LOS ANGELES: For decades, he was the kingmaker lording it over Hollywood who Meryl Streep famously called “God.” But on Friday, Harvey Weinstein was arrested and charged with rape, the most famous pariah of the #MeToo cause.
It’s been nearly eight months since the Oscar-winning mogul was hit by bombshell articles in The New York Times and New Yorker magazine accusing him of decades of sexual harassment, assault and rape.
Since then, nearly 100 women have come forward alleging 40 years of impropriety that sparked a sexual harassment watershed, ending the careers of powerful men and spawning the global #MeToo and Time’s Up movements.
“I came of age in the ’60s and ’70s, when all the rules about behaviour and workplaces were different,” the 66-year-old said in a bizarre statement in October that apologised for yet appeared to justify his behavior.
“That was the culture then,” said Weinstein.
While he denies any non-consensual activity, he disappeared from public life, surfacing occasionally from reported sex addiction treatment, his name toxic and his reputation destroyed.
The one-time Democratic Party donor, who hobnobbed with Hillary Clinton and once had a personal fortune estimated at $150 million, was hit Friday for the first time by criminal charges, following an avalanche of civil lawsuits.
He turned himself into a New York police station before being charged with first and third-degree rape in 2013, seemingly in a Midtown Manhattan hotel, and a criminal sex act in the first degree in 2004.
His lawyer Ben Brafman said the former Hollywood legend, who for decades produced box office and critically claimed hits, would plead not guilty. “Bad behaviour is not on trial in this case,” Brafman told reporters.
“Mr Weinstein did not invent the casting couch in Hollywood and to the extent that there is bad behavior in that industry, that is not what this is about.”
But whether or not he ever goes on trial or is criminally convicted, his career is over. He has been expelled by the Oscar-awarding Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and sacked by his own studio, The Weinstein Company, which has since filed for bankruptcy.
His British fashion designer wife is divorcing him, his homes are being sold and he must now suffer the indignity of surrendering his passport and being fitted with a GBC monitor out on a $1 million cash bail.
Salma Hayek, Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie are among more than two dozen actresses who say they were sexually harassed by the producer.
“There was a part of me that was terribly naive,” Georgina Chapman, his estranged wife and mother of two, told Vogue magazine recently.
“I had what I thought was a very happy marriage. I loved my life,” she said. Asked if she had ever been suspicious, Chapman replied: “Absolutely not. Never.”
Born in Queens on March 19, 1952, the son of a diamond cutter, he studied at Buffalo University and initially produced rock concerts until he and his younger brother, Bob, struck out into the movie business.
They co-founded Miramax Films, a small distribution company named after his mother Miriam and father Max, in 1979.
Miramax hits include 1998’s Shakespeare in Love, for which Weinstein shared an Oscar for Best picture. But the company was sold to Disney in 1993 and the brothers left in 2005 to start up their own studio, The Weinstein Company.
In February, New York’s attorney general, who has since resigned in his own cloud of abuse allegations, sued the brothers and studio for failing to protect employees from alleged sexual misconduct despite multiple complaints.
Over the years, Weinstein’s films received more than 300 Oscar nominations and 81 statuettes. The films he steered to Academy Awards glory include The Artist, The King’s Speech and The Iron Lady, which won Best Actress for Streep as former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher.
His more than 300 projects included the Cannes-winning Pulp Fiction (1994), The English Patient (1996) and Gangs of New York in 2002.
Through it all, the burly executive was famous for his hard-nosed approach to work and Oscars campaigns.
Streep, who is fiercely protective of her family life, was apparently made to earn every penny of her fee on the promotion circuit for The Iron Lady.
“I just want to thank my agent and God, Harvey Weinstein,” she told the 2012 Golden Globes. “The punisher. Old Testament, I guess,” she added.
The triple Oscar winner has since said she was “appalled” and had no idea about the “disgraceful” allegations.