“This won’t be political — in case you’re writing that down, Deadline Hollywood,” Harvey Weinstein said from the stage during his jam-packed London Film Festival keynote address this evening. But the mogul, fresh from a trip to Cannes to hype his company’s TV slate at MIPCOM, did make several politically charged comments during a wide-ranging speech and Q&A that touched on everything from Mitt Romney and fundraising for President Obama to criticizing government regulators, Google and Apple and piracy, and Hollywood studios over their penchant for remakes and sequels.
Suggesting that regulators are not being smart enough to deal with issues of consolidation — “Six companies will end up owning” a 500-channel universe, creating a “Central Bureau” with fewer content buyers — the Obama supporter said there was a need for “smart guys — like the ones who do Mitt Romney’s taxes.” He then riffed about the Republican presidential candidate’s lack of transparency when it comes to his 1040s. “Fourteen percent! How can he pay that? Why is he not showing 10 years of taxes?” Noting how Romney’s father made a dozen years of returns available when he ran for president, Weinstein said Romney the younger “doesn’t even listen to his dad.” And when a sports film journalist posed a question, Weinstein asided that he loved Clint Eastwood’s baseball movie Trouble With The Curve but couldn’t resist adding, “I don’t like Clint’s politics, but I love his movies. I love him, he’s just a little misplaced right now. Maybe they should have called it ‘Trouble With The Chair’.”
Weinstein also spoke out against piracy, saying companies like Apple and Google are “getting paid, not the actors” when pirated movie clips are readily available on the Internet and are doing the industry “a massive disservice.” He called for a summit meeting, saying, “I think after the election we need to rally filmmakers, content providers and musicians around the world as long as these companies [continue to make content available] under the guise of free Internet.” He also praised France and its strong anti-piracy laws. Former president Nicolas Sarkozy, “whatever you think about him”, was able to get the laws passed, he said. (François Hollande’s new government is considering relaxing those laws.)
A propos of preserving film heritage and “preserving our future,” Weinstein noted he had attended an Obama fundraiser last week and raised close to $5M. “We’re in a tough spot in a tough election but whether you’re Democrat or Republican, the way I feel is, be active, take a stand.” Addressing the largely British audience, he said, “Let’s not let the people who are making these wrong choices get away with it.”
The indie mogul also ran down a list of the biggest difficulties facing the film industry today:
— After noting piracy and consolidation, he talked about a lack of historical knowledge of film in Hollywood and showed a series of clips from films he referred to as “My year of memorable movies that I watched.” They included excerpts from works by such directors as John Ford, Howard Hawks, Charlie Chaplin, King Hu and John Huston. He showed a clip from Huston’s 1946 documentary Let There Be Light, and then a clip from Paul Thomas Anderson (and The Weinstein Co.’s) The Master, which Anderson used in homage to the earlier film. Praising The Master and Anderson’s talent, Weinstein said Martin Scorsese had once told him, “If Quentin Tarantino and I got married and had a baby, it would be Paul Thomas Anderson.”
— Of remakes and sequels, Weinstein hit at the studios, saying, “These companies make movies to make money. We too want to be profitable, but to do something worthwhile and innovative… I guess the studios figured out a they can have a lot of effects and pay actors money to say stupid stuff,” and it works. Then again, he joked, “There’s always the strong possibility that I’ll be selling out shortly.”
— Of his comments against violence in films after the Aurora, Colorado shooting during a Dark Knight Rises screening last July, Weinstein said he didn’t know how violence affects audiences but that he hoped by Sundance to put together a panel of people who study just that. “I have none of the answers and I’ve made some of the most violent movies ever… I can’t sit here and be hypocritical and [people will] say ‘Jesus, when did he get religion?’”