UPDATED: Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino have addressed director Peter Jackson’s claims that Harvey and Bob Weinstein made an effort to blacklist the two actresses from starring in the “Lord of the Rings” franchise in the late 1990s. Harvey Weinstein denied the allegation, through a spokesperson.
“While Bob and Harvey Weinstein were executive producers of the film, they had no input into the casting whatsoever,” a spokesperson said.
In an interview with New Zealand media outlet Stuff, Jackson discussed working on the Miramax-produced “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” films with Weinstein.
“I recall Miramax telling us they were a nightmare to work with and we should avoid them at all costs. This was probably in 1998,” Jackson said.
At the time, Jackson said, he and his team had no reason to question Weinstein’s intentions.
“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 direct result, their names were removed from our casting list.”
Sorvino said she was “heartsick” over seeing the claims. “Just seeing this after I awoke, I burst out crying. There it is, confirmation that Harvey Weinstein derailed my career, something I suspected but was unsure. Thank you Peter Jackson for being honest. I’m just heartsick,” she wrote Friday morning on Twitter. Judd responded on Thursday night, saying, “I remember this well.”
While Jackson said he had “no direct experience or knowledge of the sexual allegations” against Weinstein, he had decided earlier to never collaborate with him again. He recalled Weinstein and his brother, Bob, being difficult to work with.
“My experience, when Miramax controlled the ‘Lord of the Rings’ (before New Line took over production of the film), was of Weinstein and his brother behaving like second-rate mafia bullies. They weren’t the type of guys I wanted to work with — so I haven’t,” he said.
Jackson said Weinstein’s bullying tactics also targeted him. At one point, Jackson claimed, Weinstein threatened to fire him if he didn’t follow Weinstein’s demands to make the “LOTR” adaptation into one film rather than two. Eventually, Jackson took the films to New Line.
“Although his name had to be on the ‘Lord of the Rings’ credits for contractual reasons, he was not involved in the movies we ended up making,” Jackson said. “I vaguely remember bumping into him (Weinstein) at some award show or premiere at the time of their release, but it’s been 20 years since my last interaction of any substance with Harvey Weinstein.”
Weinstein’s spokesperson released the following statement.
Mr. Weinstein 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.
Secondly, until Ashley Judd wrote a piece for Variety two years ago, no one at the Company knew that she had a complaint and she was cast in two other films by Mr. Weinstein [“Frida” and “Crossing Over”] and Mira Sorvino was always considered for other films as well.
There was no indication that Mira Sorvino had any issues until Mr. Weinstein read about the complaints in the news.
As recently as this year, Mira Sorvino called Mr. Weinstein and asked if her husband could be part of the SEAL television series [“Six”] he was producing and Mr. Weinstein cast him; when Christopher Backus received a better offer, Mr. Weinstein allowed him to amicably break his contact to pursue the opportunity.
Following Jackson’s statements, director Terry Zwigoff tweeted that he had also experienced resistance in casting Sorvino in “Bad Santa.”
“I was interested in casting Mira Sorvino in ‘Bad Santa,’ but every time I mentioned her over the phone to the Weinsteins, I’d hear a CLICK. What type of person just hangs up on you like that?! I guess we all know what type of person now. I’m really sorry Mira.”
“Bad Santa,” starring Billy Bob Thornton, was released in 2003 and produced by Tryptich Pictures. The film was distributed in North America by TWC’s Dimension Films, which was then under the Miramax banner and served as Bob Weinstein’s label.
A spokesman for Harvey Weinstein released a second statement following Zwigoff’s tweet, in which he denied speaking with Zwigoff “regarding casting.”
“That was a Dimension film and Harvey had nothing to do with it,” the statement read.