Friday night’s episode of “Frontline” centers on veteran Oscar guest Harvey Weinstein, who will be absent from Sunday’s ceremony. In October, the producer became only the second person ever to be expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts in Sciences, after The New York Times and The New Yorker alleged his long history of sexual harassment and assault. He is under police investigation in New York, Los Angeles, and London.
IndieWire got a sneak peek at the special, which follows yesterday’s news that Maria Contreras-Sweet and a group of investors will purchase the assets of Weinstein’s namesake company and start anew. It features interviews with six Weintein accusers, as well as Women in Film’s Los Angeles president Cathy Schulman, the journalists whose reports led to Weinstein’s downfall, and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, whose February 11 civil rights lawsuit against The Weinstein Company nearly thwarted Contreras-Sweet.
Here are the five biggest takeaways from the documentary.
1. A New Accuser
The “Frontline” special includes the first public account from a new Weinstein accuser, Suza Maher-Wilson. She is the second victim to come forward who worked on Weinstein’s first film, a 1981 slasher called “The Burning.” Following the wrap party, Maher-Wilson — who was 23 at the time — said Weinstein “lured her in [his hotel room] to give him a massage.” Maher-Wilson agreed, then Weinstein went to the bathroom, emerging in just a towel. “I just said, ‘I’m sorry, this isn’t what I signed on for,’ and I left,” she said.
2. At Least Two of Weinstein’s Executive Co-Workers Were Suspicious of His Behavior
Two of Weinstein’s senior-level studio colleagues appear on-camera to discuss how much they knew about their former boss’s reported sexual misconduct. Miramax’s former president of production Paul Webster (1995-1997) described joining the company as “making a deal with the devil,” and instantly becoming “enablers” in “the cult of Harvey.” Webster remembers Weinstein as a “serial womanizer” — “There’d be times when you’d be kicked out of the suite at the Savoy [in London] or the Peninsula hotel in LA, and he would entertain” — admitting that he would not even let his own assistant request answer Weinstein’s late-night hotel requests. “I think looking back that I did know, and I chose to suppress it,” Webster said.”
In his first interview, The Weinstein Company’s VP of physical production Tom Prince (2012-2015) called Weinstein a “dictator” who constantly frustrated him by insisting on flying in specific actresses for one- or two-day roles that locals could have easily filled. When Italian model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez filed a police report against Weinstein in 2015, Prince said, “I don’t think anyone was too surprised.”
3. Weinstein Raised Eyebrows By Asking Private Investigators to Dig Up Dirt on His Accusers
After Battilana Gutierrez told police that Weinstein groped her in Spring 2015 — then captured undercover audio where Weinstein seemed to agree — New York tabloids picked up the story. To discredit her, Weinstein enlisted the services of K2 Intelligence, a private investigative and security firm. A former K2 employee sat for a “Frontline” interview, on the condition that they conceal his identity. He called Weinstein’s mission “unusual” and something the company “probably wouldn’t take on if it was somebody else. Nobody likes to develop information on somebody who’s accusing a client of sexual misconduct. But Harvey Weinstein being Harvey Weinstein, exceptions were made.”
4. The New Yorker Could Have Had a Bombshell Weinstein Story 15 Years Sooner
The New Yorker published the first rape allegations against Weinstein this October. Yet Ken Auletta, a longtime columnist at the magazine, learned that Weinstein had been settling sexual harassment lawsuits while reporting his 2002 feature “Beauty and the Beast.” A recipient of one such settlement, Weinstein’s former assistant Zelda Perkins, said in the documentary that she believes she accidentally confirmed to Auletta by phone that she had signed an NDA (since broken) that prevented her from speaking out. During an in-person meeting, Auletta says he confronted Weinstein about Perkins. “[Weinstein] rose and he clenched his fists and he raised his shoulders” before he began shouting, Auletta recalled. “I thought he was going to throw a punch at me, so I stood up. And at that point, Harvey started to cry.” Weinstein swore that all relationships had been consensual, and that he wanted to keep his family intact. Unable to substantiate the settlement claims with on-the-record sources, The New Yorker abandoned that narrative thread until Ronan Farrow’s investigation.
5. Weinstein Threatened to Blackmail an amfAR Lawyer
A lawyer working for amfAR — an AIDS research charity long patronized by Weinstein — says the studio co-founder threatened him. When questions rose about the proceeds of two Weinstein-donated auction items, Ajamie was recruited to investigate. (The New York Times later reported that $600,000 was set aside for the American Repertory Theater, which hosted a run of Weinstein-produced “Finding Neverland.”) As he asked questions, Ajamie said people repeatedly volunteered — without proof — that Weinstein was a sexual predator. At a meeting Weinstein requested, he accused Ajamie of spreading rape rumors about him. “At some point he got very angry and said, ‘You better be careful, Tom,” Ajamie told “Frontline.” “Because I’ve investigated you, and you’re not so clean so be careful.”
“Weinstein” airs at 9pm ET/8pm CT on PBS.