Emma Thompson letter explains why she backed out of movie

NEW YORK • Last month, Skydance Animation raised many eyebrows when it announced that Mr John Lasseter - one of the most influential figures in the animation field and a co-founder of Pixar - would become its new head.

After all, Mr Lasseter had left The Walt Disney last year following employee complaints about unwanted touching.

But reaction in some corners went beyond a raised eyebrow. Actress Emma Thompson, the two-time Oscar winner who had previously worked on the Pixar film Brave (2012) with Mr Lasseter, wanted out of a Skydance project.

Last week, The Hollywood Reporter, citing anonymous sources, reported that Thompson had backed out of a voice part in Luck, a Skydance movie with Alessandro Carloni attached to direct, because of concerns about working on a project for a studio run by Mr Lasseter.

Thompson had actually left the project, it turns out, on Jan 20 - 11 days after Mr Lasseter's hiring was officially announced. Three days later, she sent a scathing letter to Skydance, detailing her decision to leave, that was published on Tuesday by the Los Angeles Times.

A representative for Thompson confirmed its contents.

"It feels very odd to me that you and your company would consider hiring someone with Mr Lasseter's pattern of misconduct given the present climate in which people with the kind of power that you have can reasonably be expected to step up to the plate," Thompson wrote.

She said she realised the situation was "complicated" and called Carloni, the director, "wonderful", but nonetheless excoriated Skydance.

"If a man has been touching women inappropriately for decades, why would a woman want to work for him if the only reason he's not touching them inappropriately now is that it says in his contract that he must behave 'professionally'?" Thompson said in the letter.

It continued: "If a man has made women at his companies feel undervalued and disrespected for decades, why should the women at his new company think that any respect he shows them is anything other than an act that he's required to perform by his coach, his therapist and his employment agreement? The message seems to be, 'I am learning to feel respect for women so please be patient while I work on it. It's not easy.'"

Britain-born Thompson is an accomplished figure in Hollywood, with a career stretching back to the early 1980s.

She voiced the part of Elinor in Brave, a Pixar production that Mr Lasseter executive-produced. The movie won praise from critics partly for being the first Pixar movie to have a female protagonist.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 28, 2019, with the headline 'Emma Thompson letter explains why she backed out of movie'. Print Edition | Subscribe