#TimesUp takedowns in full swing

Ashley Judd is suing Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, saying turning down his unwanted sexual advances lost her a role in The Lord of the Rings.

It was because of “false and malicious statements he [Weinstein] made regarding her professionalism” that Judd lost out on a part in the blockbuster movie. The actress has filed a lawsuit against Weinstein on five complaints, including defamation, sexual harassment and intentional interference with prospective economic advantage.

Judd’s lawsuit filed at a court in Los Angeles alleges: “Weinstein used his power in the entertainment industry to damage Ms Judd’s reputation and limit her ability to find work.”

A representative for Weinstein issued a statement saying the producer had “neither defamed Ms Judd nor ever interfered with Ms Judd’s career”.The statement said, on the contrary, Weinstein championed the actress’s work, seeing her cast in Frida in 2002 and Crossing Over in 2009 — both of which were connected to his production companies. It also said Weinstein fought for Judd as his first choice for a lead role in the 1997 film Good Will Hunting.

The actress — known for her political activism — was one of the first in what became a long list of women to accuse the producer of sexual harassment and assault.

She recalled how Weinstein asked to see her under the guise of holding a business meeting. Judd alleges Weinstein had her sent up to his room in the Peninsula Beverly Hills hotel, where he appeared in a bathrobe. It was during this encounter that Weinstein is alleged to have asked if he could give Judd a massage or she could watch him shower.

In December last year, Academy Award-winning director Peter Jackson admitted to blacklisting actors Judd and Mira Sorvino, in response to a “smear campaign” orchestrated by Weinstein.

“At the time, we had no reason to question what these guys were telling us. But in hindsight, I realise that this was very likely the Miramax smear campaign in full swing. I now suspect we were fed false information about both of these talented women,” Jackson said in an interview with Stuff magazine.

On seeing Jackson’s interview, Sorvino tweeted: “I burst out crying. There it is, confirmation that Harvey Weinstein derailed my career, something I suspected but was unsure. Thank you Peter Jackson for being honest. I’m just heartsick.”Judd simply tweeted, “I remember this well.”

In an interview on BBC’s Hardtalk, Judd said she believed the Hollywood heavyweight had “blackballed” her because she was “not frightened” of him.

Judd and her fellow accusers became key figures in the #MeToo movement and later the Time’s Up campaign, which is aimed at advocating for women who have endured sexual abuse and is backed by a long list of celebrities.

Judd’s lawsuit follows actor Bill Cosby’s sexual assault conviction on Thursday, amid a highly-publicised Time’s Up crusade to get the music business to dump R&B star, and alleged sexual predator, R Kelly.

Kelly, who has sold over 60-million records worldwide, denies all accusations against him, including allegations last year that he is holding several young women in an “abusive cult”.

“We demand appropriate investigations and inquiries into the allegations of R. Kelly’s abuse made by women of colour and their families for over two decades now,” the Women of Colour of Time’s Up said in a statement.

The movement’s hashtag and online petition #MuteRKelly — launched in July last year by Atlanta-based music executive Oronike Odeleye — currently has 65 234 signatures.

“And we declare with great vigilance and a united voice to anyone who wants to silence us – their time is up,” said the Time’s Up statement.

Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She covers topics relating to labour, corruption and the law.
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