- Ursula Macfarlanedirector of the film Untouchable.
As we broadcast from the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, we look at a new film that is forcing the movie industry to look closely at itself. It’s about the rise and fall of a movie titan who once used Sundance as a hunting ground: movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, who has been accused of rape, sexual assault or misconduct by more than 75 women. The film “Untouchable” takes on Harvey Weinstein’s decades of predatory behavior and the system that allowed it to happen, through the stories of survivors of his abuse, from his time as a young music promoter in Buffalo in the 1970s all the way until a series of investigations toppled Weinstein in 2017. The stories of accusers, from Gwyneth Paltrow to Salma Hayek to Angelina Jolie, rocked Hollywood, sparking the Me Too movement. More than a year after this public reckoning, Weinstein now faces five charges that could land him in prison for life, including rape and predatory sexual assault. Weinstein has just hired the former lawyers of one of his most public accusers, actor Rose McGowan, who says Weinstein raped her here at Sundance in 1997. His trial is expected to begin in May. Just two years after Harvey Weinstein joined the Women’s March in Park City, “Untouchable” premiered here on Friday. We sat down with the film’s director, Ursula Macfarlane, the day after the premiere.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re broadcasting from the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. While Hollywood continues to be a male-dominated industry with just a fraction of the top-grossing films in 2018 directed by women, this year’s Sundance celebrates representation, with films about the rise of the women’s movement, especially following the 2016 election. But it also features a film that’s forcing the movie industry to look closely at itself. It’s about the rise and fall of a movie titan who once used Sundance as a hunting ground: movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, who has been accused of rape, sexual assault or misconduct by more than 75 women.
The film is called Untouchable. It takes on Harvey Weinstein’s decades of predatory behavior and the system that allowed it to happen, through the stories of survivors of his abuse, from his time as a young music promoter in Buffalo in the ’70s all the way until a series of investigations toppled Weinstein in 2017. The stories of accusers, from Gwyneth Paltrow to Salma Hayek to Angelina Jolie, rocked Hollywood, sparking the Me Too movement.
More than a year after this public reckoning, Weinstein now faces five charges that could land him in prison for life, including rape, predatory sexual assault. Weinstein has just hired the former lawyers of one of his most public accusers, actress Rose McGowan, who says Weinstein raped her right here at the Sundance Film Festival in 1997, right here in Park City. His trial is expected to begin in May.
Just two years after Harvey Weinstein joined the Women’s March in Park City, Untouchable premiered here on Friday. I sat down with the film’s director, Ursula Macfarlane, the day after the premiere. She began by talking about how it felt to make this film.
URSULA MACFARLANE: It felt personal. You know, I can’t say I’ve been in the position of those women, but there are shades of this that have happened to me and all of my friends and my mom and so many women that I know. So it’s personal. You know, it feels, in a collective way, very personal. And I felt I wanted to try and understand how we got to this point, how he got away with it for so long. That was my first question. I wanted to understand how he got away with it.
AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go back to 1978 with Hope d’Amore, a person he met way back in his career in Buffalo, New York.
URSULA MACFARLANE: Yeah. I mean, Harvey was not Harvey Weinstein, the movie mogul, at that point. He was a very successful music promoter. I mean, Buffalo was this big town on the concert tour stop. And so, you know, he had made a lot of money in Buffalo. And Hope was actually a young university student, and she worked for him on a Fleetwood Mac concert as an intern.
And then he said to her, “Look, you know, I’m thinking of setting up a movie company with my brother. How about coming and doing some work with us?” And she loved the movies, so she did. And she was a very young woman. They ended up on a trip to New York, and he said, “Come with us to—you know, we’re going to do some movie deals down in New York, me and my brother. Come along.” So she said, “Sure. You know, that sounds really exciting.” She’s a young woman. Why wouldn’t you want to do that?
And one night, he—they check in, and he comes back and says, “There’s only one room. There’s been a mistake. We’re going to have to share a room.” And she’s a college student, so she thinks, “Well, you know, this is—we bunk up in rooms all the time. And, oh, he might boast that he slept with me when he didn’t. But that’s fine. I’m cool. I can deal with this.” And he rapes her that night. She tells that story in, you know, huge, kind of upsetting detail, what she says happened that night.
AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go to a clip of Hope d’Amore from the documentary Untouchable.
HOPE D’AMORE: I was so frightened. I went back to Buffalo. I didn’t tell anybody I knew. He used to say he owned the cops in Buffalo, because they worked concerts, they worked security when they were off duty. You know, he had influence. He had a lot of money. He did a lot of advertising in newspapers. Nobody would have believed anything I said. I wasn’t going to go to anybody and complain about that.
AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s Hope describing returning to Buffalo after she was raped by Harvey Weinstein in New York.
URSULA MACFARLANE: Yeah, and she said she was terrified, because—and this is a pattern of many women—she thought that she couldn’t tell anybody, because she thought she wouldn’t be believed, because, as far as she knew, Harvey had the cops sewn up in Buffalo. He was powerful. He had influence. He hired the cops to do off-duty—you know, when they were off duty, to do work, security work, on the concerts. Also, he had power in the local newspapers, and he did a lot of advertising. So she felt, you know, “No one’s going to believe me.” And I think, you know, that is a kind of—you know, that is part of a larger truth for so many women: They think that they just won’t be believed.
AMY GOODMAN: Why did you call the film, Ursula, Untouchable?
URSULA MACFARLANE: Well, we felt that it just felt really appropriate, because he has been untouchable for decades and decades and decades. And in the film, we try to show why that—you know, in a small way, why that had happened. And quite frankly, we don’t know what the end of the story is. You know, he could possibly remain untouchable. The story is not yet over. There have been many twists and turns. The case is vulnerable for the women at the moment. So, we don’t know.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go to first to Rosanna Arquette, for her to tell her story. After the film premiered here at Sundance, and she was one of the guests who came up afterwards, we talked to her about her experience in the 1990s. This is Rosanna Arquette.
ROSANNA ARQUETTE: It was many years ago, in the '90s. I was told that there was a great movie with Gary Oldman. And my agent said he wanted to talk to me, so we talked on the phone. He goes, “I really want you to do this. You're going to love it. I have the new script.”
AMY GOODMAN: This is Weinstein?
ROSANNA ARQUETTE: Weinstein. “Why don’t we have dinner at the Beverly Hills Hotel, the Polo Lounge?” And, you know, I was like, “Oh, wow! OK, that’s amazing. Gary Oldman, my favorite actor in the world.” So I showed up, and then they said that Mr. Weinstein would see me upstairs. And I was like, “Hmm.” And my heart was racing. I said, “Oh, but he probably has the penthouse apartment.” And, you know, I didn’t—but, you know, that first instinct is your right instinct: “Don’t go. Danger, danger.”
And so, he opened the door. He has a white bathrobe on. And he said, “Rosanna, I can’t move my neck. I can’t move my neck.” I said, “I’ve got a great masseuse for you. And I can get a masseuse.” And I started to back up, and he goes, “No, Rosanna.” And he grabbed my hand, and he pulled it down to his erect whatever. I didn’t see what it touched, and pulled it away.
AMY GOODMAN: He was wearing just a bathrobe?
ROSANNA ARQUETTE: Just a bathrobe.
AMY GOODMAN: And he was at the door of his hotel room.
ROSANNA ARQUETTE: And he held my—yeah, it was so—
AMY GOODMAN: You were still in the hallway.
ROSANNA ARQUETTE: Like kind of like in the—like we didn’t even make it in the thing. You know, “No, Rosanna.” And put it down, and I pulled away. And he goes, “You know, Rosanna”—and, like, in my arm—”you’re making a very big mistake.” And I said I’d never—I’ll never be that girl. So I left. And slowly things started to fall apart for me. You know, slowly—I mean, I worked, but then, suddenly, it was like the TV movie. I was always doing features. And then it was like something would fall apart, and then there was this a rap about me that I was difficult, that it was like: Who’s that? Who’s saying that?
AMY GOODMAN: Did he say he would destroy you?
ROSANNA ARQUETTE: He didn’t say those words to me, but he said it to many other people.
AMY GOODMAN: There’s a part in the film where someone is in dark shadow and their voice is disguised. They worked with Black Cube. The agent in the film showed a list of people to be gone after, and you were one of them.
ROSANNA ARQUETTE: Yes, I was one of them. And I know for a fact, because my computers go down. And I know my phone’s been tapped a million times. And I think they have a lot of the conversations that were amongst the women.
AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s Rosanna Arquette, who speaks in the film Untouchable, well-known actress who starred in Desperately Seeking Susan, other films, very much feels that her career was derailed, in some ways, by Harvey Weinstein, and also the psychological effect of what happened to her. But it was when she saw this film for the first time that she came to understand just how seriously he took the possibility of her describing him attacking her, somehow it getting out. This story of Black Cube, Ursula, can you talk more about it?
