Elizabeth and Suffragette producer Alison Owen has lifted the lid on working with Harvey Weinstein — highlighting the problems with challenging the disgraced movie mogul over rumors of his behavior.
Former Working Title exec Owen, who worked with Weinstein on five films during his days running Miramax and The Weinstein Company, was speaking on #Me Too: The Debate, a one-off UK panel show for Viacom’s Channel 5.
“I knew all the rumors and everybody in the [Weinstein Company] knew all the rumors as far as I could tell. I didn’t have first hand experience of anyone actually telling me a story about something that had happened to them or I would have taken some action, I think. When you just have these rumors floating around, it’s hard to know what to do and I’ve been asked before why people didn’t do anything and I think it’s because there’s no structure in place for anyone to do anything.”
Owen recently worked with Weinstein on Justin Chadwick’s historical drama Tulip Fever, on which Weinstein called her a “brilliant producer.” She also produced 2005’s Proof, starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Anthony Hopkins.
Owen, who now runs ITV-backed Monumental Pictures, added it was tough to report such rumors to UK police. “I couldn’t go to Islington police station and say ‘I heard a rumor that Weinstein made someone take a shower naked with him.’ They wouldn’t know what to do with that, all due respect to the police.”
The show, presented by BBC radio host Emma Barnett and produced by ITN Productions, featured a raft of figures from the entertainment business, politics and journalism to discuss the issues surrounding sexual harassment and the subsequent social media campaign.
She warned that the media previously had no interest in the claims because Weinstein had “all of the papers pretty much in his pocket.”
“It was only when his power reduced that the story came [out], the dynamic had changed. That’s where the #metoo campaign has been so fantastic because it harnesses the power of social media. Women are fed up of these guys not being punished by the police and courts and social media allows them to take power into their own hands and have power in the community.”
Owen, who previously labeled the former Miramax boss a “sleazeball,” also had a more personal connection to Weinstein’s actions. Her sister-in-law Laura Madden, who worked for Weinstein, had been “prodded” by Weinstein to give him massages at hotels in Dublin and London from 1991.
The panel debate was largely a positive affair. However, Daily Mail journalist Petronella Wyatt, famous for having an affair with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, controversially berated a number of victims of sexual abuse and rape who have come forward in recent weeks.
“If you’re going to make an allegation, make it in a police station. All this reeks of so much publicity. If you have been sexually assaulted, go to the police — end of story,” she said.
“Women want to have their cake and eat it. Women like to say that they’re the same as men… yet if a man in the workplace touches their knee they’re suddenly a quivering mess? I find it so patronizing,” she added.
However, her views were not shared by others on the program. Fledgling filmmaker Grace Campbell, who runs feminist film collective Disgracefool and has produced Brixton documentary Uprising and a political web comedy about Theresa May, called the #metoo campaign a “watershed moment” for women.
“My generation has grown up with the internet so that gives us a voice and we feel like we can use that power. However, I do think that if we want this to be a watershed moment we need to involve men in this conversation. A lot of men are unaware of actions that they’ve taken in their life,” she added.