Paul Feldsher, a former film producer, Miramax consultant and longtime friend at various points to both Annabella Sciorra and Harvey Weinstein, testified under subpoena in Weinstein’s rape trial Thursday that Sciorra drank alcohol and used prescription sedatives well before what he says the actress once referred to as merely a “crazy” sexual encounter with Weinstein.
Called to testify by Weinstein’s defense in an apparent attempt to discredit the actress’ previous testimony that her drinking and drug problems started after she was raped by Weinstein, Feldsher, a former ICM agent, presented a fairly unflattering depiction of the woman he once considered a very close friend.
Although acknowledging that he and Sciorra haven’t been in touch for seven years, Feldsher said he still cares about the actress and considers her a friend, then said that Sciorra used to joke about taking sedatives and that she’d once described the early 1990s encounter she’d later call rape as merely “a crazy thing” she’d done with Weinstein.
“My understanding was that she fooled around with him,” Feldsher said, dismissing Sciorra’s allegation that she was forced into sex by Weinstein.
Earlier in this New York Supreme Court trial, which began January 6, Sciorra tearfully told jurors that Weinstein raped her at her Manhattan apartment in late 1993 or early 1994. Though Sciorra’s allegations are not part of this trial per se, her testimony, along with that of several other women, is being presented by prosecutors to help establish Weinstein’s pattern of sexual assault to bolster the cases of the trial’s two primary accusers, Jessica Mann and Miriam Haley.
Feldsher met Sciorra when the actress was working on the 1992 film The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, which also starred Feldsher’s ICM client Rebecca De Mornay. The former agent, who says he now occasionally writes but is mostly a stay-at-home dad, became close friends with Sciorra, often traveling together and staying in each other’s apartments when visiting either coast (Feldsher was based in New York, Sciorra in L.A.).
Feldsher later worked as a producer or exec producer on such 1990s-2000s Miramax films as The Four Feathers and Get Over It.
Feldsher said he was testifying only because he’d been subpoenaed by Weinstein’s defense, but his professed reluctance didn’t stop the prosecution from a lacerating round of questions designed to depict Feldsher as a toadying Weinstein hanger-on who in 2017 was paid $60,000 for four weeks’ work on the film The Upside. (Feldsher said he was brought in by Weinstein to act as a “grim reaper” and slash the film’s budget.)
Reading from text messages Feldsher sent to Weinstein after the former Miramax mogul was accused of multiple instances of sexual misconduct, the prosecution grilled the witness about a text that read “the dogpile of actresses who are suddenly ‘brave’ recalling suppressed memories is hideous.”
Lead prosecutor Joan Illuzzi also presented a text in which Feldsher wrote to Weinstein, “Unless and until you make some kind of confession or are proven legally guilty, I will continue to be the controversial-cum-inappropriate person who defends you.”
Except for a few-month period in early 2017 when he and Weinstein had a falling out over money — a dispute over the amount Feldsher was owed for a six-week consultation on The Upside, which the two sides ultimately settled as a $60,000 four-week job — Feldsher said he has been a longtime friend of Weinstein and that the two have been in constant touch since the resolution of The Upside dispute.
Asked to describe his feelings for Weinstein since the sex scandal broke, Feldsher said, “Somebody I knew was in trouble and I was speaking to him largely because no one else was. I felt badly that he was completely abandoned. I felt badly that it was very difficult for him to receive due process.”
In another text message to Weinstein, dated November 1 2018, Feldsher said he believed “there’s likely a bunch of truth to the claim that you became like a cad and more,” and that the mogul’s “appetite” for movies and “girls” was “voracious.” Feldsher stated repeatedly, both in past texts to Weinstein and on the stand today, that he did not believe the rape allegations, although he conceded Weinstein is a “sex addict.”
“If a lot of these girls had been my daughter I would have wanted to beat the shit out of you,” Feldsher texted Weinstein. Still, in texts he dismissed his old friend Sciorra as “a liar,” and, referring to her account of the incident with Weinstein, said “the rape version got her an agent at CAA, so there’s that.”
Under cross-examination, Feldsher admitted that he had no information to back up that claim.
Asked whether he ever called Sciorra “a liar” in texts to Weinstein, and whether he lied about telling Weinstein that Sciorra had spoken more than once to him about the disputed early 1990s encounter, Feldsher said, “I’ll take responsibility for all the texts.”
“Did you say Annabella is an asshole?,” asked prosecutor Illuzzi.
“But you say you still care about her?”
“I think that both could be true for a lot of people,” he said, “but yes.”
Her voice growing louder, Illuzzi asked, “Were you saying things that Harvey Weinstein wanted to hear?”
“Yes,” said Feldsher.
“And that’s what you’re doing today, aren’t you sir? Aren’t you saying things in the courtroom that you think Harvey Weinstein wants to hear?”
Responded Feldsher, “Categorically no.”
Following the prosecution’s aggressive cross-examination, Weinstein attorney Donna Rotunno handed the witness a courtroom equivalent of warm tea. Pointing out that Feldsher had been subpoenaed, Rotunno asked, “You didn’t want to come here, is that fair to say?”
“That,” said Feldsher, “would be so much more than fair to say.”
Weinstein’s defense attorneys will continue presenting witnesses Friday morning, with director Warren Leight expected to testify. Best known for his work on TV’s Law & Order franchise, Leight will be questioned about his experience directing Sciorra in the 1993 film The Night We Never Met, and whether the actress’ on-set behavior supports her recent claims that her drinking and drug abuse problems started only after her alleged rape by Weinstein.
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