Harvey Weinstein’s Los Angeles trial made headlines earlier this week as it got underway, with the convicted rapist’s defense team completely dismissing the #MeToo movement in its opening statement.
But the women behind upcoming film “She Said” — which follows New York Times journalists Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan) and Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan) as they investigate and eventually expose Weinstein’s decades of abuse, unleashing the #MeToo movement — are hoping the movie, which premieres on Nov. 18, reminds viewers “what really happened.”
“As reporters, we can never tell what the verdict will be. But part of why we’re so appreciative of this film is that it takes us back to the beginning,” Kantor told Variety on the red carpet at the Women in Film Honors on Thursday night, where “She Said” received the Crystal Award for Advocacy. “That’s why we wrote our book, because we felt that the story belonged to everybody, and we wanted you there with us on the first hushed phone calls or at the moment when Weinstein burst into The New York Times with very little warning. And so regardless of the outcome of this trial, we do feel that at least journalistically, Weinstein has been held accountable and we’re so grateful to Carey and to everybody who worked on the film, because we feel like you’re helping others — and us — remember what really happened.”
When it came to embodying Twohey, Mulligan admitted that she was intimidated at first.
“After the first Zoom, I rang up Zoe and I was like, ‘Uhhh, I hope she likes me!’ I was very nervous. But we got to be in New York together for a couple of weeks, we spent so much time together, and then I literally went through the script line by line and was like, ‘How did you feel in this scene with [former legal adviser to Weinstein] Lanny Davis? What was this moment like?'” Mulligan told Variety. “It’s the most incredible resource to have your subject with you and to be able to guide you, so I just felt very lucky the whole time, and daunted by the prospect, but just really bolstered by Megan and Jodi’s support through all of it.”
Twohey added, “I will confess I was a little self-conscious when Carey and I met and I realized that she was studying me as she prepared for the role. … This film doesn’t just depict my professional life, but also my personal life … including my postpartum depression. Carey spent a lot of time with me, she studied me so closely and in the end, I could see all of that research expressed and just felt so grateful for that care.”
The cast of “She Said” also features several Weinstein survivors, including Sarah Ann Masse, who was on hand at the Women in Film Honors. Masse, who plays journalist Emily Steel, told Variety that her experience in the pic was both empowering and healing.
“It was the meeting of worlds because before I was a survivor, I was an actor. This is what I do — I’m an actor, I’m a writer, I’m a filmmaker — and it’s all I want to do, I love it. And that has been taken away from me in some ways through me speaking out and through the abuse that I faced,” Masse said. “So getting the opportunity to be in this film was really healing for me. You know, I earned my way into it — they gave me the opportunity to audition and I got the job, and that’s such a great moment to have, especially after the past couple of years.”
Inside the event, attendees were treated to panel conversations with the “She Said” stars and subjects, as well as fellow Crystal Award recipients Gina Prince-Bythewood, Quinta Brunson, Olivia Wilde and Katie Silberman. Lili Reinhart received the Max Mara Face of the Future Award, and Jane Fonda presented her eponymous humanitarian award to Michaela Coel, delivering an impassioned speech about how Coel’s work has impacted her.
“‘I May Destroy You’ is not what we have come to expect from a series that deals with sexual assault,” Fonda said. “The show is about friendship, community, facing the truth, dealing with very difficult emotions and traumatic life experience that most people just want to shut away in a box and not even think about again. But instead, Michaela took a deep, hard look at what happened and then set it out for the whole world to see.”
Fonda continued, “I haven’t met her. I know she’s a brave woman though; she seems willing to jeopardize safety and being accepted for truth and transparency. I don’t know if you consider that humanitarian. I don’t even know what humanitarian means. It sounds too nice to me. Ruckus-raising … it should be the Jane Fonda Ruckus-Raising Award. But what Michaela writes, the way she writes and her values may just be the kinds of things that are going to save the world if there’s any saving it.”
Though Coel could not be at the event in-person, she wrote Fonda a heartfelt letter, which Lake Bell read aloud to Fonda.
“Jane Fonda, you are one of the few people on our planet who makes bodies across generational, racial, geographical lines pulsate with admiration at the mere mention of your name,” Coel wrote. “You so generously posted about ‘I May Destroy You’ in 2020, and your recognition did so much for its global reach and more for my mum’s sense of pride in me than anything I could have ever done, and for that I can never repay you.”
Coel’s letter continued, “I want to be a part of what serves you, of what gives you a feeling of enrichment and betterment, whether it be through laughter, pain or my own reality. Through serving my pain, I seem to have served yours, and I am in turn served by my stories serving you. It is a strange, beautiful and cosmic dance between us. Please know that I am full and nourished in this dance and I pray to God, to you, that it continues.”