The New York Times has just published a follow-up to last week’s bombshell report alleging that Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein has sexually harassed his employees and actresses seeking work for nearly three decades. This new article features detailed accounts from multiple well-known actresses alleging that Weinstein harassed them — including Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie.
“I had a bad experience with Harvey Weinstein in my youth, and as a result, chose never to work with him again and warn others when they did,” Jolie told the New York Times. “This behavior towards women in any field, any country is unacceptable.”
Paltrow’s statement is perhaps the most important for understanding the Weinstein story, because she has for so long been at the center of the Weinstein mythos. She is the first and most famous of what some industry observers have called “the Harvey Girls:” the mostly blonde, sometimes talented, and always beautiful young women on whom Weinstein has showered praise, attention, and industry connections over the years, before appearing to abruptly get bored, dropping them, and moving on to the next target.
It’s long been rumored that the so-called “Harvey Girls” are actually the victims of sexual harassment, with Weinstein leveraging his enormous social and professional power to demand sexual favors from young women whose careers he controls. And now, Paltrow’s statement would seem to confirm as much.
Paltrow told the New York Times that when she was 22 years old and just on the verge of breaking out, Weinstein hired her to star in Emma. Before shooting began, he had her agency send her a fax, scheduling a meeting between the two of them in Weinstein’s hotel suite. At the end of the meeting, Paltrow says, Weinstein invited her into his bedroom and asked her to massage him, putting his hands on her. (The massage line appears to be Weinstein’s go-to, judging from the other allegations made in the New York Times and the New Yorker.) Paltrow says she was stunned by the move — “I thought you were my Uncle Harvey,” she recalls thinking — and immediately left.
Paltrow says that at the time she was afraid that if she told anyone what Weinstein had done, she would be fired from Emma. She felt “vulnerable,” she said — and she was not wrong to have that worry. She was a relatively unknown starlet, and Weinstein was a major producer: He could ruin her. He had already allegedly torpedoed the careers of actresses more professionally accomplished than Paltrow was at the time. Mira Sorvino won an Oscar in 1996, but when she rejected Weinstein, she told the New Yorker, her career suffered. Now, Sorvino is no longer a household name. A woman would have to accumulate an enormous amount of institutional power to withstand the blackballing of Harvey Weinstein; she would need to be a legend, a Meryl Streep circa 2017, not a promising young starlet who hadn’t even managed to carry a prestige film yet.
Paltrow confided in only a few close friends and family members, including Brad Pitt, her boyfriend at the time. Pitt confronted Weinstein, instructing him never to come near Paltrow again — and Weinstein called Paltrow up in a fury.
“He screamed at me for a long time,” Paltrow told the New York Times. “It was brutal.”
Weinstein and Paltrow would go on to work successfully together for many years, culminating in Paltrow’s 1999 Oscar win for Shakespeare in Love, perhaps the peak of her career as an actress.
But for Paltrow to reach that peak, she had to work with a long-rumored serial predator who had targeted her. That was the demand that Harvey and the Hollywood machine made of her, and of countless other young women who followed in her footsteps.
The New York Times’ report includes accounts of harassment by Weinstein from five more women, including Rosanna Arquette. You can read it in full here.