In a statement, Weinstein says he 'did not blacklist Sorvino' and that Ashley Judd was his 'top choice' for 'Good Will Hunting'

By Maureen Lee Lenker
December 15, 2017 at 08:07 PM EST

UPDATE: A spokesperson for Harvey Weinstein issued the following statement to EW regarding Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh’s claims (below):

As Peter Jackson explained in his own statement, Bob and Harvey Weinstein had nothing to do with “Lord of the Rings.”

If Ashley Judd said she was in conversations with Mr.  Jackson and reviewed sketches, it was under New Line, which had casting authority, not Miramax. Miramax never provided sketches to anyone.

Around the time of “Rings,” Mr. Weinstein cast Ms. Judd in “Frida” and years later, in “Crossing Over.” Miramax had flown Ashley to New York for casting discussions and to meet the production team for “Good Will Hunting.” While Ashley was the top choice for Miramax and Mr. Weinstein, the role went to Minnie Driver, who was the star and director’s preference. Minnie did a brilliant job and he believes Ashley would have as well.

Mr. Weinstein did not blacklist Mira Sorvino, and was in fact working with her during the timeframe in question on “Mimic,” the Guillermo Del Toro film. Also during that time, she was dating Quentin Tarantino, who was the foundation and backbone of Miramax.

At the time in question, no one could have blacklisted or derailed the career of Ms. Sorvino, who had recently won both an Academy and a Golden Globe award and was being courted for leading roles by all seven studios and every major broadcast network.

After the success of “Lord of the Rings,” Peter Jackson was so powerful he could have cast anyone he wanted in the “Hobbit.” Neither Ms. Judd nor Ms. Sorvino had roles in the film. 

Mr. Weinstein continues to admire Mr. Jackson for his creative genius, but he firmly denies these accusations.

EARLIER: Peter Jackson isn’t accepting Harvey Weinstein’s denial that he played a role in encouraging the Lord of the Rings director to avoid casting Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino.

Published Friday, Jackson revealed to New Zealand publication Stuff that Judd and Sorvino were removed from casting discussions after Weinstein and brother Bob allegedly informed him the actresses were “a nightmare,” as part of what he now believes was a “Miramax smear campaign.”

In a statement to EW, Harvey Weinstein’s representatives side-stepped these claims, saying, “Mr. Weinstein has nothing but the utmost respect for Peter Jackson. However, as Mr. Jackson will probably remember, because Disney would not finance the Lord of the Rings, Miramax lost the project and all casting was done by New Line. While Bob and Harvey Weinstein were executive producers of the film they had no input into the casting whatsoever.”

Now, Jackson and producing partner and wife Fran Walsh are firing back. Read their full statement below:

Aspects of Harvey’s denial are insincere. He is basically saying that “this blacklisting couldn’t be true because New Line cast the movie”. That’s a deflection from the truth.

In the 18 months we developed the Lord of the Rings at Miramax, we had many casting conversations with Harvey Weinstein, Bob Weinstein and their executives.

During this period, no offers were made to actors because that occurs after a film is greenlit, and Miramax never greenlit these films.

However, many conversations occurred internally regarding potential casting.  Fran Walsh and I recall that Morgan Freeman, Paul Scofield, David Bowie, Liam Neeson, Natascha McElhone, Claire Forlani, Francesca Annis, Max von Sydow, and Daniel Day Lewis were some of the names discussed with Miramax for possible roles in The Lord of the Rings movies.

Amongst the many names raised, Fran and I expressed our enthusiasm for Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino. In fact, we met with Ashley and discussed two possible roles with her.  After this meeting, we were told by Miramax to steer clear of both Ashley and Mira, because they claimed to have had “bad experiences” with these particular actresses in the past.

Fran Walsh was in the same meeting, and remembers these negative comments about Ashley and Mira as clearly as I do. We have no reason to make it up.

This type of comment is not unusual – it can happen with any studio on any film, when different actor’s names come up in conversation – but once you hear negative feedback about somebody, you don’t forget it.

We were not in a position to offer Ashley or Mira a role in the movies, but we attempted to have their names added to a list, for when casting began. Each role can have many actors’ names listed for future auditions and meetings. 

In these film maker/studio relationships, there has to be consensus in casting choices – either side can generally veto suggested names for various reasons, and in pre-Lord of the Rings days, we didn’t have the power to override the studio on casting choices.

The movies changed hands from Miramax to New Line before casting actually got underway – but because we had been warned off Ashley and Mira by Miramax, and we were naive enough to assume we’d been told the truth, Fran and I did not raise their names in New Line casting conversations.

Nearly 20 years later, we read about the sexual misconduct allegations being made against Harvey Weinstein and we saw comments by both Mira and Ashley, who felt they had been blacklisted by Miramax after rejecting Harvey’s sexual advances.

Fran and I immediately remembered Miramax’s negative reaction when we put their names forward, and we wondered if we had unwittingly been part of the alleged damage to their careers, at the hands of Miramax. 

We have no direct evidence linking Ashley and Mira’s allegations to our Lord of the Rings casting conversations of 20 years ago – but we stand by what we were told by Miramax when we raised both of their names, and we are recounting it accurately. 

If we were unwitting accomplices in harming their careers, Fran and I unreservedly apologize to both Ashley and Mira. 

In October, Judd went public with claims that Harvey Weinstein sexually harassed her in the ’90s, when, she alleges, he invited her to his hotel room and greeted her in a bathrobe, asking for a massage and to take a shower with him. “I said no, a lot of ways, a lot of times, and he always came back at me with some new ask,” Judd said to The New York Times. “It was all this bargaining, this coercive bargaining.” Sorvino, meanwhile, told The New Yorker‘s Ronan Farrow that Harvey Weinstein behaved inappropriately with her around the same time. “He started massaging my shoulders, which made me very uncomfortable, and then tried to get more physical, sort of chasing me around,” Sorvino claimed of an incident in a Toronto hotel room around the release of Mighty Aphrodite in 1995.

Weinstein has denied all allegations of non-consensual sex — as well as claims that he retaliated against women who rebuffed him. “Any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein,” his representatives said in a statement released in October. “Mr. Weinstein has further confirmed that there were never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances. Mr. Weinstein obviously can’t speak to anonymous allegations, but with respect to any women who have made allegations on the record, Mr. Weinstein believes that all of these relationships were consensual. Mr. Weinstein has begun counseling, has listened to the community and is pursuing a better path. Mr. Weinstein is hoping that, if he makes enough progress, he will be given a second chance.”

A representative for Weinstein did not immediately reply to EW’s request for comment regarding Jackson and Walsh’s statement.

Sorvino and Judd both reacted to Jackson’s Stuff interview earlier Friday; Sorvino said she “burst out crying” at the “confirmation that Harvey Weinstein derailed my career,” while Judd recalled meeting Jackson and Walsh about the movie and then “abruptly never heard from [them] again.”

—With additional reporting by David Canfield

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