Mark Tusk has (relatively) fond memories of Mir-Anon, the informal network of former employees of the indie powerhouse Miramax Film Corp. “When you weren’t feeling terrorized, the people you were meeting were extraordinary,” recalls Tusk, who worked as a vice-president of acquisitions for Miramax from 1988 to 1996. “And the glitz and glamour of the lifestyle would make you forget about the horrors.”
The name started as an in-joke: an abbreviation of Miramax Anonymous deliberately evoking recovery support groups like AA and Al-Anon. Beginning in the early ’90s, over long lunches and after-work drinks and pasta dinners at one another’s homes in Los Angeles and New York, members of the group would gather together to trade war stories about working for the Tribeca-based company’s legendarily temperamental co-founders/co-chairmen Harvey and Bob Weinstein, the duo behind the release of such acclaimed movies as Pulp Fiction and Sex, Lies, and Videotape.
They’d gossip about Bob’s abiding fixation with box-office grosses. Or they’d reminisce about that time Harvey threw a full soda can at a female executive. Or when he smashed the marble ashtray in a fit of pique and beat up his assistant. Or when Harvey threw a lit cigarette at Miramax exec (turned hit-making horror-movie producer) Jason Blum. But somewhere along the line — between when the brothers sold Miramax to Disney in 1993 and started the Weinstein Company in 2005 — the group evolved into something different: a forum for Weinstein-born post-traumatic stress.
“It started as a ‘Ha-ha,’ you find yourself hanging out with old colleagues and someone dubs it Mir-Anon,” says Tusk. “But as time went on, they made the gatherings more official. I think that stemmed from the West Coast office; the New York folks tended to take it more lightly. You’d hear, ‘Mir-Anon meeting Friday night.’ I guess it became a real support group.”
Six former Miramax and TWC executives who have participated in Mir-Anon gatherings talked about the experience to Vulture, describing themselves as closely bonded by a shared “trench warfare” experience. That is, the experience of working at a mini-major studio where daily humiliation, screaming tantrums, and relentless pressure from the Weinstein brothers could be counterbalanced by the glamour and prestige of the Oscar benediction the brothers courted so assiduously.
In the beginning, of course, Mir-Anon concerned itself with the shared remembrance of simpler things. “Harvey would have gnocchi on his shirt and eat it off his shirt. And there was this story about how a tuna fish sandwich came out of his sleeve,” recalls one former Miramax executive now employed in a prominent position at another studio.
But now, as disturbing allegations of sexual misconduct continue to pile up against Harvey Weinstein, with a staggering list of actresses and models coming forward to accuse him of rape, sexual harassment, and sexual assault, Mir-Anon has morphed into something else again. Enlarging to also encompass Weinstein Company employees past and present, it exists as a private Facebook group boasting 432 members and meets IRL semi-regularly, operating under a new (if not quite as fun-loving) name: the Miramax Alumni Association.
Every Miramax alum contacted by Vulture admits feeling aggrieved about what they say they didn’t know of their former boss’s alleged serial predation. “Did we know about the girls? Sure,” says one former TWC employee (who, like almost everyone interviewed for this story, wanted to uphold the “anonymous” part of Mir-Anon). “There were always girls around him at premieres, parties and stuff. But we thought it was consensual — like an aspiring actress wanting to get cast. We didn’t think he was doing anything illegal. We’re shocked by the rape.”
Back in the day, Harvey would convene business meetings at 11 p.m. or midnight that would last until 4 a.m. Even while regularly belittling and ridiculing those under his employ, the co-chairman made sure “everyone at the table had a voice no matter what your title was.”
“They were great about was finding smart, young people who were eager to get exposure, to have opportunity. There was a real esprit de corps camaraderie,” says another former employee from the early years of Miramax.
But Mir-Anon’s very existence speaks to the alpha energy of Harvey and Bob’s no-quarter corporate culture. Inside the office, competing factions aligned themselves behind the respective brothers. “There were definitely Harvey people and Bob people,” says Tusk, who is completing a manuscript detailing the glory years of Miramax titled You’ll Never Smoke Pot in This Town Again.
