In my latest column, I’m bemused how the media is waxing nostalgic for the Harvey Weinstein of old, pining for the brilliant bully of Miramax over the current Weinstein Co whiny bleater we’re now just getting to know. Not me. I revel in the knowledge that moguls rarely have second acts. (One of the many reasons Hollywood celebrated Harv’s Grindhouse bomb.) Nah, my enmity will last because I’m proud that Harvey used to spit my name, not say it. After all, I spent years reporting his despicable Oscar marketing behavior, detailing how he and his flacks-for-hire used to badmouth the competition, boink the Academy’s rules and just generally behave like thugs. And he’d try to lie his way out of every accusation. But not before lobbying whoever was my editor at the time to have me fired, pronto. Yet, here was Weinstein inconceivably making like my best friend on the phone the Monday after his Quentin Tarantino–Robert Rodriguez pic tanked on opening weekend. Even though I’d predicted that the film wouldn’t live up to The Weinstein Co.’s hype. Even though I’d also explained how New Harv had foolishly given the two directors a pass when it came to Grindhouse’s extreme indulgence, whereas Old Harv would have pounded both filmmakers into submission — all because he and his brother Bob had made their relationship with bankable Tarantino and Rodriguez the bedrock of their fledgling company’s financing. Despite the negative things I’d written, Harvey was friendly, almost deferential, to me on the other end of the receiver. Because his 2-year-old company needs every media friend it can co-opt. Among the things he told me was, starting with the upcoming Cannes Film Festival, “Now I have to go back to being Harvey.”
“Back to being Harvey”? Oh, God, no.
Back in 1999, Weinstein demanded my presence at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills to face his wrath over a New York Magazine Oscar column I’d written accusing him of using dirty tricks to ensure his Shakespeare in Love won Best Picture over Saving Private Ryan. (Of course, Weinstein had sicced his lawyers on the mag, which did its best to soften the piece nearly beyond recognition despite my threats to quit or go public.) Weinstein ordered me into a windowless room and, for the next 90 minutes, screamed at me nonstop. The scene had A Clockwork Orange surrealness to it, mostly because I sat mute with my sunglasses on indoors. Until he swore on the life of his children that he hadn’t done the things I’d reported. At which point, I erupted into guffaws, as did Mark Gill, then the West Coast president of Miramax. Weinstein looked at us both with daggers. “Why are you laughing?” he asked.
“Do you want to tell him?” I asked Gill.
“You see, Harvey, that was Mike Ovitz’s favorite phrase,” Gill explained. “Every time he said it, Hollywood knew he was lying.”
Finally, Weinstein placed his face three inches away from mine. “You think I’m all about money, don’t you?” he asked.
“No, Harvey,” I replied. “You used to be all about money. Now, you’re all about respect. And if you keep acting like this, you’re not going to get it. Trust me.”
With that, he dismissed me with a wave of his hand.
Meanwhile, it looks like New Harv is up to his Old Harv tricks: in response to that ridiculously benign New York Times story about the Weinsteins that was a veritable gift considering how badly things are going, The Weinstein Co.’s EVP/CFO insisted on having a cranky letter to the editor published.