Since world-famous movie producer Harvey Weinstein was accused of sexual misconduct on a massive scale, many other stories have come out about the man and the system of which he was a part. One of these tales involves an altercation between Weinstein and Beverly Hills, 90210 actor Jason Priestley. And in December 2017 Priestley explained what happened between the pair to apparently provoke his ire.
The conversation came up after news hit that Weinstein may have blacklisted actresses in the industry. And while this claim remains unproven, it nevertheless got people talking. For instance, actress Tara Strong wrote on Twitter that she feared her friend Priestley may have been blacklisted as a result of his fight with the producer.
In his response to Strong, Priestley then explained the whole incident from his point of view. The clash had occurred, the actor had said, at a 1995 Golden Globes party hosted by Miramax – the company created by Weinstein and his brother. And for those speaking out against sexual misconduct in Hollywood, the story may have been rather cathartic.
Back when the alleged fight had reportedly taken place, Priestley was a bona fide heartthrob, having risen to fame as Beverly Hills, 90210’s Brandon Walsh – the part for which he’s arguably best still known. But Priestley wasn’t just a star of the show; he was also one of its executive producers.
These days, meanwhile, Priestley stars as the main character in Canadian series Private Eyes. And he has 127,000 followers on Twitter, too, which means that an awful lot of people may have been reading his remarks about Weinstein.
By the time that Priestley spoke up, however, Weinstein had already been subject to several allegations of sexual harassment and worse. These stories in turn triggered a tsunami of further accusations of wrongdoing, with a number of high-profile stars coming out to share their own tales of Weinstein’s alleged sexual misconduct.
Those who spoke out against Weinstein included Cate Blanchett, Uma Thurman and Lupita Nyong’o, to name just a few. And although the shamed producer denied all suggestions of sexual abuse, he did indicate that he had acted improperly. “I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it,” Weinstein said in a 2017 statement.
It also transpired that Weinstein wanted to sue The New York Times – one of the newspapers that had published the allegations against him. One of the mogul’s lawyers, Charles Harder, revealed as much to The Hollywood Reporter at around the same time Weinstein released his own statement. The New York Times article accusing Weinstein, Harder said, was “saturated with false and defamatory statements.”
But the New York Times was by far the only publication to have made disturbing claims about Weinstein. In October 2017, for instance, The New Yorker unveiled a piece in which three women accused the Hollywood professional of rape. Yet the producer apparently professed his innocence in regard to this matter. “Any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein,” a spokeswoman said at the time.
Nevertheless, Weinstein faced some very public ramifications. The board of his company sacked him, for instance, while the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences rescinded his membership. Former U.S. President Barack Obama also condemned the man. And Weinstein’s wife, Georgina Chapman, left him, too, saying that she was now focused on the couple’s children.
Then in May 2018 Weinstein was apprehended in New York for the alleged crimes of “rape, criminal sex act, sex abuse and sexual misconduct for incidents involving two separate women.” He was later charged but made bail on the conditions that he both gave up his passport and wore an ankle monitor. And Weinstein would probably plead not guilty in the end, his lawyer announced.
However, in among the reports of sexual abuse, there were also accusations of Weinstein being violent towards men. A month after the initial wave of allegations, Titanic director James Cameron claimed, for instance, that he had actually gotten into a physical fight with Weinstein at the Oscars in May 1998.
On the night in question, Cameron’s Titanic had picked up 11 awards. But the celebrations were apparently marred by an argument with Weinstein that is said to have quickly escalated. According to Cameron, the quarrel concerned Cameron’s fellow director Guillermo del Toro and his dissatisfaction over working with Weinstein on the film Mimic.
Indeed, Del Toro has gone on to speak about his dislike of Weinstein. “My first American experience was almost my last because it was with the Weinsteins and Miramax,” he said at the BFI London Film Festival in 2017. “I have got to tell you, two horrible things happened in the late ’90s: my father was kidnapped, and I worked with the Weinsteins. I know which one was worse… the kidnapping made more sense.”
