Emotional Health

Untouchable: Weinstein’s Victims On Camera

A new contribution to the vast reporting on the Harvey Weinstein scandal is a documentary film, Untouchable, by Ursula Macfarlane now streaming on Hulu. While it is by no means complete, it offers an in depth account of the personal stories of several of his victims.

As The New York Times describes it,  “A hopeful younger self just breaking into show business meets a big-name moviemaker, and the encounter devolves into threats, exhibitionism, unwanted physical contact or violence. Fighting back tears or shaking with anger, they talk about being trapped, disgusted, about freezing up, dissociating, hearing their career prospects are dead. When they speak, we squirm in sympathy.”

Some of the faces are familiar and some are not. Many of the actresses seen in the film never made it in Hollywood. The reason? Harvey Weinstein. Part of his modus operandi was to threaten the women with ignominy if they did not accede to his demands. He was more of a stick than a carrot kind of guy.

Weinstein was known for volcanic rages in the office. One former staffer calls him “equal opportunity abuser,” and another tells of dodging a five-pound marble ashtray hurled by his boss. As former Miramax president Mark Gill describes him, he was, “An overlord who lived by the most vicious methods possible in order to instill fear.”   

But the employees here claim they thought that his assignations with aspiring artists, some of which they helped arrange, were part of a mutually agreed on quid pro quo. A. J. Benza, a columnist who’d heard rumors about Weinstein’s sexual appetites, says he “just assumed” the sexual encounters were consensual and that “Women were just part of the thing. They come along with the power.”

Not at all. Victim after victim describe the violence and threats he employed. It’s almost as if he preferred it that way. As a woman who quotes him in the film recalls, he said “Do you really want to make an enemy of me for five minutes of your time?”

While some of the women gave in, through fear and intimidation, others tried to resist, and until this film, they have rarely, in fact, appeared on camera. Harvey was true to his word: their careers were over before they started.

Actors such as Caitlin Delaney tell us how Weinstein operated in detail. Feeling cornered, she submitted. “The freeze thing kicks in,” she says. “You just want it to be over.” Others feared for their survival, such Canadian actor Erika Rosenbaum, who saw a smashed and bloody toilet seat in his bathroom, and concluded  “leaving would be worse.” 

Actor Paz de la Huerta recalls a sense of “hovering over my body” as Weinstein raped her. Delaney concurs: “I definitely went somewhere else.” Rosenbaum describes doubts about meeting him in a hotel but admits “You take risks when you’re young and hopeful and trying to make it in a seemingly impossible industry.” When Weinstein assaulted her she remembers hoping that she could keep still enough that she would somehow “disappear” or be invisible.

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