Long before Andrea Riseborough’s controversial campaign for “To Leslie,” there were the regularly questionable campaign dealings of one Harvey Weinstein. In one instance, Weinstein, who was a friend of the Clintons, even enlisted Bill Clinton’s help for one of the convicted rapist and former producer’s Oscar-nominated dramas.
In an excerpt of Michael Schulman’s “Oscar Wars: A History of Hollywood in Gold, Sweat, and Tears,” a former Miramax staffer revealed that mega-producer Harvey Weinstein called upon then-President Clinton to discuss how to promote Billy Bob Thornton’s “Sling Blade,” set in Clinton’s home state of Arkansas. The 1996 film landed Thornton an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, eventually winning Best Adapted Screenplay for the writer-director-star.
“I was so appalled that the president of the United States would spend half an hour with us on the phone,” the unnamed Miramax employee said. “I lost all respect for him well before Monica Lewinsky, because I could see how much access the Clintons were giving to Harvey.”
Weinstein requested Clinton give “tips on Thornton’s Oscar campaign,” per “Oscar Wars.” The Miramax founder was familiar with Clinton after becoming a fundraiser for the president and vacationing together in Martha’s Vineyard.
Later, during the “Shakespeare in Love” Academy Awards campaign in 1998, First Lady Hillary Clinton gave a 15-minute speech congratulating “my friend Harvey” before the film’s premiere. An advertisement for “Shakespeare in Love” also ran during Barbara Walters’ televised interview with Monica Lewinsky, and Weinstein used his friendship with the Clintons to deny claims of sandbagging the “Saving Private Ryan” Oscars campaign as a way to promote “Shakespeare in Love.”
“I called Steven [Spielberg] to congratulate him,” Weinstein said at the time. “I told Mrs. Clinton that the movie was a masterpiece and she should see it, and Mrs. Clinton has an aversion to films with violence.”
In 2020, amid Weinstein’s multiple charges of rape and assault, alleged victim Jessica Mann testified that Weinstein “loved to tell me that Bill Clinton was his neighbor” (via Page Six).
Mann added, “He’d talk about all this money he’d raise for big organizations. He had a story for most anyone in the world you asked him really, but the biggest one for me was Bill Clinton.”
The actress claimed that she witnessed Weinstein making calls to raise money for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. “When you’re raising that much money for that powerful of a person that you can just call them on your phone, they’re not going to want to deal with someone crying rape and ruining that,” Mann said.
Weinstein’s relationship with Clinton was brought up during the trial. Weinstein is currently serving multiple terms in jail for sexual assault. Clinton is alleged to have had ties to convicted sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, who died in his jail cell.
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