Eye on England

Weinstein: Godsend for British dailies

By AMIT ROY
  • Published 15.10.17
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Weinstein: Godsend for British dailies

CENTRE OF ATTRACTION: Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein; (above) Uma Thurman

In many years of reporting the Cannes Film Festival, which the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein has always attended, I have never actually met him "one-on-one" (as Hrithik Roshan would say).

However, I have always been aware of his swaggering presence and was once at a party where he was the centre of attention.

The allegations that Weinstein sexually assaulted numerous women over decades has shocked the British media, with the Daily Mail last Wednesday putting the story ("Hollywood's Darkest Day") on page one, with a picture of the alleged predator alongside Gwyneth Paltrow.

Inside, Pages 4 and 5 ("Weinstein's wife leaves him") were given over to the scandal, as were Pages 6 and 7 ("Naked but for dressing, demanding sex acts and massages").

So, too were Pages 8 and 9 ("Victim who wore police wire - and caught predator admitting how he groped her").

Plus Pages 10 and 11 ("Cuddling up to Harvey: photos that make uncomfortable viewing for so many leading ladies).

Not forgetting the paper's columnist Sarah Vine ("Weinstein's vile. But the silence of Hollywood's women helped him get away with it") on Pages 19 and 20.

In all, the paper needed 40 photographs of Hollywood lovelies to express its shock.

There is a hint that this movie mogul had or had tried to have his wicked way with everyone from Sharon Stone to Angelina Jolie, Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep, Cameron Diaz, Uma Thurman, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Emma Watson, Kate Hudson, Scarlett Johansson, Kate Winslett, Keira Knightley, Jessica Parker, Jennifer Lawrence, Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsale and many others.

If truth be told, even though his alleged offences are horrific, Weinstein has proved a godsend for British newspapers. And what a relief he has provided after Brexit.

Their cup of happiness overflowed with the discovery of a "local angle" - Scotland Yard will investigate whether any of Weinstein's sexual assaults has taken place in London.

Cannes party

• There is an unwritten rule that what happens in Cannes stays in Cannes. At parties, women invariably targeted Harvey Weinstein, who has always been treated like royalty by the festival authorities.

I have seen a lot of Weinstein at press conferences and on the red carpet because many of his films premiered at Cannes.

One balmy evening in May 2000, Srichand (SP) Hinduja, who has long had a villa in Cannes, drove me and a colleague, Nigel Reynolds, arts correspondent of The Daily Telegraph, to an after party following the premiere of The Golden Bowl.

This had been made by James Ivory and Ismail Merchant and starred Uma Thurman. They were all there as was Arundhati Roy, who was on the Cannes jury that year.

When SP (who had ambitions of making a movie himself one day) attempted to say hello to Weinstein, the American snubbed him. Embarrassed to see SP's humiliation, I somehow let the American group know who SP was. Weinstein dismissed SP with a brief handshake and without turning round to face him. His behaviour seemed boorish in the extreme.

Ismail was embarrassed for another reason. He had provided Indian food but not enough of it. The French, discovering something so delicious, cleaned him out in 30 minutes. I remember Ismail, who was to become a good friend, was kind enough to save a solitary chicken drumstick for me.

Father's girl

IN DADDY’S FOOTSTEPS: Jade Nina Sarkhel

• Udit Sarkhel, a close friend and the best Bengali chef in London, died suddenly, aged 53, on February 8, 2012, while on a visit to Calcutta - and barely 24 hours after the death of his own father.

Talent is clearly in the DNA because Udit's daughter, Jade Nina Sarkhel, a professional "food photographer", will be on a sentimental journey to Calcutta from October 21-26. She is going to source local ingredients, cook some of her father's recipes she has discovered for a book that never got completed and photograph them - as well as some local restaurants.

One recipe is for "Maacher jhol with aubergines, cauliflower and potatoes", I am told by Jade, who admits she does not speak Bengali but loves luchis.

Her dad's diary reveals when it comes to Maacher jhol , "the one my grandma taught my mother was by far the best!"

Jade has found the diary also contains notes on "the preparation of shorshe bata maach and bhapa maach paturi" and why ilish is not eaten out of season.

Tittle tattle

• In the last few days, I have consulted filmy friends in LA, who say they are not surprised by the Weinstein story but had not realised the extent of his alleged transgressions. They added that the casting couch was much more prevalent 20 years ago. One said he was very cautious and "never" had solo meetings with actresses "what with mobile camera phones and audio available these days. It would be the ultimate irony when Hollywood makes a film about Harvey Weinstein."