As storm clouds gather around movie mogul Harvey Weinstein in the wake of an explosive New York Times report with allegations of sexual harassment and other misbehavior, his company’s Oscar season hopefuls are staring down an unsure future.
Frankly, though, this year’s potential contenders — “The Current War” and “Wind River” — were already facing an uphill battle. Unlike previous years when the Weinstein Co. and Miramax juggled numerous strong awards contenders, mounting expensive, competitive campaigns and lavish Oscar and Golden Globes parties, the company’s financial woes have resulted in pared-back awards spending.
Weinstein’s awards season presence is often felt beyond his on-screen contenders. He holds an annual pre-Oscars bash at the Montage Beverly Hills, where illuminaries like Oprah Winfrey and business leaders like Amazon chief Jeff Bezos have been guests. Last February, Beyonce, Jay-Z, and Lin-Manuel Miranda attended the soiree.
He also partners with Netflix every year for a well-attended Golden Globes after-party at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Given the current scandal, it’s unclear at this point whether Weinstein will even show his face during this year’s awards season.
Weinstein had high expectations for Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s “The Current War.” The film stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Shannon as electricity titans Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse, respectively, in a story of the duo’s cutthroat turn-of-the-century race to determine whose system would power the modern world. But reviews at the Toronto Film Festival seemed to seal its fate. The film “can’t generate even the slightest bit of interest in what happens to any of its characters,” read Variety‘s take.
So it was back to the editing suite, where Harvey Scissorhands, his longstanding nickname for his heavy-handed control of the editing process, would step in. That was in fact where he said he was on Wednesday when Variety reporters first reached out to him about the then-upcoming New York Times report. But for a film that has already been dismantled by critics — it currently sits at 31% on Rotten Tomatoes and has a 42 score at Metacritic — the merciful thing might be to hold it for 2018 rather than release it under a cloud.
“That’s the question of the week,” one person involved with the film said. Gomez-Rejon could not be reached for comment.
In the wake of “The Current War’s” Toronto stumble, the Weinstein Co.’s efforts appeared to shift to its August release “Wind River.” Indeed, Oscar-nominated screenwriter Taylor Sheridan’s (“Hell or High Water”) directorial debut, a murder mystery set in Wyoming’s snow-blown Wind River Indian Reservation, is the embattled distributor’s biggest success story of the year. Weinstein acquired the film, which cost $11 million, at the Cannes Film Market in 2016 for a figure reportedly north of $3 million. It went on to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January and has generated $33 million at the domestic box office after two months in release. The campaign gears are already turning; a pair of screenings was recently set for this weekend at the DGA Theater in Hollywood and the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica. Sheridan, stars Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen, and key crew members will be on hand for post-screening Q&As.
But the last thing an indie success story hoping for an awards season profile needs is a scandal overshadowing its efforts. Through his publicist, Sheridan declined to comment.
A third, outside possibility for Weinstein this season might have been “The Upside,” Neil Burger’s remake of the 2012 French film “The Intouchables,” with Bryan Cranston, Kevin Hart, and Nicole Kidman. It, too, performed poorly for critics in Toronto, but as a populist comedy featuring an on-fire Hart, the film might at least have box office potential.
At the festival, Weinstein told press that he planned to qualify “The Upside” for awards consideration in December and then go wide next year, perhaps angling for Golden Globes comedy recognition as a ploy to boost its commercial prospects. (Per contractual obligations with Sony regarding the December release of Hart’s “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” Burger’s film cannot open wide before March.) But that runs counter to producer Todd Black’s expectations. “I think that was only in [Weinstein’s] mind and not in any of our minds,” Black said. “Nothing’s changed. We’re coming out in March. All we’re concerned about is a big, fat commercial release.”
Nevertheless, Weinstein could use a hit sooner rather than later; the often resilient impresario has been dogged by ongoing murmurs that his company, which recently saw significant turnover among key executives, continues to be in financial straits. But he obviously has other concerns at the moment.
“I don’t know that Harvey has much say right now,” Black said.