Judi Dench, Glenn Close, Meryl Streep speak up on Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment claims

Producer Harvey Weinstein (left) and Meryl Streep attend the 18th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles on Jan 28, 2012.
Producer Harvey Weinstein (left) and Meryl Streep attend the 18th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles on Jan 28, 2012.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - Meryl Streep led an increasingly vocal Hollywood chorus condemning the reported sexual misconduct of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein on Monday, issuing a carefully worded statement released to HuffPost. She decried the behaviour as "disgraceful" and "inexcusable," yet also pleaded ignorance about it, writing: "Not everybody knew."

Streep's statement seemed to have opened the floodgates, with Glenn Close and Judi Dench, among others, soon voicing their own dismay and disgust about Weinstein.

In recent days, after The New York Times released a scathing investigation Thursday chronicling accusations that Weinstein had sexually harassed employees and actresses, many people called for reactions from Hollywood's A-list players, and especially Streep, a longtime champion of women's causes who worked with Weinstein on films like August: Osage County and The Iron Lady, for which she won an Academy Award.

Weinstein was fired Sunday night from his production company, The Weinstein Co, which issued a statement saying the decision was made "in light of new information about misconduct by Harvey Weinstein that has emerged in the past few days".

In its report, The Times found that Weinstein had reached at least eight settlements with women who had claimed sexual harassment.

In her statement, Streep also said Weinstein had been "respectful" during their working relationship and challenged the widely repeated narrative that his misbehaviour had been a longtime open secret in Hollywood.

 

Here is Streep's full statement: "The disgraceful news about Harvey Weinstein has appalled those of us whose work he championed, and those whose good and worthy causes he supported. The intrepid women who raised their voices to

 

expose this abuse are our heroes.

"One thing can be clarified. Not everybody knew. Harvey supported the work fiercely, was exasperating but respectful

 

with me in our working relationship, and with many others with whom he worked professionally. I didn't know about these other offences: I did not know about his financial settlements with actresses and colleagues; I did not know about his having meetings in his hotel room, his bathroom, or other inappropriate, coercive acts. And if everybody knew, I don't believe that all the investigative reporters in the entertainment and the hard news media would have neglected for decades to write about it.

"The behaviour is inexcusable, but the abuse of power familiar. Each brave voice that is raised, heard and credited by our watchdog media will ultimately change the game."

In a statement to The Times, Close said that she felt "angry and darkly sad", and that while Weinstein had been decent with her, she had heard rumours of inappropriate behaviour toward women over many years.

Her full statement: "I'm sitting here, deeply upset, acknowledging to myself that, yes, for many years, I have been aware of the vague rumours that Harvey Weinstein had a pattern of behaving inappropriately around women. Harvey has always been decent to me, but now that the rumours are being substantiated, I feel angry and darkly sad.

"I'm angry, not just at him and the conspiracy of silence around his actions, but also that the 'casting couch' phenomenon, so to speak, is still a reality in our business and in the world: the horrible pressure, the awful expectation put on a woman when a powerful, egotistical, entitled bully expects sexual favours in exchange for a job.

"Ours is an industry in which very few actors are indispensable and women are cast in far fewer roles than men, so the stakes are higher for women and make them more vulnerable to the manipulations of a predator. I applaud the monumental courage of the women who have spoken up. I hope that their stories and the reportage that gave them their voices represents a tipping point, that more stories will be told and that change will follow.

"The changes must be both institutional and personal. Men and women, in positions of power, must create a work environment in which people, whose jobs depend on them, feel safe to report threatening and inappropriate behaviour, like that reported in the Times. No one should be coerced into trading personal dignity for professional success. I feel the time is long and tragically overdue for all of us in the industry, women and men, to unite - calmly and dispassionately - and create a new culture of respect, equality and empowerment, where bullies and their enablers are no longer allowed to prosper." strong Judi Dench:

Dench, who has credited Weinstein with launching her film career, also took aim, saying in a statement to Newsweek that while she had been "completely unaware" of any misconduct, she found it "horrifying", and gave her "wholehearted support to those who have spoken out". Dench's films with Weinstein include Shakespeare in Love and Mrs Brown, and she has said she has a tattoo that reads "JD loves HW" on her rear end.

Several prominent men in show business took to Twitter to express disgust at Weinstein's behaviour. "He financed the first 14 years of my career - and now I know while I was profiting, others were in terrible pain," wrote director Kevin Smith. "It makes me feel ashamed." Judd Apatow called Weinstein's actions "abhorrent," and Mark Ruffalo said they were "a disgusting abuse of power".