Speaking on background, another former Weinstein Company employee recalled an incident in which the elder Weinstein lived up to his longtime nickname “Harvey Scissorhands.” Taking “final cut” of a movie away from a director (in order to edit the film for theatrical distribution himself), Harvey brushed aside the director’s complaints with an email he dictated to his assistant while the rest of the office listened on in awe.
According to this source, Weinstein informed the director he would be featuring his note of complaint in a “Rizzoli coffee-table book” the studio boss said he planned to someday publish that would also include every message, letter, and missive Weinstein had received over the years from other directors similarly pleading to retain final cut on their movies.
Harvey’s sign off on the email: “Fuck you!”
In a recent interview with the New York Times, Jason Blum laid bare Harvey Weinstein’s cult of personality at Miramax, implicitly providing a rationale for the existence of a group like Mir-Anon. “He bullied me, he threw a lit cigarette at me,” Blum said. “And I tried to hide that it happened, trying to protect him. I mean, it was very, very abusive. When he called, you would go into a sweat. Every time he called, I was terrified. And wherever I was, from the time I was under that contract, I was never free. I went into cognitive therapy after I was there 12 months, because I had depression.”
Many members — former assistants and publicists; marketing, acquisitions, and development executives — have gone on to illustrious careers across Hollywood, drawing upon the thick skins and fight-or-flight reflexes they developed working for the Weinsteins. They tend not to call themselves “members” of Mir-Anon, pointing out the meetings were structured more along the lines of funky college reunions than as some kind of recovery group.
Over the intervening decades, the issue of sexual misconduct seldom came up at the gatherings, members say, and when it did, whatever was said stayed within Mir-Anon. “We all knew he was a cheater and heard these stories. But we didn’t go out and tell the world he was a cheater. It wasn’t our place to out him as a cheater. So we would share these sorts of stories amongst ourselves,” the early Miramax executive says.
Recent meetings have been dominated by talk of Harvey’s criminal accusations. An event for the group, touted as an “Ex-Max Reunion,” took place at an upscale Tiki bar in Hollywood on November 2. About two dozen people — overwhelmingly Caucasian, two-thirds male, all middle-aged — gathered to drink fanciful drinks with names like the Banana Boo Loo and Pearl Diver. A blond man sold blue T-shirts emblazoned with the company’s logo across the chest: “Miramax Films: When That Meant Something…Else.”
But even as Miramax alumni agonize about whether they could have done more to identify and prevent that alleged misbehavior, they’ve been comparing notes about what they knew about the former chairman’s rumored sexual predilections — specifically, claims he forcibly performed oral sex on several women, including actress-filmmaker Asia Argento and actress Dominique Huett.
“I never thought Harvey could have an erection,” says a former Miramax employee who has gone on to become a successful movie producer (and declined to be identified for fear of jeopardizing ongoing business relationships). “I thought there were ‘issues’ with him. I always heard rumors that he went down on [women]. That that was his thing. I thought it was a power thing. It made him feel good to get them. But I didn’t think he had sex with them. I didn’t think he could get it up.”
And at a time when Hollywood is still struggling to make sense of Harvey’s (and to a lesser extent, Bob’s) alleged misconduct, some Mir-Anon and Miramax alumni members have come to understand the founders’ bullying ways within the larger cultural context of ’90s New York.
“Not to make light of any of it, but it was a different time,” says a former Miramax executive. “Like, tough, old-school movie business stuff. You get in trouble for that behavior now. But there was also that horrible behavior in New York when you hear all these crazy stories from Wall Street with the Gordon Gekko kind of thing? In the early ’90s, there was an analogous path in New York between the movie business and the high-living, spend-a-lot-of-money bad behavior.”
Adds Tusk: “We spent a lot more time discussing whether Harvey had tuna fish or ketchup on his shirt than the stuff that’s coming out now.”