The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said today its Board Of Governors will meet this weekend to discuss “any actions warranted” against Harvey Weinstein, the subject of several exposés detailing decades of alleged sexual harassment and abuse against women. The Oscar organizers also condemned Weinstein as part of a statement:
“The Academy finds the conduct described in the allegations against Harvey Weinstein to be repugnant, abhorrent, and antithetical to the high standards of the Academy and the creative community it represents. The Board of Governors will be holding a special meeting on Saturday, October 14, to discuss the allegations against Weinstein and any actions warranted by the Academy.”
Weinstein won the 1998 Best Picture Oscar as producer of Shakespeare In Love. He was also personally nominated for 2002’s Gangs of New York. Of course Miramax and later The Weinstein Company had other Best Picture winners The English Patient, The King’s Speech and The Artist.
Earlier today, the UK’s film body the British Academy of Film and Television Arts suspended Weinstein’s membership “in light of recent very serious allegations,” the org said. BAFTA has informed the embattled producer that the suspension is effective immediately. Another favorite Weinstein haunt, the Cannes Film Festival, also made a strong statement today.
In terms of the Motion Picture Academy, however, stripping someone’s membership after they have been involved in a scandal like this is largely unprecedented. Roman Polanski would lead the list of Oscar winners who remain in good stead with the Academy. In fact, long after Polanski was charged with raping a 13-year-old girl in the 1970s, he was awarded an Oscar for Best Director in 2003 for The Pianist, ironically beating Rob Marshall, who had been the favorite for directing another of Miramax’s Best Picture winners, Chicago. Polanski still cannot come back to the U.S. or face arrest and jail time for skipping out of the country during that case.
During the scandal that surrounded two-time Oscar winner Mel Gibson, and which turned him for several years into the kind of industry pariah Weinstein finds himself being labeled as now, there was no action taken by the Academy; he remains a member and actually received a Best Director nomination for Hacksaw Ridge earlier this year. Similarly other scandal-affected Oscar winners like Ingrid Bergman and Charlie Chaplin did not see their Academy standing change at the time, even though there were calls from Congress for their banishment from the U.S. and both were driven overseas for several years. In both cases, as with Polanski, they were honored with Oscars after the outrage died down. Past or current scandals around others like TV stars Bill Cosby and Robert Blake have not resulted in any action by the Television Academy, for which I served on the board for six years.
As one Academy member told me this morning, action to kick someone out of the Academy usually revolves around something they have done that breaks Academy rules and guidelines — usually about campaign regulations. 13 Hours Best Sound nominee Greg P. Russell was stripped of his nomination earlier this year due to campaign violations, as was composer Bruce Broughton a few years ago when it was revealed he had broken the rules in promoting his song “Alone Yet Not Alone.”
The most prevalent of that sort of thing happened after I reported Nicholas Chartier, producer of the 2009 Best Picture nominee The Hurt Locker, had been sending emails to voters urging them to vote for his movie over another nominee, Avatar. After my reports appeared in the Los Angeles Times where I was working at the time, he was stripped of his Oscar tickets and not allowed to attend the show. His film won, and he was quietly presented his Oscar weeks later after meeting with then-Academy president Tom Sherak.
In the heat of the seemingly never-ending Weinstein scandal, calls have been building from the National Organization for Women and other groups targeting the Academy specifically to banish Weinstein from the group. There has been wild speculation in some trade reports that perhaps his Shakespeare In Love Best Picture Oscar could be taken from him, or his nominations for that film and Gangs Of New York could be taken back all these years later. That kind of move would be highly unlikely, but the mere mention of it reflects the nature of hysteria that has gripped this town around this story.
The Academy’s statement today calling the Weinstein allegations “repugnant, abhorrent, and antithetical to the high standards of the Academy” is strong indeed and would suggest they may feel pressure to take some sort of action beyond that. It could be a slippery slope. In so doing are they setting Weinstein apart from, say, Gibson or Polanski to name two? Where does it stop and what kind of precedent is the Academy willing to set when they gather for an emergency meeting Saturday? Stay tuned.