Hollywood Firms Behind Time’s Up Also Did Business With Alleged Sex Abusers
An effigy of film producer Harvey Weinstein is burned during a fireworks display at Edenbridge Bonfire Night on November 4, 2017 in Edenbridge, England. Each year the Edenbridge Bonfire Society creates a 'Celebrity Guy' effigy of an infamous public figure which is burnt during the annual bonfire night celebrations. (Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
The 90th annual Oscars ceremony kicks off this Sunday. And, as Hollywood prepares for its closeup, there's no doubt going to be a bit of heartburn beneath the gowns and tuxedos of those hoping to put some distance between the industry and a cascade of sex abuse scandals.
This week the street artists Plastic Jesus and Joshua “Ginger” Monroe unveiled a life size sidewalk sculpture of a corpulent Harvey Weinstein lounging on a gold casting couch in a shall we say, skin- revealing bathrobe - all but daring passersby to slide in beside him.
The piece was installed at the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and La Brea Avenue, a 5-minute stroll from the Dolby Theatre where the awards ceremony will be held.
Actress Rose McGowan was among the first to go public with allegations of sexual abuse by the movie mogul Weinstein. Many people in Hollywood knew of Weinstein’s behavior, but did not speak up. Some even protected him.
That’s why McGowan is openly questioning the sincerity of the Time’s Up Now campaign when it’s endorsed by certain celebrities and industry executives .
She didn’t mince words about the Creative Artists Agency during that appearance either. CAA is one of the biggest talent managers in Hollywood. Name the box office star and there’s a good chance they are currently or have been a CAA client.
Some CAA agents are alleged to have known of Weinstein’s predatory ways but continued to steer young actresses in his direction for private, one-on-one meetings.
Now CAA is instrumental in helping organize the Time’s Up campaign through its philanthropic arm and a steering group of A-list actresses, agents and other public figures.
“The intentions are good. But I know the people behind it you know,” McGowan said. “It’s four CAA agents who needed good PR, and I hope desperately that they help these women.”
The California Report reached out to CAA and eventually one of the executive involved in the Time’s Up effort agreed to talk as long as she wasn't quoted directly.
She said the small group of female CAA executives was inspired by the Me Too movement and wanted to use their clout and connections to create a mechanism where victims of sexual abuse and harassment can find support and justice. And they want to stop such misconduct in the future. And not just in Hollywood, but across a wide swath of industries, professions and institutions.
To that end CAA banded together with a core group of fellow female executives from two powerful Hollywood public relations firms, Sunshine Sachs and 42 West, to help launch Time’s Up in January.
All three firms have also done businesses with Harvey Weinstein or his company at one time or another. And there were other clients whose names have surfaced as alleged abusers as well.
But as numerous people pointed out during interviews for this story, Hollywood is a pretty small ‘factory town.’ And the air is even more rarefied at the upper tiers of the business where one might find oneself representing, working for or with the likes of a Harvey Weinstein.
“Well in terms of real clout, it’s a small community and people pretty much know each other,” says Kim Masters, editor-at-large at The Hollywood Reporter. She’s reported on the film and TV industry for nearly 30 years.
“A lot of people were looking at CAA especially, because so many of the stars who were in Harvey Weinstein movies, were CAA clients,” Masters said. “There was a feeling that there was a pipeline between Harvey and CAA. I also think they know what good PR is, and this (Time’s Up) is good PR.”
CAA’s involvement with Time’s Up fits with the 43-year old company’s years-long tradition of philanthropy and championing a range of social causes.
It established a philanthropic arm, the CAA Foundation led by the agency’s Chief Innovation Officer Michelle Kydd Lee, and the foundation helped kick start a multi-million dollar Time’s Up legal defense fund to benefit less privileged women outside the entertainment industry who’ve been sexually assaulted and harassed.
But Masters says CAA and the two PR firms involved in the effort may also have other motivations; the bottom-line for one. The sex abuse cases roiling Hollywood are bad for businesses.
“I think CAA felt quite vulnerable because of that and they wanted to somewhat wrap themselves around the #MeToomovement," Masters said. "And I think the other (talent) agencies look at them kind of with a little bit of an eye roll and say; ‘really CAA? Are you really so up in this cause, or is this a business proposition at the same time’?
Sunshine, a powerful show businesses publicist who’s also represented Barbara Streisand, Ben Affleck and the Michael Jackson estate, was later accused of launching a media smear campaign against the woman, a charge he’s denied.
One of those executive agreed to talk, but she too did not want to be quoted directly. She said the firms involved prefer to put the focus on the celebrities and activists who’ve now become the public face of Time’s Up.
Many of the women involved in the Time’s Up campaign, including some female executives, have also publicly divulged their own personal stories of workplace misogyny, harassment and assault.
“You know it’s difficult to get to the top if you’re a women in Hollywood, I’m sure they’ve been affected too,” said British born actress Sabra Williams. She was a longtime fixture of actor-director Tim Robin’s theater group The Actor’s Gang and spearheaded the organization’s Prison Project acting program.
Williams is hopeful that the actresses and women executives behind Time’s Up will make a lasting difference in Hollywood.
“But the question is; are they making actual changes? Are the writer’s rooms reflective of our community,” Williams said. “Are the people who have had least access able to have access? And if they are taking those actions I don’t care if they believe (in the campaign) or not.”
Williams came to Hollywood about 15 years ago and she too has been mistreated.
“I haven’t been raped. But like, the everyday misogyny, the everyday racism. (Producers and agents) finding out that I am married and then never hearing from them again,” Williams said. “But no one ever thought about reporting because you knew you’d never be believed by anybody. So that has already changed. There is a chance you will now be taken seriously.”
Women are at least feeling more emboldened to speak out said The Hollywood Reporter’s Kim Masters. In the aftermath of the Harvey Weinstein scandal the newspaper was able to break stories about alleged sexual harassment by John Lasseter the chief executive of animation for Disney and Pixar studios. And in a separate case; Amazon’s chief of programming Roy Price.
After the stories hit Price resigned. Lasseter is on what’s being described as a 6-month “sabbatical”.
But two years ago when the Hollywood Reporter published an essay about Woody Allen’s alleged sexual abuse of his daughter, Dylan, the publication was barred from an Allen press conference at the Cannes Film Festival.
Allen’s longtime publicist Leslee Dart told the paper that the ban was “only natural” after the paper went “out of its way to be harmful to my client.” Dart is co-founder of 42 West, the other PR firm behind the Time's Up campaign.
“I think this is a moment that’s really (landed) not just in Hollywood,” Masters said. “There are just ripple effects from this. And that’s why I do hope that people will continue to find the courage to come forward.”