URSULA MACFARLANE: Well, I mean, he apparently had a number of spies who were, you know, befriending women. I don’t know if you know the story of Rose McGowan, who was befriended by somebody who said she was putting money into women’s empowerment organizations. And Rose—you know, according to Rose, she got to know this woman. She told her her whole story. There was also a journalist who called Rose up and got her to tell the whole story. So, you know, this was a—
AMY GOODMAN: And they weren’t journalists. And they weren’t a friend who was there to pal up with her.
URSULA MACFARLANE: Not at all. And it was only discovered months later that this was a woman who was working for one of these private intelligence organizations. So this was a very carefully orchestrated campaign with many tentacles, if you like. And, you know, I mean, sort of sometimes I think, “How on Earth was he running a company?” And, you know, obviously, there were a lot of people sort of running different departments. But—
AMY GOODMAN: And running from him at the same time.
URSULA MACFARLANE: Yeah. And, you know, a lot of money was being spent on many—and Ronan Farrow talks about this in the film. You know, some of the most high—the highest-powered, most highly paid lawyers in New York City were working for Harvey Weinstein and running these contracts for him. So, you know, and I think a number of women were targeted. And obviously, Rosanna, according to this contract that we see in the film—you know, we’ve got the contract there in front of us—that she becomes a target. You know, even the use of that kind of military language—”targets”—that Harvey Weinstein believed were involved in the campaign to wage this sort of backlash against him.
AMY GOODMAN: And can you explain what Black Cube is?
URSULA MACFARLANE: So, Black Cube was one of the private intelligence organizations that Harvey Weinstein hired. And they are an organization—I think their headquarters are in Israel. And they are largely run by former members of the Mossad, which is obviously the Israeli secret services, who are known to be amongst the top intelligence service agents in the world. But they also have a network of intelligence officers around the world. And, you know, they work for an awful lot of people, you know, current president included, I believe.
AMY GOODMAN: Another devastating part of Untouchable is the story of Paz de la Huerta. Let’s go to the clip. Why don’t you set this up for us?
URSULA MACFARLANE: So, Paz, earlier in the film, has claimed that Harvey Weinstein raped her. And it was—you know, it was horrible. She felt powerless. She also, like many of the women—and we’ve talked about this with Hope—felt unable to tell anybody. And she felt very strongly that if she went to the police, that they wouldn’t believe her, and that Harvey Weinstein was so powerful that he would tell the police that she was lying, and, you know, she would get called a whore and all of this kind of stuff. And she was—you know, she was absolutely terrified. So she didn’t go to the police at that point. She did later on.
So, at this point in the film, she comes back and—for me, it’s very poignant. Ronan Farrow talks about the fact that Harvey Weinstein and his investigators have dug up a lot of photographs of women looking friendly with Harvey after the alleged assaults. Right? And what she explains is that, you know, you have to go to these parties. If you’re a working actress, you have to go to the premieres. You have to do the red carpet. You have to get on there and put a nice dress on and look good. But inside you’re dying.
AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go to Paz de la Huerta in Untouchable.
PAZ DE LA HUERTA: You put on a happy face, but inside you’re dying. It made me feel like I had to reclaim my sexuality all over again. So I wanted to do photo shoots where I could feel beautiful and take it back, take back what I believe he stole from me.
AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s the actress Paz de la Huerta, who’s known for Boardwalk Empire. “Dream destroyer” is putting it mildly, what Harvey Weinstein did to so many women. Certainly, Erika Rosenbaum is an example of that. Introduce us to Erika.
URSULA MACFARLANE: Well, Erika is—I just love Erika. She’s a mom. She’s just had her fourth baby. She’s a beautiful actress from Canada. And she met Harvey when she was really young. She came to L.A., as she says, on a hope and a dream. She didn’t have an agent. She didn’t have any money. But she came to Hollywood to hopefully get a career. And she met Harvey Weinstein at a party. And she said, rather funnily, she didn’t know who he was, which might seem a bit unbelievable. But she was kind of very fresh-faced and very young.
AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go to Erika Rosenbaum.
ERIKA ROSENBAUM: I had been connected with this lovely model, and she sort of took me under her wing. She had invited me to come along to this party, where I sat down to dinner next to Harvey Weinstein. And I did not know who he was at the time. He was very at ease, casually chatting about family and life in a small town. And he talked passionately about our industry. He talked about it like a film nerd, like somebody who just loved storytelling and who was so proud to be able to do it.
By the end of it, he was quite sure that I was going to do very well. He could help me out. I really believed that I was seeing this genius who could just spot a Gwyneth Paltrow. We were both leaving, and he beckoned me over and said, you know, “I’m not done talking to you. We’ve got to talk about what comes next.” And he said, “Can you give me a lift back to my hotel?”
