Editor’s Note: Harvey Weinstein is an occasional contributor to Deadline when he has something on his mind.
This has been an important week of debate and decision for our film 3 Generations. It began when we pushed back against the R-rating recommended by the MPAA, and has led to an impassioned plea from GLAAD about the necessity of accessibility for a film that can only bring understanding for a community that has seen more than its fair share of prejudice.
Along with our director Gaby Dellal and our producer Peter Saraf, I have been in active talks with Sarah Kate Ellis of GLAAD and the MPAA in determining the movie’s future. There’s a list of cuts and guidelines that need to be followed, but I find the company in a difficult spot sometimes. On the one hand, you want to do what’s right for the movie, but also what’s right for the community that needs films and projects like this one. In these situations, by working through Sarah and my friend Chad Griffin at the Human Rights Campaign, we are able to educate ourselves while, at the same time, help others. If we cut the movie, does it look like we gave in? This movie is intended for people 13+, which is why it deserves the PG-13 rating. Especially these days, it’s important to use our power as filmmakers, directors, executives and studios to give a platform to those who have really lived the stories we’re trying to tell; it is the joy of doing what we do.
I have been accused of being a heat-seeking publicity missile when it comes to the MPAA. That’s fine; I plead guilty, but with an explanation. We don’t protest unless the recommended rating will impact the accessibility of a socially important film. Two of our upcoming movies, Tulip Fever and Wind River, were given R ratings, and we accepted it. However, when we do a movie that touches on themes of social justice and believe that movie should be seen by children, we want the MPAA to exercise the same imperative they do in allowing so many action movies to receive a PG-13 rating and family films with questionable amounts of violence to be rated PG. This debate isn’t hurting anyone, and that’s what’s good about America. Writing articles about and bringing understanding to these issues is what movies have the ability to do.
We began our work with the LGBT community with Paris Is Burning. I was making a documentary with Madonna called Truth Or Dare at the time, and she urged me to see it. The energy, affection, and love I felt in that theater was one of the most heady and life-affirming experiences I’ve ever had. I grew up in a situation where our attitudes very often weren’t enlightened, influenced by prejudices endemic to the streets of New York. My father always told me and my brother a story about when he was in the army in WWII and got beaten up for being Jewish by a bunch of Southerners. It was the first time I understood what prejudice, i.e., anti-Semitism, was.
The Crying Game stands out as well; even then, my marketing of the movie was called “self-serving.” But that was not the case. I wanted a campaign that would excite audiences with the promise of a “twist,” so that they would go and have their attitudes changed in real-time alongside the ultimate “reveal.” Bully was another more recent example; jokes were made that I was the real “bully” towards the MPAA for yet again another unnecessary R-rating. But if fighting for kids to be able to see a film where their experiences are reflected back and validated, I’ll wear it as a badge of honor.
Do we think art truly can change things? There’s evidence for this belief: Just this past month, our collaboration with Jay-Z and Spike TV, Time: The Kalief Browder Story, led to unbelievable consequences. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio just announced that Riker’s Island Prison will be closing in the next five years. Along with this revelation came the announcement that the New York State Assembly voted to raise the minimum prison age from 16 to 18, so that minors will be given the opportunity of rehabilitation over imprisonment. Kalief, Oscar, Trayvon, Eric Garner, Michael Brown — they all paid a terrible, unjustifiable price for their present impact. But seeing the positive ramifications of their respective legacies only invigorates my desire to tell these kinds of stories.
I could write about the power of film forever, so I will return to what I am really trying to say. 3 Generations is an important story — not just as a vehicle of representation, but also as a genuine and heartfelt portrait of the contemporary family. What I love about the movie is its warmth. The vulnerable family at the center of it just feels so real. Susan Sarandon reminds me of my own wise-cracking, Jewish mom — right down to the red hair. I love the chemistry between these three fantastic actresses — I love that this film gives them so much room to interact, to joke and argue and get under each other’s skin in the only way family can. It was so important to everybody on the project that when teenagers see the film, they’ll relate to it as a kind of “snapshot” of their lives. It’s funny and heartbreaking, joyful and sad — but most importantly, real.
It is not my intent to slander the MPAA, but rather to present my point as clearly as I can. I’ve known Joan Graves for a long time; she’s whip-smart and excellent at her job — a worthy adversary. I trust that if we can compromise on certain aspects, she and her team will as well. I am happy that Joan and GLAAD have already gotten together to strategize. This isn’t about me, the so-called heat-seeking publicity missile — this is about a bigger fight for what’s right that is long overdue.
Recently, I watched Imitation Of Life on Turner Classic Movies for the first time in a while. I remember how that movie was a game-changer regarding how people thought about race relations. Of course, theaters in the South didn’t want to play it, but the studio held its own and didn’t give in. The same is true for movies like Gentleman’s Agreement, The Grapes Of Wrath, The Ox-Bow Incident, All Quiet On The Western Front, The Defiant Ones, Zola, Juarez, I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang and The Fury. Those filmmakers and studios didn’t back down, and today we must continue their fight. I am not alone in this, as so many of my colleagues whom I admire are using the power of film and art for a greater cause. It is a challenge, a responsibility and an honor that we have each accepted. Films like Milk, Moonlight, 12 Years A Slave, Miss Sloane, 13th — these films are furthering the conversation within communities and outside of our homes to lead to a greater understanding of each other.
With the LGBT community, Planned Parenthood, the NEA and so many other people and institutions under attack, we need to step up. We can lobby our local congressmen or we can be a part of making a movie or TV show that influences people’s attitudes and opinions. One of the things I’m most proud of is that the first film we acquired at The Weinstein Company was Transamerica and then we went on with movies like Sicko, CitizenFour, The Hunting Ground, Undefeated, 20 Feet From Stardom, The Tillman Story, The Imitation Game, Fruitvale Station, Mandela and more. 3 Generations is one I am proud to add to this list.
Films now more than ever can and need to help move us forward towards acceptance and inclusivity. That’s why I’ll never give up the fight.