Harvey Weinstein ousted by movie academy
HOLLYWOOD — Harvey Weinstein — who more than anyone defined and shaped the sharp-elbowed art of Oscar campaigning — has been expelled from the group that presents the Academy Awards.
In the latest and perhaps most symbolic blow to the Hollywood mogul since a host of sexual harassment and assault allegations went public nine days ago, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences board voted on Saturday to strip Weinstein’s membership.
In a statement, the academy said the action, which is effective immediately, was intended “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.”
Weinstein has already had his membership suspended in BAFTA, the British version of the Oscars, and faces separate action from the Producers Guild of America. That vote has been delayed until Monday, according to Variety.
The academy’s decision — voted on by its 54 board members in a special meeting — continues what amounts to an industry-wide attempt to purge Weinstein from the place he has occupied in the film business.
Given the outsized role Weinstein has played in the Oscars for decades, being censured by an organization he so assiduously courted comes as a particularly sharp rebuke.
Although academy members have been disciplined for violating its rules, there is virtually no precedent for ousting someone in the face of a scandal. As reports have noted, director Roman Polanski — who fled the U.S. in 1978 to avoid the legal consequences of a rape involving a 13-year-old girl — and Mel Gibson, who temporarily became an industry pariah after making anti-Semitic remarks, remained members.
Under the academy’s bylaws, two thirds of the board had to agree to take such an action. Some of the higher-profile members include Whoopi Goldberg, Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks.
Since the New York Times first reported on sexual-harassment accusations against Weinstein last Thursday, dozens of women have come forward recounting their own experiences. The New Yorker published its own account, which included charges of rape by three women.
Weinstein-backed films, through Miramax and then the Weinstein Co., have won dozens of Oscars, including best picture wins for “The King’s Speech” and “The Artist.” Weinstein was also an individual recipient in 1999 as the producer of “Shakespeare in Love.”
Through his representative, Weinstein has categorically denied that any non-consensual sex took place. He did express some contrition in a statement after the New York Times piece in which he apologized for past behavior that has “caused a lot of pain” and said he would take a leave of absence to “conquer my demons.”
The vote regarding Weinstein could have implications for the academy in the future, since it will almost surely be used as a benchmark when other situations involving members arise. Speaking on condition of anonymity, one source has called it a “watershed moment.”
The academy’s initial statement announcing the meeting said that it found Weinstein’s actions as described “repugnant, abhorrent and antithetical to the high standards of the Academy and the creative community it represents.” On Saturday, it said it’s working to advance ethical standards that “all Academy members will be expected to exemplify.”
Weinstein’s brother Bob, CEO of the Weinstein Co., said that Harvey “definitely should be kicked out” of the academy in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter.