Film director Peter Jackson has admitted to blacklisting actors Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino in response to a “smear campaign” orchestrated by accused sexual predator Harvey Weinstein.
“I recall Miramax telling us they were a nightmare to work with and we should avoid them at all costs,” Jackson said, referencing the production company Weinstein ran with his brother Bob. As a direct result, he said, both women fell out of the running for parts in his Lord of the Rings series.
“At the time, we had no reason to question what these guys were telling us. But in hindsight, I realize that this was very likely the Miramax smear campaign in full swing. I now suspect we were fed false information about both of these talented women.”
His admission in an interview published on Thursday offers the latest glimpse into the Weinstein machine – the byzantine network of alleged enablers and informants, the gossip and threats Weinstein is accused of using to protect himself against sexual assault claims and punish those who rejected his advances.
Sorvino and Judd have both claimed they refused Weinstein’s pressure to have physical relationships, and Sorvino has said she felt “iced out” of the industry after rejecting his advances.
On seeing Jackson’s interview, Sorvino tweeted on Friday: “I burst out crying. There it is, confirmation that Harvey Weinstein derailed my career, something I suspected but was unsure. Thank you Peter Jackson for being honest. I’m just heartsick.”
Judd said, “I remember this well.”
Jackson denied knowing about sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein and said he has long since ceased to work with the Weinstein brothers because they acted like “second-rate mafia bullies”.
Although Jackson was, in the early 1990s, developing the Lord of the Rings series for Miramax, production eventually moved to New Line Cinema.
A spokesperson for Harvey Weinstein denied he and his brother, who were credited as executive producers on the series, had any input on casting choices.
“Mr Weinstein has nothing but the utmost respect for Peter Jackson. However, as Mr Jackson will probably remember, because Disney would not finance the Lord of the Rings, Miramax lost the project and all casting was done by New Line,” the spokesperson said in an email.
The spokesperson said Weinstein cast Judd for other films after Weinstein’s harassment was alleged to have occurred and “Sorvino was always considered for other films as well”.
Earlier this year, the spokesperson claimed, Sorvino asked Weinstein to cast her husband, Christopher Backus, in a television series.
The New York Times and the New Yorker previously reported that Weinstein cultivated a far-reaching network of entertainment professionals, spies, and media allies to help him deflect potential exposure or retaliate against the source of those threats.
Weinstein is alleged to have told multiple women he could enhance their careers or ruin them depending on how they responded to his sexual advances. One actor, Annabella Sciorra, has accused Weinstein of violently raping her and suspects him of ruining her reputation.
“From 1992, I didn’t work again until 1995,” she told the New Yorker. “I just kept getting this pushback of ‘We heard you were difficult; we heard this or that.’ I think that that was the Harvey machine.”
Darryl Hannah claimed she resisted Weinstein’s advances and experienced “instant repercussions”. After an international premiere of Kill Bill 2, she recalled to the magazine, a Miramax company place left without her, and her flights, stylists and accommodations were cancelled for another.
Also on Thursday, the New York police department announced it was opening an investigation into Russell Simmons, the rap mogul and founder of Def Jam Recordings, after multiple women accused the powerful music producer of rape and sexual assault.
Another accuser, Kelly Cutrone, a TV personality, author, and fashion publicist, emerged Friday morning. She claimed Simmons – who has denied previous rape allegations – tried to rape her and she escaped after a violent struggle.
“I remember running out the door and getting a cab and all I remember was that I got in a cab and I remember a feeling – which was so crazy – of, ‘Oh my god. Somebody just tried to rape me. What do I do?’” she told Page Six. “And then the energy of going to the police and pressing charges against him was overwhelming to me.”