Actress Ashley Judd has filed a lawsuit against disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein alleging that her career was negatively impacted because of Harvey’s blackball tactics after she refused his sexual advances. One major witness on Ashley’s behalf will be director Peter Jackson, who says that he wanted to cast her in a prominent role in his Lord of the Rings trilogy, but he changed his mind after Harvey informed him that Ashley was a “nightmare” who should be avoided “at all costs.”
“Ashley is fighting back, but she also wants to point the way for others,” her lead attorney Theodore J. Boutrous Jr. said in an interview.
The case is a groundbreaking one because Ashley was not a direct employee of Harvey Weinstein and because it is seeking damages for sexual harassment that are beyond the physical and emotional harm usually associated with the crime. Of course, the case is also a difficult one because it will require Ashley’s legal team to draw a concise cause-and-effect between Harvey’s alleged behavior towards their client and a negative impact on her career. Peter Jackson’s testimony and Ashley not getting a role in his hugely successful Tolkein trilogy will go a long ways towards helping them make that connection.
But, losing a role in The Lord of the Rings is just one of the negative effects of Harvey’s blackball campaign against Ashley Judd, according to the lawsuit. “Weinstein’s wrongful and outrageous conduct has not just deprived Ms. Judd of the specific opportunity to play a prominent role in a blockbuster film trilogy; it has had a long-lasting ripple effect on her whole career,” reads the complaint. “No person — in whatever job, in whatever industry — should have to forfeit professional aspirations and the right to earn a living to the abusive whims of the powerful.”
Ashley’s attorney pulls no punches as he calls out Harvey for his actions: “The pathetic reality, however, was that Weinstein was retaliating against Ms. Judd for rejecting his sexual demands approximately one year earlier, when he cornered her in a hotel room under the guise of discussing business,” writes Boutrous. “A self-described ‘benevolent dictator’ who has bragged that ‘I can be scary,’ Weinstein used his power in the entertainment industry to damage Ms. Judd’s reputation and limit her ability to find work.”
The alleged incident between Ashley Judd and Harvey Weinstein that started it all took place in the mid-1990s, about a year before The Lord of the Rings began production. Harvey invited Ashley to breakfast, and when she arrived at his hotel lobby, she was surprised to learn that the meeting would take place in his suite. From The New York Times:
Mr. Weinstein soon issued invitation after invitation, she said. Could he give her a massage? When she refused, he suggested a shoulder rub. She rejected that too, she recalled. He steered her toward a closet, asking her to help pick out his clothing for the day, and then toward the bathroom. Would she watch him take a shower? she remembered him saying.
“I said no, a lot of ways, a lot of times, and he always came back at me with some new ask,” Ms. Judd said. “It was all this bargaining, this coercive bargaining.”
To get out of the room, she said, she quipped that if Mr. Weinstein wanted to touch her, she would first have to win an Oscar in one of his movies. She recalled feeling “panicky, trapped,” she said in the interview. “There’s a lot on the line, the cachet that came with Miramax.”
The lawsuit mentions other instances of Harvey Weinstein’s career-damaging tactics, including actresses Mira Sorvino and Annabella Sciorra.
Mira shared a nearly identical story to Ashley’s with The New Yorker, claiming that Harvey Weinstein chased her around a hotel room at a music festival in 1995.
From the lawsuit filing:
Weinstein made false statements of fact about Ms. Sorvino to others in the film industry to punish her and damage her career. These comments included, but were not limited to, statements made to Mr. Jackson and Ms. Walsh in a private business meeting that Ms. Sorvino was “a nightmare to work with.”
Annabella Sciorra’s story went further as she alleges that she was raped by Weinstein in the 1990s. “She believes she did not work from 1992 to 1995 because the ‘Harvey machine’ spread a baseless rumor that she was ‘difficult,’” reads the complaint.
Other actresses’ accounts specifically mentioned in the complaint include Salma Hayek and Uma Thurman.
Ashley Judd issued a statement regarding the lawsuit and reveals that “financial recuperation will be donated to the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, so that women and men in all professions may have legal redress for sexual harassment, economic retaliation and damage to their careers.”
Meanwhile, Harvey Weinstein’s spokesman released a statement in response to the lawsuit completely denying all of the allegations and citing the fact that Ashley starred in two more Weinstein movies:
The most basic investigation of the facts will reveal that Mr. Weinstein neither defamed Ms. Judd nor ever interfered with Ms. Judd’s career, and instead not only championed her work but also repeatedly approved her casting for two of his movies over the next decade. The actual facts will show that Mr. Weinstein was widely known for having fought for Ms. Judd as his first choice for the lead role in Good Will Hunting and, in fact, arranged for Ms. Judd to fly to New York to be considered for the role. Thereafter, Ms. Judd was hired for not one, but two of Mr. Weinstein’s movies, Frida in 2002 and Crossing Over with Harrison Ford in 2009. We look forward to a vigorous defense of these claims.
Here is the full lawsuit filed by Ashley Judd against Harvey Weinstein in PDF format: