WASHINGTON • Actress Ashley Judd was tearful, but self-assured in her first interview since publicly accusing film producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment.
Wearing a bracelet that read “unstoppable”, she talked to television journalist Diane Sawyer and excerpts from the interview aired during Good Morning America on Thursday.
“I didn’t expect that I would feel tearful, but it’s been an absolutely, tremendously moving 21/2 or three weeks,” Judd said.
Before the story ran, she was not sure anyone would believe her or care.
Instead, more than 50 women have come forward with similar claims against Weinstein that paint him as a sexual predator who used business meetings as an excuse to lure women to his hotel room.
Judd, 49, broke the dam on the allegations against Weinstein, 65.
When The New York Times dropped its article on Oct 5 about the industry titan paying off accusers for decades, her account led the story; she was the highest-profile star at that point to come forward.
What I would say to Harvey is, ‘I love you and I understand that you are sick and suffering, and there is help for a guy like you, too, and it’s entirely up to you to get that help.’
ACTRESS ASHLEY JUDD, on what she would say to film producer Harvey Weinstein
After her claims, more A-listers, including Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie, emerged with their own accusations against Weinstein.
Coming forward was not a decision Judd made lightly. She did so during a run, she told Sawyer, which is when she tends to get clarity. Then she went home and told her parents.
According to Judd, her mother, country music star Naomi Judd, said: “Go get him.”
Judd reminisced about the day that Weinstein allegedly tried to bully her to bend to his will in his hotel room two decades ago, when she was still fairly new in Hollywood.
She got out of the room by making a deal, saying she would relent when she won an Oscar in one of his movies.
She has been over that day in her mind many times since, wondering if she did the right thing.
“Am I proud of that?” she said. “I’m of two minds – the part that shames myself says, ‘No.’ The part of me that understands the way shame works says, ‘That was absolutely brilliant. Good job, kid. You got out of there. Well done.’”
She told her parents about what had happened to her, not to mention Hollywood agents and actors. But, as with other similar alleged incidents, there were no repercussions for Weinstein.
Sawyer showed Judd a photo from the 1997 Vanity Fair Oscar party, which Weinstein released after The New York Times story dropped.
It shows a smiling young Judd standing beside Weinstein. The implication from the producer’s camp was that this was evidence the two were close friends.
“Ick!” Judd said upon seeing the picture.
Of another photo from the same event, in which Weinstein is clutching her hand, she said: “The look on my face is abject terror... I feel for that 28- or 29-year-old woman.”
She also alleged that in 1999, he reminded her of their “agreement”. He told her he had the script that would win her that Oscar.
By then, though, “I had come into my own, I had come into my power, I had found my voice”, she said. “And I was coming right at him, Diane.”
Weinstein could sense it, Judd said, so he told her he would let her out of the deal.
“And I said, ‘You do that, Harvey,’” she said. “And he has spat my name at me ever since.”
She went on to star in two movies with his studio, but she does not remember him being on set.
Sawyer asked Judd what she would say if the two were to meet now.
She will never forgive what he did to so many, she said, and she believes he belongs in jail if he did rape women.
But she had a surprisingly forgiving message.
“What I would say to Harvey is, ‘I love you and I understand that you are sick and suffering, and there is help for a guy like you, too, and it’s entirely up to you to get that help,’” she said.
When Sawyer expressed shock at Judd’s response, the actress said: “That’s just who I am. Frankly it’s just an easier way to roll through the world than the alternative.”
She is hopeful that this story will finally change abuses of power in Hollywood and beyond.
“This is the moment,” she said. “And if we want it to be the moment, it will for sure be the moment.”