HURRICANE Harvey's gusts strengthened to a Category 5 scandal during the weekend as movie mogul Harvey Weinstein's closest advisers and colleagues jumped ship, public outrage swelled and new allegations crashed around the accused serial sex harasser.
Lisa Bloom, a crusading feminist lawyer who had been advising Weinstein, 65, announced she was stepping down hours after MSNBC's "Morning Joe" co-host Mika Brzezinski publicly said she would not go forward with a three-book deal she recently signed with the mogul's company "unless Harvey resigns."
In another blow, Lanny Davis, a lawyer and longtime Democratic Party operative, resigned Saturday from the elite legal team that Weinstein had assembled to advise him during the burgeoning crisis over accusations that he has been mistreating actresses and female employees for three decades.
Meanwhile, two more high-profile politicians - Senators Al Franken and Elizabeth Warren - joined a parade of Democratic lawmakers who vowed to forward the thousands of dollars they received in Weinstein campaign donations over the years to women's charities.
Three executives have announced their resignations from the Weinstein Company board.
Last week, The New York Times reported numerous accusations of Weinstein sexually harassing women who worked for him, including actresses Rose McGowan and Ashley Judd. The report said Weinstein's companies paid out thousands of dollars to at least eight women to buy their silence.
Weinstein, a married father of five, released a statement Thursday expressing "regret [for] what happened." He said he was seeking therapy and taking a leave of absence from his company.
But he later told Page Six that he was taking legal action against the Times, citing its "reckless reporting," even as lurid details of his alleged conduct continued to emerge.
Lauren Sivan, a former news anchor, told The Huffington Post on Friday that Weinstein trapped her in an empty restaurant and tried to kiss her. When she refused, she said Weinstein masturbated in front of her.
The incident allegedly occurred in 2007, the same year Weinstein, a Hollywood powerhouse whose fabled Oscar-night parties drew dozens of stars, married his second wife, fashion designer Georgina Chapman, 41.
In that same year, he also travelled to the English countryside to visit the set of Brideshead Revisited, an adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's classic novel about sexual mores and a golden age of aristocracy on the eve of World War II.
Miramax, his first company, which he started with his brother Bob in 1979, was in negotiations to distribute the film in North America.
During a break in the filming, the brash Hollywood powerbroker behind such blockbusters as The English Patient and The Crying Game walked over to Hayley Atwell, a then-24-year-old British-American actress who was playing Julia Flyte in the movie. Weinstein started flirting with the actress, who was clearly nervous, starring in one of her first major roles.
At lunch, Weinstein sat with the cast and crew, and told Atwell to watch what she was eating, explaining that he had just come from watching that morning's filming and he didn't like what he saw, a film-industry source told The Post.
"You look like a fat pig on screen," said Weinstein, who had just come from watching the dailies. "Stop eating so much."
When Atwell told her Oscar-winning co-star Emma Thompson that the Miramax head ordered her to go on a diet, Thompson flipped. She took Weinstein aside and threatened to quit if he forced Atwell or any other woman on set to go on a diet.
"Emma called Harvey out for being a misogynist and a bully and really gave him a hard time," the source said.
Weinstein backed down.
Atwell, who has gone on to a successful film career, including playing love interest Peggy Carter in Captain America, emerged pretty much unscathed from her encounter with Weinstein.
Others have not been so lucky.
One former Miramax producer told The Post that Weinstein's behaviour among actresses and female staff at Miramax and The Weinstein Company was "a well-known, in-plain-sight secret."
"A lot of female producers were harassed by Harvey, and they put up with it because they would otherwise get a reputation as a troublemaker," said the producer, who did not want to be identified. "This is a very small industry.
Weinstein, who grew up in Flushing, Queens, is among the most powerful men in Hollywood. He and his brother Bob started Miramax - named after their parents, Miriam and Max Weinstein - in Harvey's one-bedroom apartment on West 57th Street in 1979.
The company began by acquiring independent films and distributing them in North America. Their first acquisition was The Secret Policeman's Ball, which they bought at the Cannes Film Festival in 1979. The film had a sequel, and Weinstein decided to splice the two films together, retitling the movie The Secret Policeman's Other Ball.
While Weinstein's penchant for changing films to suit his purposes earned him the moniker 'Harvey Scissorhands', his taste for independent features such as Cinema Paradiso,
Sex, Lies and Videotape and My Left Foot catapulted Miramax and later The Weinstein Company into the stratosphere. The Weinstein brothers' films earned dozens of Oscars, and their lavish Hollywood and Cannes parties were legendary.
Their workplace was another matter. Staff at the two companies put in 60 to 80 hours a week, and in the late 1990s, the federal Department of Labor launched a probe that resulted in the Weinsteins forking over $US136,000 in overtime pay to employees, according to reports. In New York, their Tribeca offices were known as "the meat grinder" because of the long hours and staff turnover.
But the headquarters was toxic for other reasons. At NYU, professors actively discouraged female film students from seeking internships at the Weinstein company, even as Malia Obama interned at the company last year, a former intern told The Post.
"It was a repeated message and one that I found disheartening," the former intern said.
Weinstein's behaviour in Hollywood was also disheartening for some young actresses.
Ashley Judd told the Times that she was asked to attend a business meeting with Weinstein in a Beverly Hills hotel room 20 years ago. She said when she went to Weinstein's room, he met her at the door in a robe and asked her to give him a massage and told her that she could watch him take a shower.
According to the Times report, Weinstein paid Rose McGowan $US100,000 in 1997 following an alleged incident in a hotel room during the Sundance Film Festival.
"The price for her silence also included Harvey's support for her boyfriend's films," said a producer who did not want to be identified.
McGowan was reportedly in a relationship with El Mariachi director Robert Rodriguez, who directed her in Grindhouse, a 2007 film distributed by the Weinstein Company.
A spokeswoman for The Weinstein Company declined to comment on Saturday.
Additional reporting by Sara Dorn.
This story originally appeared on the New York Post and is republished with permission.
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