UPDATED with a statement from Amazon regarding its Weinstein Co. series deals and statement from Weinstein Co. board of directors
The Weinstein Co. has been in a state of turmoil since last Thursday when the first revelations of decades of alleged sexual harassment by former leader Harvey Weinstein were disclosed by the New York Times. But Tuesday’s report in the New Yorker with allegations of rape and other sexually aggressive behavior in graphic detail from more victims has dramatically heightened the tide of anger and dismay coursing through the company’s offices in Tribeca and Beverly Hills, which house about 150 employees.
One insider said work at TWC has essentially ground to a halt while staffers digest the information disclosed in the New Yorker report. Harvey Weinstein has denied through a spokeswoman that he engaged in any sexual acts that were non-consensual.
There is increasing sentiment that Harvey Weinstein’s firing is not enough to contain the damage caused by the revelations of the past week. Among insiders and outsiders, questions are increasing about how much TWC co-chairman Bob Weinstein and chief operating officer David Glasser knew about the behavior alleged in the New York Times and New Yorker stories.
Among staffers, there is outrage — and some disbelief — over claims in the New Yorker story by Ronan Farrow that female executives at TWC and the Weinstein brothers’ previous company, Miramax, helped arrange liaisons in hotel rooms and office settings for Harvey Weinstein with unsuspecting women.
“People knew Harvey did dirty things,” said one TWC staffer. “People did not know this” level of alleged sexual misconduct. The source said there was a high level of doubt that female executives in recent years knowingly complied with Harvey’s requests to set up rendezvous.
Meanwhile, the toxicity of the stories has prompted some of the company’s creative partners to look for ways to distance themselves from the Weinstein Co. Already, Harvey Weinstein’s name has been dropped in the executive producer credits of the TV shows produced by TWC, at TWC’s request. It’s understood that some networks carrying TWC shows are looking at the possibility of buying them out entirely to keep the company’s imprimatur off of shows — particularly series that have yet to debut.
Those outlets include Amazon, which is in business with TWC on two shows: Matt Weiner’s “The Romanoffs” and an untitled crime drama from David O. Russell with Robert De Niro and Julianne Moore attached to star. Amazon said in a statement late Tuesday: “We are reviewing our options for the projects we have with The Weinstein Co.”
Even before the scandal Harvey Weinstein was never attached as an executive producer on “Romanoffs,” at Weiner’s behest. The company’s role in that show is largely to handle international distribution outside of Amazon territories. Weiner has firm control of the show as showrunner and director of all eight episodes. A source said no one at TWC was authorized to review dailies from production that has been under way for weeks.
The Russell show, which has a two-season order, is still in the pre-production phase. A knowledgable source said Russell has turned in six of the eight scripts and that Amazon executives are encouraged by what they’ve read. “Mad Men” alums Andre and Maria Jacquemetton are working on the final scripts for the eight-episode first season. The big challenge facing the series is keeping the project on track for production by early next year to stay within De Niro’s window of availability.
TWC is on the hook as a co-financier of both series. But Amazon sources said the company is prepared to assume full responsibility for financing both shows. Given the extraordinary developments at TWC, Amazon executives would prefer to take over all aspects of “Romanoffs” and the Russell project, sources said.
The crisis swirling around TWC has also raised doubts about its ability to move forward as a company with its current leadership. Bob Weinstein and Glasser were named by the TWC board as assuming control in the wake of Harvey’s ouster late Sunday. Industry sources were skeptical that top creative talent would be willing to commit to projects with the company even if Harvey is out of the picture.
TWC’s board again sought to distance itself from the disturbing allegations leveled against Harvey Weinstein with a statement issued late Tuesday in response to the New Yorker expose.
“The Weinstein Company’s Board of Representatives – Bob Weinstein, Lance Maerov, Richard Koenigsberg and Tarak Ben Ammar – are shocked and dismayed by the recently emerged allegations of extreme sexual misconduct and sexual assault by Harvey Weinstein,” the statement said. “These alleged actions are antithetical to human decency. These allegations come as an utter surprise to the board. Any suggestion that the Board had knowledge of this conduct is false. We are committed to assisting with our full energies in all criminal or other investigations of these alleged acts, while pursuing justice for the victims and a full and independent investigation of our own.”
There’s also the prospect of litigation erupting between Harvey and the company he co-founded with his brother in 2005. That would be another costly distraction for a company that was already under financial pressure from a prolonged slump at the box office.
TWC has been trying to sell a stake in its television division to satisfy pressure from investors to deliver some returns. But TWC has found no takers despite the gold rush of M&A around independent TV production outfits during the past few years.
Moreover, industry observers noted that Weinstein Co. investors — including advertising giant WPP group — may well come under pressure to disassociate themselves from the company in light of the rape allegations in the New Yorker story.
A rep for Weinstein Co. declined comment.
(Pictured: Bob and Harvey Weinstein)