Ashley Judd Is Suing Harvey Weinstein For Defamation & Sexual Harassment
On Monday, April 30, The Hollywood Reporter reported that Ashley Judd is suing Harvey Weinstein for defamation and sexual harassment. Judd and her attorney Theodore Boutrous Jr. also announced the lawsuit via Twitter and they both publicly posted a link to the legal complaint. According to the paperwork, the lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Monday and the full list of Judd's claims against Weinstein include "defamation, sexual harassment, intentional interference with prospective economic advantage, and unfair competition."
A spokesperson for Mr. Weinstein provided the following statement to Bustle:
“The most basic investigation of the facts will reveal that Mr. Weinstein neither defamed Ms. Judd nor ever interfered with Ms. Judd’s career, and instead not only championed her work but also repeatedly approved her casting for two of his movies over the next decade. The actual facts will show that Mr. Weinstein was widely known for having fought for Ms. Judd as his first choice for the lead role in Good Will Hunting and, in fact, arranged for Ms. Judd to fly to New York to be considered for the role. Thereafter, Ms. Judd was hired for not one, but two of Mr. Weinstein’s movies, ‘Frida’ in 2002 and ‘Crossing Over’ with Harrison Ford in 2009. We look forward to a vigorous defense of these claims.”
According to the lawsuit, Judd alleged that Weinstein cost her a role in the Lord of the Rings trilogy by reportedly speaking negatively of her to director Peter Jackson. Judd claimed that she and Jackson were in talks about the LOTR movies before Weinstein allegedly told Jackson that she "was a 'nightmare' to work with and should be avoided 'at all costs,'" the lawsuit detailed.
These claims align with a December 2017 interview with New Zealand's Stuff in which Jackson claimed that Weinstein and Miramax orchestrated a "smear campaign" against Judd and actor Mira Sorvino, who has also accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct.
"I recall Miramax telling us they were a nightmare to work with and we should avoid them at all costs. This was probably in 1998," Jackson told Stuff. "I now suspect we were fed false information about both of these talented women — and as a direct result, their names were removed from our casting list."
Weinstein denied the claims that he blacklisted the two actors. In December 2017, a spokesperson for Weinstein issued the following statement to Bustle in regards to Jackson's claims:
"As Peter Jackson explained in his own statement, Bob and Harvey Weinstein had nothing to do with 'Lord of the Rings.'
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. Miramax never provided sketches to anyone.
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." While Ashley was the top choice for Miramax and Mr. Weinstein, the role went to Minnie Driver, who was the star and director's preference. Minnie did a brilliant job and he believes Ashley would have as well.
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. Also during that time, she was dating Quentin Tarantino, who was the foundation and backbone of Miramax.
At the time in question, no one could have blacklisted or derailed the career of Ms. Sorvino, who had recently won both an Academy and a Golden Globe award and was being courted for leading roles by all seven studios and every major broadcast network.
After the success of "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.
Mr. Weinstein continues to admire Mr. Jackson for his creative genius, but he firmly denies these accusations."
On Dec. 15, 2017, Jackson refuted Weinstein's denial in a statement to Deadline:
"We have no direct evidence linking Ashley and Mira’s allegations to our Lord of the Rings casting conversations of 20 years ago – but we stand by what we were told by Miramax when we raised both of their names, and we are recounting it accurately.
If we were unwitting accomplices in harming their careers, Fran and I unreservedly apologise to both Ashley and Mira."
In Judd's lawsuit, her attorney detailed a claim that Weinstein's reported badmouthing is because she refused his alleged "sexual demands" in a hotel room. Boutrous wrote the following in the lawsuit:
"The pathetic reality, however, was that Weinstein was retaliating against Ms. Judd for rejecting his sexual demands approximately one year earlier, when he cornered her in a hotel room under the guise of discussing business. A self-described 'benevolent dictator' who has bragged that 'I can be scary,' Weinstein used his power in the entertainment industry to damage Ms. Judd's reputation and limit her ability to find work."
The actor explained in her tweet about the lawsuit that she is suing Weinstein for "for economic remedy due to damage done to my career as a result of sexual harassment." She added in the tweet that "financial recuperation" will be given to the Time's Up Legal Defense Fund to help others who encounter sexual harassment in the workplace.
Back in October 2017, Judd shared her allegations against Weinstein with The New York Times. Judd claimed that Weinstein invited her to his hotel room, and alleged that he made inappropriate requests about a massage and having her watch him shower. In a statement provided to Bustle in October, Weinstein's lawyer Lisa Bloom said:
"Harvey Weinstein and I have had many wide ranging conversations over the last year about rumors and allegations against him. He denies many of the accusations as patently false. Nevertheless, I have explained to him that due to the power difference between a major studio head like him and most others in the industry, whatever his motives, some of his words and behaviors can be perceived as inappropriate, even intimidating."
Judd's lawsuit against Weinstein states that "no person — in whatever job, in whatever industry — should have to forfeit professional aspirations and the right to earn a living to the abusive whims of the powerful." While Judd's account is heartbreaking, it's comforting to know that organizations like Time's Up are working to stop situations like this from happening in the future.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit online.rainn.org.