And Cameron’s exchange with Weinstein had turned physical, the filmmaker said. “I remember almost getting in a fight with Harvey Weinstein and hitting him with my Oscar,” he told Vanity Fair in November 2017. “The people around us were saying, ‘Not here! Not here!’ Like it was okay to fight in the parking lot, you know, but it was not okay there when the music was playing and they were about to go live.”
Plus, it was claimed that Weinstein was involved in blacklisting people from Hollywood – something not beyond the realms of possibility for the powerful producer. British actor Robert Lindsay, to give one example, wrote on Twitter that his career had been ruined by Weinstein after he stood up for Molly Ringwald on the set of Strike It Rich.
But one of the most alarming assertions of blacklisting came by way of The Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson. In an explosive 2017 interview with Stuff, Jackson contended that Weinstein and his brother had acted like “second-rate Mafia bullies” while he had been trying to get his movies made.
All Lord of the Rings production had been under the hand of Miramax before it was eventually passed to New Line. And according to Jackson, Weinstein had at one point even threatened to fire him. “They weren’t the type of guys I wanted to work with,” the director added of the Weinstein brothers.
Yet although all three Lord of the Rings movies turned out to be huge hits, Jackson suggested that Weinstein couldn’t lay much claim to that success. “Although [Weinstein’s] name had to be on the Lord of the Rings credits for contractual reasons, he was not involved in the movies we ended up making,” the filmmaker said.
Nonetheless, Weinstein is suggested to have had his hand in casting the trilogy. You see, when Jackson had first been looking for actresses to portray characters in the Lord of the Rings movies, Weinstein reportedly told him not to hire Mira Sorvino or Ashley Judd. As it happens, these two actresses would later make their own allegations against Weinstein.
Jackson maintained, “I recall Miramax telling us [that Sorvino and Judd] were a nightmare to work with and we should avoid them at all costs. At the time, we had no reason to question what these guys were telling us. But in hindsight, I realize that this was very likely the Miramax smear campaign in full swing. I now suspect we were fed false information about both of these talented women.”
And after Jackson’s words were made public, Sorvino tweeted, “I burst out crying. There it is, confirmation that Harvey Weinstein derailed my career – something I suspected but was unsure. Thank you, Peter Jackson, for being honest. I’m just heartsick.” Judd, on the other hand, simply tweeted, “I remember this well.”
Yet again, however, Weinstein was quick to deny Jackson’s assertions. “As Peter Jackson explained in his own statement, Bob and Harvey Weinstein had nothing to do with The Lord of the Rings,” he said via a spokesperson. “If Ashley Judd said she was in conversations with Mr. Jackson and reviewed sketches, it was under New Line, which had casting authority – not Miramax.”
In fact, it was insisted that Weinstein had done nothing to derail Judd’s career. “Around the time of Rings, Mr. Weinstein cast Ms. Judd in Frida and, years later, in Crossing Over. Miramax had flown Ashley to New York for casting discussions and to meet the production team for Good Will Hunting,” the spokesperson said.
The suggestion that Weinstein had curtailed Sorvino’s Hollywood prospects was denied, too. “Mr. Weinstein did not blacklist Mira Sorvino and was in fact working with her during the timeframe in question on Mimic, the Guillermo Del Toro film,” the statement continued. “Also during that time, she was dating Quentin Tarantino, who was the foundation and backbone of Miramax.”
The message went on to refer to Jackson’s Lord of the Rings prequels. “After the success of The Lord of the Rings, Peter Jackson was so powerful he could have cast anyone he wanted in The Hobbit. Neither Ms. Judd nor Ms. Sorvino had roles in the film,” the spokesperson said. “Mr. Weinstein continues to admire Mr. Jackson for his creative genius, but he firmly denies these accusations.”
Jackson later responded to the statement via Deadline. “Aspects of Harvey’s denial are insincere. He is basically saying, ‘This blacklisting couldn’t be true because New Line cast the movie.’ That’s a deflection from the truth,” he said. “In the 18 months we developed The Lord of the Rings at Miramax, we had many casting conversations with Harvey Weinstein, Bob Weinstein and their executives.”
