Harvey Weinstein, the former Hollywood mogul, is justly behind bars after having been convicted in February of rape and sexual assault and sentenced to 23 years in prison. But Weinstein’s legal problems are far from over. On April 10, Los Angeles County charged him with one felony count of sexual battery.
The scale of his crimes as a predator is detailed in an incisive documentary, Harvey Weinstein: ID Breaking Now, scheduled to be broadcast by the Investigation Discovery network on Sunday, April 12 at 10 p.m.
Weinstein’s reign of terror lasted for decades and took place within a framework of a pervasive culture of silence that tolerated his unacceptable behavior. In public, he was an acclaimed producer whose films won 81 Academy Awards. In private, he was a monster who preyed on aspiring actresses and members of his own personal staff.
Because he wielded so much power, influence and control, he was untouchable until quite recently. But once his victims came forward, breaching his walled fortress, Weinstein was doomed, destined to pay a penalty.
In this compelling film, several of the more than 80 women who levelled accusations against him are interviewed. Katherine Kendall, Rosanna Arquette and Ambra Gutierrez sought to break into the industry and Weinstein took advantage of them. Rowena Chiu, one of his production assistants, was the object of one of his assaults.
Seth Freedman, an investigator hired by Weinstein to discredit his accusers, also appears as an interviewee. Employed by Black Cube, an Israeli intelligence agency, he posed as a journalist in an effort to ferret out incriminating information for his boss.
Weinstein’s modus operandi rarely varied. He would invite an actress to a hotel room to discuss a planned project, and within astonishing rapidity he would request a “massage.” Within moments, and with a sense of purpose, he would switch into a white bathrobe and demand sex, his penis visible. If the woman resisted, he would typically say, “Just one thrust. It’ll be over quickly.”
Kendall reacted to his aggression with panic, but like all her peers she refrained from reporting him to the police and kept her mouth shut, fearing harsh retribution. As she well knew, Weinstein could make or break a career.
Twice married, with four children, Weinstein was a bully who resorted to intimidation when his victims were insufficiently docile. Under pressure, some signed non-disclosure cash agreements. “We had to pretend it never happened,” says one of the interviewees.
By 2013, Weinstein’s depredations were no longer much of a secret, but he still managed to carry on with his criminal activities. The tipping point occurred in 2015, when he invited Gutierrez, a model, to a “casting” session at a hotel near his office in Manhattan. Having informed the police of his advances, she agreed to wear a wire in her next meeting with him. Weinstein’s crude propositions were duly recorded, and for the first time he was explicitly linked to a case of sexual assault.
Being a dogged adversary, he launched a counter offensive, accusing Gutierrez of being a professional escort. The tactic worked. Weinstein slithered away, not having been charged with any crime, and offered her a payment in exchange for her silence.
Toward the close of 2017, The New York Times and The New Yorker published explosive exposes about Weinstein. Six months later, following his arrest, the #MeToo movement was born.
As expected, he used his wealth and power to try to wriggle out of his predicament, but to no avail. Time was no longer on his side. He was cornered. His day of reckoning had arrived.
Weinstein went through a few high-priced lawyers before settling on Donna Rotunno, who had lost only a single case when she signed on as his principal defender. But even she could not save him. Following a short trial early this year, a jury on February 24 pronounced him guilty of two felony sex crimes.
Shocked by his lengthy sentence, but proclaiming his innocence, he launched an appeal. Now 68, he will be 91 if he fully completes his sentence.
As the film suggests, Weinstein’s conviction was a landmark event in the campaign to bring sexual predators to justice. “A heavy weight from my chest was released,” says Gutierrez. As far as Kendall is concerned, “a remarkable moment in history” had unfolded.