It’s October. It’s an election year. So Harvey Weinstein, as usual, is full of surprises.
On Thursday night, he joined Broadway impresario Jordan Roth in dropping his latest reveal: Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda is writing an original musical number for a Monday night Hillary Clinton fundraiser at the St. James Theatre in New York.
Who will perform it? “His piece will be him, and it will grow to include a wider community, around our theme, Stronger Together,” said Weinstein, who had just emerged from rehearsals with Bernadette Peters. She’s got one of ten acts that will get their run-through with Weinstein, Roth and other producers over the next few days. Billy Crystal will host. Julia Roberts will do a reading. Everybody is supposed to deliver something new, or a new twist on something familiar. “That was Jordan’s idea, and I strongly approved,” said Weinstein, who let slip what might be the night’s biggest surprise: On-stage Trump-bashing is discouraged.
“We’re not going to have any of that,” insisted Weinstein, whose contribution to the the current mean season, apparently, will be a shower of sweetness and light for Clinton.
Neither she nor her husband is currently set to attend the fundraiser, though Roth and Weinstein refused to rule out a surprise appearance alongside daughter Chelsea, who is on the program. Whether the 99 percent can look in on the Clinton-friendly fun is yet to be determined—some sort of video hook-up is under review. But the first order of business, Roth and Weinstein said, is to organize the show, and to sell the remaining upper-end tickets, which go for $10,000 a pop. (Cheap seats in the 1,710-capacity theater, at $45 each, are gone.)
Weinstein has almost always been good for late-breaking campaign antics, some more vibrant than others. In 2000, he dropped into the Bush-Gore race with an all-star show for the Gore-Lieberman ticket at Radio City Music Hall on Sept. 14. Co-produced with Jann Wenner of Rolling Stone and John Sykes of VH1, that one featured performances by Jimmy Buffett; Bette Midler; Crosby, Stills and Nash; Lenny Kravitz; Sheryl Crow; and Jon Bon Jovi, among others. A production that grand could only be called The Concert. In August, Buffett had already joined Carly Simon at a breezier Weinstein bash for Hillary Clinton, then running for the Senate, on Martha’s Vineyard. “Carly spoke and sang and then introduced a new song called Hillary, which seemed to have only one word in it,” complained former Republican National Committee general counsel Jan Witold Baran, who had the bad luck to be renting next door, according to the New York Times.
But that wasn’t the end of it. On Nov. 6, a day before the election, Weinstein rounded up the likes of Glenn Close, Ben Affleck, and Robert De Niro for an 11th hour blitz on Miami. Things got intense. Local law enforcement wouldn’t let Gore’s motorcade leave until Weinstein’s starrier bunch drove out.
Footage of the go-round wound up in Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11—an anti-Bush documentary that was originally supposed to be an October surprise in 2004. After showing in Cannes, the film was set for Oct. 4 release by Weinstein’s Miramax, then a Disney unit. But Michael Eisner, the Disney CEO, scotched it, instead selling rights to Harvey and his brother Bob, who released it in June under a deal with Lionsgate. A week after the election, Weinstein and Moore were already plotting a sequel to be called Fahrenheit 9/11 ½; but Eisner landed the next surprise, pushing the Weinsteins out of Miramax, and into a company of their own.
The 2008 election was a little calmer, after the part in May, where Weinstein, then a Clinton supporter, told House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that he might cut contributions to Congressional Democrats if she didn’t back his plan to finance new votes in disputed Florida and Michigan primaries. But by October 16, no great surprise, Weinstein was lined up behind Barack Obama, as co-host, with Anna Wintour and others, of a Bruce Springsteen-Billy Joel benefit at the 2,200-seat Hammerstein Ballroom, where the lounge tickets went for $10,000 each.
More fun by far was 2012. That year, Weinstein hired Meghan O’Hara, a producer who had worked with Moore on Fahrenheit 9/11, to stitch news clips of Obama into John Stockwell’s SEAL Team Six: The Raid On Osama Bin Laden, which was set for a prime-time debut on the National Geographic Channel on Nov. 4, two days before the election, and a release by Netflix the next day. Political opponents cried foul. “Justice has been done,” said Obama, on-screen, in the campaign’s climactic Weinstein moment.
As to whether Weinstein will drop another surprise before Nov. 8, you can pretty much count on it. “It’ll be a separate announcement,” he said on Thursday.
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