When it comes to commitment to the #MeToo movement, actress Emma Thompson is putting her money where her mouth is.
Earlier this month, Thompson exited the forthcoming animated movie Luck after the production company Skydance hired John Lasseter to head up its animation department. Now, she’s made the letter explaining her reasoning available to the LA Times. “It feels very odd to me,” Thompson writes, “that you and your company would consider hiring someone with Mr. Lasseter’s pattern of misconduct given the present climate in which people with the kind of power that you have can reasonably be expected to step up to the plate.”
Lasseter was the former head of Pixar, but he was pushed out following multiple allegations of sexual harassment by women in the company. (Reports said his pattern of harassment was so entrenched that some women at Pixar had developed a go-to move they called “the Lasseter” to keep him from groping them.)
When Skydance hired Lasseter in January, higher-ups made a point of noting that he would be contractually obligated to behave appropriately. Lasseter himself apologized for his previous behavior at a company meeting, saying, “I’m not expecting anyone to forgive me in this room,” and then adding, “But I am asking for you to give me the chance” to prove himself.
Multiple women in the animation industry expressed their dismay at Skydance’s decision to hire Lasseter in the first place. Women in Animation president Marge Dean shared an open letter on Facebook, writing, “The announcement triggered in me the same feelings that I’ve had in abuse situations. Fundamentally, I felt disregarded and trivialized.” Mireille Soria, the chief of Paramount Animation (distributed by Skydance), told members of her staff that if Lasseter requested their help, they should not feel obligated to work with him.
Now, Thompson is adding her voice and her clout to the backlash. In her letter to Skydance, she lays out a series of questions: Why should Lasseter’s second chance come at the expense of the women who already work at Skydance? Why would any woman want to work for someone who is only refraining from groping them because he is contractually obligated to do so? “The message seems to be, ‘I am learning to feel respect for women so please be patient while I work on it. It’s not easy,’” Thompson writes.
Thompson adds that she was looking forward to working with Luck director Alessandro Carloni, and that she is sorry to walk away from the film. But, she concludes, she feels she did not have any choice in the matter.
“I am well aware that centuries of entitlement to women’s bodies whether they like it or not is not going to change overnight. Or in a year,” she adds. “But I am also aware that if people who have spoken out — like me — do not take this sort of a stand then things are very unlikely to change at anything like the pace required to protect my daughter’s generation.”