In this week’s Variety cover story, Gwyneth Paltrow looks back on the 20th anniversary of winning the best actress Oscar for “Shakespeare in Love.” The movie still holds up today, although there’s an ominous figure lurking in the credits. The romantic comedy was produced by Harvey Weinstein, and Paltrow spoke about working for the volcanic producer and Miramax boss.
“He was a bully,” Paltrow said. “I never had a problem standing up to him. I wasn’t scared of him. I also felt for a period of time, I was the consumer face of Miramax, and I felt it was my duty to push back against him. We had a lot of fights.”
For example, Weinstein refused to pay Paltrow her back-end compensation tied to the box office performance of 1996’s “Emma.” She pushed him until she received that money. “I got him to pay me something. I remember I got this legal letter that said, ‘This is not an acknowledgment that we owe you this money, but here’s a check.’”
On “Shakespeare in Love,” Paltrow had tested with Joseph Fiennes for the title role as the young playwright Will. But at Miramax, with “Good Will Hunting” poised to be a hit, Weinstein preferred someone else for the part. “At the last minute, Harvey wanted Ben Affleck to take over and play Shakespeare,” said Paltrow, who had to intervene and stop that idea. “I said, ‘No, you can’t do that. You have to have an English person.’” Weinstein eventually conceded, and Affleck joined the cast as Ned Alleyn, one of the Globe’s actors.
Paltrow described what it was like to deal with Weinstein. “He was a very difficult boss,” she said. “It was a fraught relationship. We would get in knock-down, drag-out fights. I remember once, my mother [Blythe Danner] walked in a room, and I was yelling at him about something. She was like, ‘Who was that on the phone?’” When Paltrow told her, she responded, “Oh, my goodness, good for you. Stand up for yourself.”
Paltrow was among the dozens of women to come forward in 2017 to accuse Weinstein of sexual misconduct. In an article published in the New York Times, Paltrow revealed a secret that she’d kept for most of her professional life. At the start of “Emma,” Weinstein summoned Paltrow to a hotel room, put his hands on her and asked her for a massage. “I had one really uncomfortable, weird experience; then he was never inappropriate with me again in that way,” Paltrow told Variety.
Weinstein was ousted from the Academy in 2017, after the stories were published. (Ronan Farrow also wrote a series of bombshell articles in the New Yorker. Before talking to the Times, Paltrow had connected with investigative reporter Jodi Kantor through a mutual friend, “Girls” showrunner Jenni Konner. “I spoke to Jodi all summer, not knowing if I would go on the record or not,” Paltrow said. “But just trying to help her with the story as much as I could.”
Paltrow eventually decided that she’d tell her story. “It was a scary thing to do, because all of the systems that were in place up until that always chewed up and spit out the women who came forward,” Paltrow said. She saw it as a turning point. “It felt like, this is over. This ends now. We’re not doing this anymore. People can’t do this anymore.”
“Shakespeare in Love” went on to win seven Oscars, including best picture. Paltrow doesn’t believe that Weinstein’s involvement with the film tarnishes its legacy. “It’s a beautiful film,” Paltrow said. “A movie is not going to be successful if it’s not a good movie, not like that.”