Saturday’s edition of The New York Times has an explosive story spotlighting Harvey Weinstein in connection with that shocking Page Six federal sting operation. But did Harv tell the truth to the NYT? Because my research and interviews show that, despite Harv’s denials, Page Six editor Richard Johnson was attached to write a screenplay for Weinstein that would have been a remake of a 2000 French-made comedy of the social classes called Jet Set.
By now you must know the allegation is that a part-time contributor to the New York Post‘s Page Six tried to shake down L.A. billionaire Ron Burkle. Jared Paul Stern is supposedly captured on a surveillance video demanding a $100,000 payment and a $10,000 monthly stipend from Burkle in return for keeping nasty stuff about him out of the paper. But the NYT then moves from Burkle to Weinstein, reporting that “those who said they know what is on the tape said Mr. Stern named Harvey Weinstein, the co-founder of Miramax Films, … as among those who had finessed their coverage on the page. Though a spokesman, Mr. Weinstein flatly denied any improper relationship with the page and its main editor, Richard Johnson.”
The NYT went on to report: “Mr. Stern described three levels of ‘protection’ he could offer to Mr. Burkle, according to those with knowledge of what is captured on the tape. When Mr. Burkle pressed Mr. Stern to explain how this would work, Mr. Stern at first cited a few examples involving his boss, Mr. Johnson. He said, for example, that Mr. Johnson, his boss, had a ‘script deal’ with Mr. Weinstein — something Mr. Weinstein denied today. ‘The New York Post and Page Six have always been above board with our company,’ said a Weinstein company spokesman. ‘There was never any script deal.’”
But Harvey needs to explain this: I just did a little research and I found an interesting exchange between Weinstein and Johnson about a “script” — imagine that! –at a cocktail party Weinstein and his Miramax Books threw December 18, 2002. It was at the Four Seasons in New York City to toast the 11-week run of Rudy Giuliani’s Leadership on The New York Times Bestseller List. According to Women’s Wear Daily, which memorialized the gathering in a small report two days later, “the presence of Giuliani and the Miramax honcho’s recent spate of bad press notwithstanding, Weinstein couldn’t keep his mind off showbiz. ‘Where’s my script?’ he boomed to Page Six’s Richard Johnson, whom he encountered on the stairs.”
Ex-Miramax sources tell me Johnson was attached to write a remake of the French comedy Jet Set about a working class everyman who gets caught up in the fast-paced private world of the rich and famous (not about a gossip reporter). The hero disguises himself and infilrates the “jet set” of Paris in the hopes of enticing them to come to his failing bar outside the city. He succeeds in making his dive the new hip place and saving it from closing down. The project sat on Weinstein’s development slate for awhile, I’m told, and Miramax production execs specifically pondered what to do about Johnson’s involvement when the project was put in turnaround.
Some of this is also confirmed in Ken Auletta’s 2002 New Yorker profile of Harvey, “Beauty and the Beast”: “Weinstein got Richard Johnson, the editor of the Post‘s Page Six, to write a script for a movie, ‘Jet Set.’ The project stalled, and Johnson says, ‘I didn’t get a penny.’” But I maintain that would be a first, given common Hollywood screenplay deals where in every case the writer gets upfront money. Also, a companion consultancy deal could have been expected on this project because Johnson brought special knowledge to the high life subject matter.
What the NYT also does not report is that Weinstein’s Miramax Books did inexplicably sign up in 2003 and publish in 2005 Page Six staffer Paula Froelich’s underwhelming tome, It!: 9 Secrets of the Rich and Famous That’ll Take You to the Top.
Finally, Sunday’s NYT story about the surveillance tape has this additional detail on Stern: “Pausing to sip a drink, he adds: ‘Harvey Weinstein is pretty savvy…He has published books by about three Page Six people and had Richard working on a screenplay.’”
Meanwhile, the New York Daily News has more in its Sunday story. Oh, and don’t miss Saturday’s NY Post b.j. on Harvey in — where else? — Page Six!