Harvey Weinstein’s former assistant Zelda Perkins has given her first TV interview, in which she alleges that the Hollywood producer attempted to rape a former colleague at the Venice Film Festival 19 years ago. Perkins had signed a non-disclosure agreement in 1998 and received £125,000 from Miramax, but broke her silence on the BBC’s “Newsnight” show, which was broadcast Tuesday night in Britain.
Weinstein has denied all accusations of non-consensual sex. Police in both the U.S. and U.K. are investigating multiple allegations against the disgraced producer and no charges have been brought.
“We were at the Venice Film Festival and he tried to rape her,” Perkins said of the alleged incident involving a then-colleague. The colleague was shaking and in shock and also did not want anyone to find out about the matter, said Perkins, who added that she then called Weinstein out of a business meeting to confront him. He denied the accusation.
“He said nothing at all had happened and he swore on the life of his wife and his children, which was his best get-out-of-jail card that he used quite a lot,” Perkins said.
Both Perkins and the colleague subsequently resigned. Perkins said she expected criminal proceedings to follow, but her legal team made it clear that the choices available were limited. “The lawyers made it very clear that we did not have many options,” she said. “Because we hadn’t gone to the police when we were in Venice, we had no physical evidence, and ultimately it would be two under-25-year-old women’s word against Harvey Weinstein, Miramax Film Corp. and, essentially, the Disney Co.”
Speaking about working for Weinstein in her early 20s, the former assistant spoke about the cult of personality surrounding the producer in his heyday. “Harvey, now, everyone sees as this sort of repulsive monster, which he was and is on one hand, but I think what is interesting and what isn’t maybe brought forward is that he was also an extremely exciting, brilliant, stimulating person to be around,” Perkins said.
He was also obsessed with power, she said, which she thinks lays at the root of his alleged sexual misconduct. “I don’t think he’s a sex addict. He’s a power addict,” Perkins said. “Everything that drove him was about dominance with men and women. He put an enormous amount of energy into humiliating men and an enormous amount of energy into getting women to submit. That was what drove him: his overarching need for power.”
She noted that doing business in hotel suites, where several alleged sexual offenses took place, was standard practice for Weinstein. “Everybody now says why did everyone go to his hotel room,” Perkins said. “It wasn’t as simple as that. Everybody went to his hotel. This is where he did business. It wasn’t in his bedroom; it was in his suite. You had top agents, top movie stars, male and female, coming in hourly for meetings.”
She added: “However, he had a lot of meetings with actresses and clearly had girlfriends, he had regular female visitors who were actresses, sometimes aspiring actresses, well-known actresses, and they clearly had a fairly intimate personal relationship with him.”
Perkins said Weinstein would become very angry and threatening if people refused to take those meetings. “With Harvey there was no such word as ‘no’ and that’s really the crux of the matter.”
After signing the NDA, Perkins said she was not allowed to see a therapist or accountant to discuss the matter without consulting Miramax. She said a condition of the agreement was that Weinstein attend therapy, the first session of which she, too, had to attend. In the end, that never happened. In light of her experience, Perkins called for a public conversation on the use of NDAs.
In a statement given to “Newsnight,” Weinstein’s lawyers repeated his denial of all allegations of non-consensual sex and of threatening behavior. Reporter Emily Maitlis said Disney had not yet responded to a request for comment and Miramax had declined to comment.