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Erika Rosenbaum.
URSULA MACFARLANE: He then says to her, “Look, you know, we need to talk. Would you like to come back to my hotel?” And, you know, she says she knew it was a risk, but she felt quite confident in herself. And she said, “You know, if you’re a young actress in this town, where it’s so hard to get a break, you take risks.”
So she goes back to his hotel room. And he takes his top off, and he tries to make her do the same. He tries to make her do a massage. She’s very sensible around it. She manages to negotiate herself out of the situation, and she leaves, having just given a massage but nothing else, and feels very shaken up by it, but also quite confident that she handled it well.
And then she keeps in touch with him, because, she says, “Well, you know, that was a difficult situation, but I handled it OK, and I’ve been very clear I’m not going to sleep with him. So I’m going to get what I wanted out of that meeting, which was he promised me work.” And so she keeps in contact with him, and then she goes back to meet him again a few years later at the Toronto Film Festival.
AMY GOODMAN: So, she meets him once, early on in her career, and she negotiates her way out of a very bad situation, though she does have to massage him in some way. Then take us to the next time.
URSULA MACFARLANE: So then Erika meets him again. He’s at the Toronto Film Festival. And she sets up a meeting with a young assistant, who’s very kind and friendly to her. And the young assistant says, “Mr. Weinstein would like to meet you. He’s got to squeeze you in between a screening and a dinner,” or something like that.
AMY GOODMAN: And says, actually, “We will meet you.”
URSULA MACFARLANE: And says, “We will meet you up here.” So Erika kind of thinks, “Well, I handled myself before, and also there’s going to be somebody else there.” From what we know, that was another sort of pattern, that young women assistants would be used, apparently, to set these meetings up, and the young actresses would feel there was safety in numbers, because it was going to be with this other person. And then she would disappear. And that’s what happened in that case. So, Erika got up to the hotel suite, got let in by the assistant, and then the assistant leaves. And then she’s left alone with Harvey Weinstein, and apparently he’s just wearing a shirt with nothing on underneath. She tries to leave. He tells her to stay. She’s very frightened.
AMY GOODMAN: She sees blood in the bathroom. And this woman who left, this young woman—
URSULA MACFARLANE: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: —who said goodbye to her quickly, seemed very distraught.
URSULA MACFARLANE: Very distressed. And clearly, she, Erika, feels that Harvey is very angry for some reason, and she’s actually frightened, I think, because of the anger that he seems to be expressing. And he asks her to come into the bathroom, and she tries to get away from it, but she actually is frightened that trying to leave might be more dangerous, so she follows him into the bathroom. And she sees a toilet seat, a solid toilet seat, that’s been smashed, and there’s blood on the seat. And I don’t know. I find it so distressing to listen to that. You just think, “What on Earth has happened?” It takes a lot of power to smash a solid toilet seat, and there’s blood on it. And, you know, he gets her to perform something very humiliating and frightening. And while this is all going on, she notices that there is blood on his hands. She manages to get away, but obviously it’s a very devastating experience.
AMY GOODMAN: Not before he pushes her head nearly into the mirror and masturbates behind her.
URSULA MACFARLANE: Yeah. Yeah, exactly, that’s what he does. Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: As we begin to wrap up, how did Hollywood prop up Harvey Weinstein? This is not just one, as Rose McGowan put it, monster.
URSULA MACFARLANE: No. Well, I think it’s in the context also of the casting couch, you know, this horrible tradition that somehow has sort of been romanticized in the sort of annals of Hollywood history, that it’s kind of expected, and it’s sort of got this kind of romantic notion that somehow it’s pleasant for the women, as well. And I think, you know, in some ways, Harvey seems to have been modeling himself on those old silver screen moguls who ran the studios in the '30s. And so I think there's this kind of almost-like-it-wasn’t-that-bad sort of feeling around it.
I think—I imagine it seems that Harvey was able to compartmentalize his life, as well, and stop people from knowing things. But I think it’s pretty clear that a lot of people did know things. And, you know, Jodi and Megan did a lot of work on this and looked into the agents, in particular. And there were agents who they know knew what was going on, and they still sent young women into those hotel suites. So, people knew. A lot of people knew. A lot of people knew something, even if they didn’t know everything.
AMY GOODMAN: Ursula Macfarlane, director of the new documentary Untouchable, which premiered here at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. When we come back, we speak with Lauren O’Connor, a former employee at the Weinstein Company who wrote a damning internal memo in 2015 exposing Weinstein’s predatory sexual behavior. Stay with us.