And Jackson went on to talk about the casting process and how Judd and Sorvino had both been considered for parts in the trilogy. “In fact, we met with Ashley and discussed two possible roles with her,” he said. “After this meeting, we were told by Miramax to steer clear of both Ashley and Mira because they claimed to have had ‘bad experiences’ with these particular actresses in the past.”
As a consequence, then, when The Lord of the Rings went to New Line, the two actresses under discussion weren’t approached for roles. “Because we had been warned off Ashley and Mira by Miramax, and we were naive enough to assume we’d been told the truth, [my partner] Fran and I did not raise their names in New Line casting conversations,” Jackson said.
And Jackson’s allegations naturally sparked speculation about which other stars Weinstein may have blacklisted. Tara Strong brought Priestley into the story with her reply to Sorvino’s “Thank you, Peter Jackson, for being honest” tweet. “Heartbreaking… wouldn’t be surprised if this happened to my good friend @Jason_Priestley who punched Weinstein in the face at a club one night. Go Jay,” she wrote.
Needless to say, that tweet piqued people’s curiosity, and Priestley explained it all via his Twitter account. “Of course, there is more to the story… ’95 Golden Globes… at the Miramax Party… Harvey told me I had to leave,” he wrote. “I was leaving when he grabbed me by the arm and said, ‘What are you doing?’ I said, ‘You told me [to] leave, [so] I’m leaving.’”
Priestley then alleged that the pair had moved from words to a physical fight. He wrote, “‘I didn’t say you had to leave,’ [Weinstein] replied. ‘You just told me to leave… right over there,’ I tell him once again. Getting heated now. He then grabs me tighter and says, ‘Why don’t we go outside and talk about this?’ That was all I needed to hear.”
The actor continued the story, writing, “‘I’m not going anywhere with you,’ I said as I pushed [Weinstein] back and punched him with a right hand to his face. Suddenly, there were security guards pulling us apart, and I was escorted out of the party.” And the claim that there had been an altercation sparked such interest that Priestley ultimately spoke about the alleged incident to Entertainment Tonight.
In that interview, Priestley told the show that he didn’t actually know who Weinstein was when he hit him. “I didn’t find out until the next morning when I read the paper,” he said in 2017. “I just knew that there was this big bully at this party who was not a nice guy and then asked me to step outside. That was my experience with him.”
Priestley asserted, too, that Strong had “pulled” him into the conversation as she had already known about the incident. “Because my experience had become the topic of conversation in that Twitterverse, I felt it was just time for me to set the record straight about what had actually occurred with [Weinstein] on that night,” he revealed.
And Entertainment Tonight also asked Priestley about his thoughts on the sexual misconduct crisis in Hollywood. “Bad behavior is bad behavior, and bullying is bullying, and harassment is harassment. Regardless of your distinction in life, those types of behavior should not be tolerated at any time,” the actor said. “And I think that the more that all of us in society stop accepting those types of behavior, the sooner those types of behaviors will stop.”
Society does indeed appear to have undergone a shift since Weinstein was accused. For instance, the fallout from the allegations against the producer gave a voice to the “#MeToo” movement, in which people spoke publicly about sexual discrimination, harassment and abuse that they had suffered. And the reckoning that resulted has seemingly led to the downfall of other famous figures.
Indeed, since #MeToo took off, many people in positions of power have been accused of sexual abuse. These have included several men within the entertainment industry, including Kevin Spacey, Brett Ratner and Louis C.K. Spacey was subsequently indicted with a felony in December 2018, although he pleaded not guilty to the charge the following year.
Meanwhile, since the allegations about Weinstein were made public, the disgraced producer is said to have been hit again – although this time by a member of the public. A man who gave his name only as “Steve” reportedly struck Weinstein in a Scottsdale restaurant in January 2018 while telling him, “You f**king abuse women. Get the f**k out of here.”
And Priestley was praised on Twitter for the punch that he’d delivered back in 1995 – even though he hadn’t known who he was hitting at the time. Now, of course, everyone knows who Weinstein is, although it remains to be seen whether he is found guilty of the charges brought against him in a court of law.