Months after allegations against Harvey Weinstein ignited a national conservation about sexual harassment, “Lord of the Rings” director Peter Jackson said Weinstein’s company had once warned him about actresses Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino, who have since spoken out against the movie mogul.
The New Zealand director told the publication Stuff that he was given an advisory about the two actresses in the late 1990s, when he was pitching early plans for “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” films to Miramax – film producer Weinstein’s first studio and a cultural force throughout the decade. Miramax’s comments led Jackson to avoid considering them for the films, he said.
“I recall Miramax telling us they were a nightmare to work with and we should avoid them at all costs,” Jackson said.
“At the time, we had no reason to question what these guys were telling us – but in hindsight, I realize that this was very likely the Miramax smear campaign in full swing,” he said. “I now suspect we were fed false information about both of these talented women – and as a result their names were removed from our casting list.”
Sorvino thanked Jackson on Twitter on Friday.
“Just seeing this after I awoke, I burst out crying,” she said in a tweet. “There it is, confirmation that Harvey Weinstein derailed my career, something I suspected but was unsure.”
Judd also reacted to the news: tweeting: I remember this well.
Judd and Sorvino could not be immediately reached for further comment.
A spokesperson for Weinstein said the film producer “has nothing but the utmost respect for Peter Jackson. However, as Mr. Jackson will probably remember, because Disney would not finance the ”Lord of the Rings,“Miramax lost the project and all casting was done by New Line. While Bob and Harvey Weinstein were executive producers of the film they had no input into the casting whatsoever.”
They added that until Judd wrote a piece for Variety in 2015, Weinstein cast Judd in two additional films – “Frida” and “Crossing Over.” Sorvino, the representatives said, had been considered for other films as well.
In October, Judd and several other women spoke out in a New York Times exposi alleging that Weinstein used his position to sexually harass and abuse aspiring young women. The report sparked a national reckoning with sexual assault and harassment in the months since, with dozens of prominent men falling from their positions of power in entertainment, business, the media and politics.
In it, Judd alleged that Weinstein sexually harassed her in the 1990s by inviting her to his hotel room and greeted her in a bathrobe, asking if he could give her a massage and if she could watch him shower. Sorvino told the New Yorker that Weinstein behaved similarly with her around the same time and tried to pressure her into a physical relationship. When she found herself in a hotel room with him at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 1995, he began massaging her shoulders – making her uncomfortable – and then tried to get more physical with her.
In a statement to the Times, Weinstein said: “I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it. Though I’m trying to do better, I know I have a long way to go. That is my commitment. My journey now will be to learn about myself and conquer my demons.”
Jackson told Stuff, which is based in New Zealand, that he did not have “direct experience or knowledge of the sexual allegations” against Weinstein. He added that he hadn’t interacted with Weinstein in 20 years.
He remembers Weinstein and his brother acting like “second-rate Mafia bullies” during the early stages of the “Lord of the Rings” films, he told Stuff. Weinstein had threatened to fire Jackson from the adaptation of the films if he didn’t follow his demands to turn his proposed two-part film into one movie. When New Line eventually took over production, they suggested making three films instead of two, which would align with J.R.R. Tolkien’s books.
“Movie making is much more fun when you work with nice people,” Jackson told Stuff.
Harvey Weinstein’s name still appears in the credits of the Lord of the Rings films for contractual reasons, Jackson told Stuff. Jackson won an Oscar for best director in 2003 for “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” and the trilogy earned $2.91 billion in global ticket sales, according to Forbes.
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