Peter Jackson has confirmed what Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino have long feared, that Harvey Weinstein torpedoed their chances in Hollywood. Addressing the Weinstein allegations for the first time in a new interview, the director described the manipulation that allegedly went on behind the scenes of Lord of the Rings when Mirimax was initially involved in developing the trilogy. “I recall Miramax telling us they were a nightmare to work with and we should avoid them at all costs. This was probably in 1998. At the time, we had no reason to question what these guys were telling us,” he says. “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 and as a direct result their names were removed from our casting list.” Jackson claims he had “no direct experience or knowledge” of Weinstein’s alleged misconduct at that time.
Both Judd and Sorvino are among the dozens of women who have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct, each going on the record as part of the New York Times and New Yorker investigations. Upon reading Jackson’s comments, Judd and Sorvino have responded with little surprise. Sorvino tweeted, “Just seeing this after I awoke, 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 appears to support Jackson’s casting story, tweeting, “I remember this well.”
New Line ultimately took over production of Lord of the Rings (Mirimax retained a credit) after Weinstein allegedly threatened to remove Jackson as director if he didn’t condense the trilogy into one film. “Harvey said to [screenwriter] Fran [Walsh] and I, ‘You’ve got to make one movie, or I’m going to take it away from you,’” he recalled to Deadline in 2012. “Harvey gave us four weeks to [shop it to other studios as a trilogy], and then he was going to take it back and it would be the end of us.” Jackson now says he was put off for good by the Weinsteins’ behavior during that process: “My experience, when Miramax controlled the Lord of the Rings was of Weinstein and his brother [Bob] behaving like second-rate Mafia bullies. They weren’t the type of guys I wanted to work with — so I haven’t.” He added, “Movie making is much more fun when you work with nice people.” Jackson’s story comes days after Salma Hayek shared her own experience of Weinstein allegedly terrorizing her throughout the making of Frida, which he denied.
Update, 1:15 p.m.: Weinstein has responded to Jackson’s comments in a statement via his spokesperson claiming that he and his brother “had no input on the casting whatsoever” because Mirimax lost LOTR to New Line. He says he had no knowledge of Judd’s complaints and offered her future rules, including in Frida, and that Sorvino was “always considered for other films as well.” Weinstein also claims to have offered Sorvino’s husband a role on the History Channel show Six at her request this year, and allowed him to “amicably break his contact [sic]” when he received a better offer.
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.
While Bob and Harvey Weinstein were executive producers of the film they had no input into the casting whatsoever.
Secondly, until Ashley Judd wrote a piece for Variety two years ago, no one at the Company knew that she had a complaint and she was cast in two other films by Mr. Weinstein [“Frida” and “Crossing Over”] and Mira Sorvino was always considered for other films as well.
There was no indication that Mira Sorvino had any issues until Mr. Weinstein read about the complaints in the news.
As recently as this year, Mira Sorvino called Mr. Weinstein and asked if her husband could be part of the SEAL television series [Six] he was producing and Mr. Weinstein cast him; when Christopher Backus received a better offer, Mr. Weinstein allowed him to amicably break his contact to puruse the opportunity.
Update, 6 p.m.: Peter Jackson has responded to Harvey Weinstein’s rebuttal, and the Lord of the Rings director is holding his ground. Jackson told the Associated Press Friday evening that “aspects of Harvey’s denial are insincere,” and gave the AP the following statement on behalf of himself and producer Fran Walsh:
“We were immediately told by Miramax to steer clear of them, because they claimed to have had ‘bad experiences’ with these particular actresses in the past,” Jackson wrote. “We have no direct evidence linking Ashley and Mira’s allegations to our Lord of the Rings casting conversations of 20 years ago — but we stand by what we were told by Miramax when we raised both of their names, and we are recounting it accurately. If we were unwitting accomplices in harming their careers, Fran and I unreservedly apologize to both Ashley and Mira.”
In a series of tweets, Ashley Judd recalled prepping for the Lord of the Rings movies, then never heard from Jackson and Walsh again, without knowing why.