Belfast Telegraph

Weinstein was abandoned by Hollywood, so why does it still lavish honours on Polanski?

The producer deserved his humiliation, but the double standard over a convicted child rapist stinks, says Gail Walker

Harvey Weinstein is under fire from Tinseltown, but not Roman Polanski
Harvey Weinstein is under fire from Tinseltown, but not Roman Polanski
Roman Polanski

There's hypocrisy. Then there's Hollywood hypocrisy, as Tinseltown throws producer Harvey Weinstein to the wolves with scores of actors confessing to knowing something about his bullying, sexual harassment and predatory behaviour. But not everything, of course. The bottom line is that, yes, Weinstein's harassment was a kind of open secret, but not the kind of open secret that, you know, you kind of do something about it.

No, it was a strange kind of open secret - a secret that somehow never reached the ears of Tinseltown's elite, or self-lauding liberal circles.

But now - thanks to the vulgar Press - Harvey has fallen like a despotic tyrant with his body metaphorically being strung up by the ankles while the once fawning millions mock and abuse the corpse.

As is the way of things these days, Weinstein is being airbrushed out of history. While he is still not subject to any legal proceedings at this stage - nor, indeed, is he likely to be, given the dwindling chances of a fair trial - he has been turfed out by the "Academy": "The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Board of Governors met today to discuss the allegations against Harvey Weinstein, and has voted well in excess of the required two-thirds majority to immediately expel him from the Academy. We do so not simply to separate ourselves from someone who does not merit the respect of his colleagues, but also to send a message that the era of wilful ignorance and shameful complicity in sexually predatory behaviour and workplace harassment in our industry is over. What's at issue here is a deeply troubling problem that has no place in our society. The Board continues to work to establish ethical standards of conduct that all Academy members will be expected to exemplify."

To borrow a cinematic term, let's spool back to the 2003 Oscars. A lionised Weinstein is king of the walk with four out of the five nominations for Best Picture. Alas, he wasn't to be the major talking point of the night. Cue Harrison Ford ripping open the envelope for the Best Director. And the winner is... Roman Polanski for The Pianist.

That Roman Polanski. The one convicted in 1977 of sexually assaulting 13-year-old Samantha Jane Gailey after inviting the model over to friend Jack Nicholson's house for a photoshoot for French Vogue, which he was guest editing.

Despite that, the cream of Hollywood rose in a standing ovation. But this was not just your common-or-garden standing ovation. It must have escaped their attention that Polanski was in exile because he had done a runner from justice following his conviction of raping a minor after feeding the girl Champagne and half a sedative tablet.

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As of today, Polanski remains a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. So much for those ethical standards of conduct.

So, let's get this straight. Legally unproven accusations against a film producer of sexual harassment? That's bad and merits expulsion. A straightforward conviction for the rape of a child? That's kind of okay. Or understandable. Or to be viewed in the context of the times.

Or some such garbage.

Knowledge of "open secrets" requires public beating of breasts and self-abasement. The crystal-clear, sure-fire knowledge of an indisputable fact? It seems that in the land of entertainment, gesture is the important thing and facts can just be ignored.

Now this is no defence of Weinstein. If even a hundredth of the allegations against him have any basis in fact, he deserves everything he gets.

But, by the same token, doesn't Polanski? In the light of Weinstein, has one of the mega-star actors (who quite frankly didn't need the work) who worked with Polanski since 1977 expressed any contrition or remorse for associating with a child rapist, affording him a cloak of artistic respectability? That kind of passed me by if they did.

What about the 138 leading cinematic luminaries (not to mention the support of writers and intellectuals) who signed a public letter protesting at Polanski being stopped in 2009 on his way to the Zurich Film Festival by Swiss authorities in connection with the US extradition attempt.

Anything? Anyone? Has the past fortnight not forced any of them to revisit previous opinions? To consider maybe, just maybe in some ways, parallels between the two cases?

Who is this about? "He just said very coldly, 'If you're not a big enough girl to have sex with me, you're not big enough to do the screen-test. I must sleep with every actress that I work with, that's how I get to know them, how I mould them'.''

It could be Weinstein. It could be Polanski. Actually, it's British actress Charlotte Lewis, describing what she claims Polanski said to her when she was just 16.

There are other allegations swirling around Polanski. And still Hollywood performs a very neat trick: wringing its hands over Harvey Weinstein and sitting on them over Roman Polanski.

Maybe it is because Weinstein was a mere suit and not a creative artist like Polanski. Maybe it is because Harvey has been exposed in the papers and not those tools of an uptight conservative establishment, the courts.

Or maybe it's because Hollywood is manned by moral morons.

Belfast Telegraph


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