and most obvious of these is why and how Harvey Weinstein became such a monster, how the habits of abusing power, of spreading fear and of treating personal and business relationships like battlegrounds became quite so ingrained.

But there are other equally nagging and oft-addressed questions such as how so many people in effect enabled and normalised his behaviour for four decades by keeping their mouths shut.

Auletta also looks at how Weinstein’s incredibly close relationship with his younger brother Bob functioned, and how, by stages, it became sour. Because of the estrangement of the two brothers, Bob Weinstein was able to talk to Auletta in detail about this. And then there is a detailed narrative of the highs and lows of Weinstein’s career in the production and mass-marketing of films. Auletta has numerous stories of the combative atmosphere within Weinstein’s office, of his constant battles with Disney who owned Miramax from 1993 until 2005, the aggressive negative campaigning around the Oscars. And, yes, of the series of Miramax's critically and financially successful films such as The English Patient, Shakespeare in Love, The King’s Speech and The Artist. And later, we read of Weinstein’s seemingly out-of-control attempts to get involved in ventures outside the movie industry and become an influential ‘mogul’ in politics, media and fashion, and the series of ill-judged ventures which resulted from it. 

In this very readable book, Auletta has been conscientious about trying to tell a balanced story, to explain the man: “In writing about Harvey, I struggled to convey that he was more than a monster,” he writes as he starts his conclusion. But perhaps the most telling reflection at the end of the book is from Harvey’s brother Bob: “There is no Harvey, no real human being there.”

@sebscotney

Hollywood Ending: Harvey Weinstein and the Culture of Silence is published by Penguin Press

Auletta has been conscientious about trying to tell a balanced story, to explain the man

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