UPDATED: Netflix, FX and Annapurna Pictures are among the Hollywood companies that are parting ways with Peggy Siegal, a movie and television publicist who reportedly used her connections to get multi-millionaire and accused child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein into splashy premieres and parties.
Siegal, known for her thick Rolodex and sway over annual awards races in film and television, was fired last week from a consultant role on Netflix’s Emmy campaign strategy, individuals familiar with the matter told Variety. She was let go following stories in the New York Times and the Hollywood Reporter that documented how Siegal helped Epstein access to A-list events. Siegal reportedly allowed Epstein to pay for her travel.
Netflix has also cut future ties with Siegal. Her company had sent out invitations for screenings and promotional events that have yet to take place. However, Siegal was hired before news of her connection to Epstein broke. She will no longer be involved in Netflix events, according to an individual with knowledge of the company. A Netflix spokesperson declined to comment on the matter.
Parties close to the Disney-owned FX Network said Siegal will no longer be used for promotional duties and tastemaker events. FX has employed Siegal in recent years to set up “tastemaker” events for such shows as “Trust” and “Feud.” Sources familiar with the situation said Siegal’s company was not on retainer with FX but used on a show by show basis. The heat surrounding the Epstein story makes it highly unlikely that she’ll be hired again by FX, according to multiple sources.
In addition, Siegal was dismissed from her oversight of the Aug. 12 New York premiere of Annapurna’s “Where’d You Go, Bernadette?” The film is being marketed and released by the Annapurna-MGM joint distribution venture United Artists Releasing.
“Over the years I invited him to attend a handful of my events. I did not know at the time — and did not learn until recently — that he had been abusing underage girls,” Siegal said of Epstein in a statement to Variety, sent shortly after this story published. “That just wasn’t common knowledge. Had I known that he had been accused of abusing underage girls, I would not have maintained a friendship with him. I am horrified as each of these women come forward and the accusations mount. I am deeply embarrassed by my relationship with him and that I allowed him to use me.”
Some studios don’t have to sever ties with the publicist because they have yet to engage her services. Summer tends to be a quieter period for Siegal, whose business heats up when Oscar season begins in the fall.
Studios sought out Siegal because of her ability to deliver awards-season voters and influencers to their premieres and screenings. She straddled the world of entertainment and high society, putting on functions that saw politicians, journalists, authors, society doyennes, and actors break bread together. At a Siegal event, it was not uncommon to see the likes of Gay Talese, Agnes Gund, Charles Cohen, and William Bratton mingling with Academy members like Bob Balaban and Timothee Chalamet while having cocktails at 21 Club, Michael’s, or any number of posh eateries. In return, Siegal charged as much as five figures to produce parties and functions.
Siegal, known for her aggressive style and relentless pursuit of business, is no longer the only game in town. The competition to be the preeminent awards season whisperer has intensified with the likes of Andrew Saffir and Darin Pfeiffer establishing themselves as major presences in the event organizing space. Special Projects’ Nicole Vecchiarelli and Andrea Oliveri are quickly gaining steam for their lists. They have produced screenings, openings, premieres and tastemaker events for A24, Warner Brothers, Starz, Amazon Studios and Scott Rudin Productions. They’re a new generation of event planners who can put together an intimate cocktail party for Town and Country but also spearhead Kanye West’s album listening party in Jackson Hole.
With so many options, Siegal wasn’t as much in demand as she once was. For instance, Warner Bros., Amazon, and Sony Pictures Classics currently have no events planned with Siegal. However, other studios privately said they are moving to cut ties with the publicist and that they didn’t expect to use her in the future. There are concerns that journalists and Siegal’s high society connections will be unwilling to attend events that she produces and that any coverage will note the publicist’s ties to Epstein, resulting in bad press for the movies and shows.
Cynthia Littleton contributed to this report.