Actress Connie Nielsen on Her Harvey Story and Debunking the Myth of ‘That Girl’ (Guest Column)

Connie Nielsen Guest Column

As I add my name to the rapidly expanding list of women whom Harvey Weinstein has harassed, I feel a strong wish to clarify just how well-known Harvey’s actions were in our community throughout his reign as one of the most powerful players in the industry. I worked on the Harvey Weinstein-produced “The Great Raid,” where I warned a young co-star not to take Harvey up on his invitations to drinks unless the whole group was there. I had no issues on the film, nor when I met Harvey at social events around the world.

It was therefore a real shock when Harvey proceeded to put his hand on my thigh at dinner during the opening night of “Great Raid,” at which both my boyfriend and my brother were present. I grabbed his hand and squeezed it violently to hurt him and proceeded to hold it in place on his own thigh. I steered clear of him as soon as I could for the rest of the evening but soon forgot about it, until the New York Times and New Yorker pieces set off a landslide.

In the accounts I have read of Harvey’s harassment, many state they weren’t “that girl,” meaning, I presume, that they were not the kind of woman who would base her career on sexual favors. I may be naive, but it seems to me that no woman sets out to base her career on sexual favors. I cannot think of a single famous female actor who isn’t also talented, and I doubt a statistically relevant quantity of actresses exists who look to skip the work with a sexual shortcut.

The oft-mentioned “casting couch” is a term that both denigrates female actors by association and intimates their complicity in a bargain. The term glosses over the fact that propositioning someone for sex in exchange for work is sexual harassment, a crime in every state of the union. It has been mentioned many times that Harvey often bragged of the many beautiful actresses he made that “bargain” with, though of course it was no “bargain” — it was alleged rape and sexual coercion. Like other predators, Harvey is imbued with a strong dose of charisma and a hint of not so hidden vulnerability. Like them, Harvey could suss out vulnerability in his victims — the young, those whose jobs and careers were put on the line or those whose circumstances had made them vulnerable.

I doubt “that girl” is an actual norm, and as the recent revolution against Harvey’s regime of intimidation and harassment indicates, “that girl” is simply someone who gave in to coercion and harassment and is therefore the victim of a crime. “That girl” was vulnerable to manipulation, coercion or physical violence she should have never been exposed to in the first place — and she should not be shamed for that. No one knows how they would act were they equipped with different childhoods, traumas and levels of resilience. As long as we suspect female actors of being somehow complicit in their own victimization, as willing participants in their own humiliation, we shame the victim and enable the culture of silence that allows predators to act with impunity.

It is an issue that there is no overseeing body in our industry where one can lodge a complaint. Our industry is made up of so many separate entities and participants, it seems we might benefit from creating a harassment ombudsman in each union, or one for the whole industry. It is frustrating that with so much research clearly pointing to the very real financial successes of gender-integrated boards and senior management, so few still make it a point to look at integrating their own. Several commentators have pointed out the issue of the all-male board of The Weinstein Co., and that its gender imbalance may have had something to do with its reluctance to deal with the many payouts and failure to protect the company from danger. Perhaps now people in the position to create change will be willing to recognize that progressive company policies not only create sturdier results but safeguard the dignity of all our colleagues.