Heat on Academy to kick out Weinstein

Elite Oscar club stands at precipice

By Brooks Barnes
  • Published 15.10.17
Harvey Weinstein

Beverly Hills, Oct. 14: Ninety years ago, Louis B. Mayer created an elite club that would become the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Membership, granted for life, quickly turned into the ultimate indicator of status - moviedom's equivalent of the mob's "made man".

Off-screen malfeasance mattered not. Perhaps contributing to the film industry's willingness to tolerate sexual harassment, bullying, drug abuse and worse, the academy has long insisted that professional achievement is what counts.

But the academy stands at a precipice. Harvey Weinstein could change everything.

The academy's 54-member board is scheduled to meet at the group's mirrored-glass offices here to discuss what to do about Weinstein in the wake of revelations of sexual harassment and rape allegations against him going back decades.

Options include doing nothing (possible), revoking his membership (as the British Academy of Film and Television Arts did on Wednesday) and even nullifying the best-picture Oscar Weinstein won in 1999 for producing Shakespeare in Love (unlikely).

The emergency academy meeting comes as people are fleeing the New York-based studio Weinstein helped found. A fourth member of the Weinstein Company's all-male board, Richard Koenigsberg, resigned on Thursday as talk of bankruptcy swirled.

The creative forces behind the musical In the Heights, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara A. Hudes, publicly called on the Weinstein Company to relinquish its movie adaptation rights. Apple ended plans for a Weinstein-produced series about Elvis Presley.

Late Friday, Amazon decided not to move forward with a Weinstein-produced mafia series from David O. Russell that had previously received a two-season commitment and was estimated to cost $160 million.

Weinstein, who was fired by his company on Sunday, has responded to allegations of sexual misconduct with a mix of contrition and combativeness. He is contesting his firing and has emphatically denied all allegations of rape.

Only one person is known to have been permanently pushed out of the academy. Carmine Caridi, a character actor, had his membership revoked in 2004 for violating an academy rule involving Oscar voting. He got caught lending DVD screeners of contending films; copies ended up online.

Even so, many people in Hollywood think the academy only has one option when it comes to Weinstein: kick him out.

"The idea that anyone would give him a second chance or entertain that notion that he can change is beyond absurd," Terry Press, the president of CBS Films, wrote on Facebook of Weinstein. "If the academy does not kick him out, I am resigning my academy membership."

But ousting Weinstein would put the academy on a slippery slope, said Martin Kaplan, the director of the Norman Lear Center for the study of entertainment and society at the University of Southern California. "It would move them into adjudicating behaviour," Kaplan said. "There are plenty of other members with a history of abominable off-screen actions. What kind of bad behaviour counts and what doesn't? What is the red line?"'

New York Times News Service