Half a day after filing a lawsuit against disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein alleging defamation, sexual harassment and an effort to damage her career, Ashley Judd made her case on Good Morning America Tuesday.
“I lost opportunity, I lost money, I lost status and prestige and power in my career as a direct result of having been sexually harassed and rebuffing the sexual harassment,” she told Amy Robach.
The suit, brought by firm Gibson Dunn, focuses on Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson’s December comments to the New Zealand publication Stuff, in which he recalled Weinstein dissuading him from casting Judd or Mira Sorvino in Rings in the late 1990s. In the report, Jackson says he was “fed false information” about the professionalism of Judd, with whom he had met in 1998 to discuss a role in his planned adaptation of the J.R.R. Tolkien fantasy novel.
Judd’s lawsuit says that when Jackson and Walsh told Weinstein’s company, which owned the rights to the Lord of the Rings films, that they wanted to cast Judd, “Weinstein torpedoed Ms. Judd’s incredible professional opportunity when he told (them) that the studio had had a ‘bad experience’ with Ms. Judd, and that Ms. Judd was a ‘nightmare’ to work with and should be avoided ‘at all costs.’ ”
Judd was removed from the casting list for LOTR about a year after she rejected Weinstein’s advances at a professional breakfast meeting in his hotel room, according to a news release detailing the lawsuit.
Judd told GMA she went from being on “such a roll,” career-wise, to seeing her career opportunities “significantly diminished” as a result of Weinstein’s disparaging comments. Her suit, which characterizes Weinstein’s actions as blacklisting, says he prevented her from working in an Oscar-winning film franchise and hurt her career going forward.
The lawsuit also states that Judd learned only late last year “that something unseen was holding her back from obtaining the work she wanted, and had been doing so for decades. The headwind limiting her career was Harvey Weinstein, and specifically, the false and malicious statements he made regarding Ms. Judd’s professionalism as an actor” to Jackson and Walsh.
Weinstein spokesman Juda Engelmayer issued a statement to USA Today rejecting the lawsuit’s claims:
“The most basic investigation of the facts will reveal that Mr. Weinstein neither defamed Ms. Judd nor ever interfered with Ms. Judd’s career, and instead not only championed her work but also repeatedly approved her casting for two of his movies over the next decade. The actual facts will show that Mr. Weinstein was widely known for having fought for Ms. Judd as his first choice for the lead role in Good Will Hunting and, in fact, arranged for Ms. Judd to fly to New York to be considered for the role. Thereafter, Ms. Judd was hired for not one, but two of Mr. Weinstein’s movies, Frida in 2002 and Crossing Over with Harrison Ford in 2009. We look forward to a vigorous defense of these claims.”
In a statement by Judd’s lawyers announcing the legal action, the actress says she wasn’t the only actress whose career the studio boss tried to destroy.
“Mr. Weinstein’s abusive conduct toward others has caused no end of damage to aspiring actors and others in the film and entertainment industry. As my experience and the experience of others shows, even a few false statements from Mr. Weinstein could destroy potentially career-changing professional opportunities,” she said.
Judd’s lawyer, Theodore J. Boutrous Jr., said in a statement that the goal of the legal action “is to hold Mr. Weinstein accountable for his retaliation against Ms. Judd, defamation of her business reputation, and interference with her career, and to shine a light on the broader economic damages caused when individuals in positions of authority attempt to punish those who have resisted their improper advances.”
The actress said she’ll donate any financial award to a charity that benefits women and fights sexual harassment and discrimination. Boutrous’ law firm will donate any recovery of attorney’s fees to charity as well.
by Bill Keveney