In 2017, investigative journalists Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor exposed Harvey Weinstein’s numerous sexual assault scandals and the Hollywood system that enabled him. Five years later, the story behind the influential New York Times report is being told on screen.
At the worldwide premiere of “She Said” at the New York Film Festival, director Maria Schrader explained why she believes this story “deserves to be seen on the big screen.”
“Hollywood has the duty to tell the really vital stories of our times,” Schrader told Variety on Thursday night. “It’s not about just the wrongdoings of one person but a whole system protecting him. This is something we can find in any kind of industry and even small businesses.”
Twohey and Kantor — played by Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan, respectively — walked the red carpet and praised Schrader’s film adaptation of their story.
“There are some movies and whatnot in which journalists are shown as opportunists,” Kantor told Variety. “The most important thing for me is that I wanted the sincerity both of the journalism and the sources to be portrayed.”
Twohey added, “We’re so grateful to be in this great line of movies like ‘Spotlight’ and ‘All the President’s Men.’ I think that this [film] is a love letter for journalism. It takes you into the literal New York Times newsroom and shows all of the extremely hard work that goes into getting a story like this — all the challenges that you face, but also how incredibly rewarding it can be.”
During a panel discussion after the screening in Alice Tully Hall, Mulligan reflected on “the daunting prospect to play someone real.”
“And then to play such real heroes of our society,” she said, “I was terrified the whole time — and I still am!”
Kazan noted that the film illustrates how “an individual can make a change when supported by the right institutions,” but cautioned that the #MeToo movement is far from over. “She Said” is being released at the intersection of four major #MeToo trials involving Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, actor Danny Masterson and director Paul Haggis — all of which are occurring this month in Los Angeles and New York.
“Anybody reading the newspaper headlines, let’s just say since May, would know that we are still living in an oppressive patriarchy,” Kazan said. “That’s not special to our industry. There is so much change left to be affected.”
The film features appearances from a number of women who were sexually harassed by Weinstein in real life, including Sarah Anne Masse and Ashley Judd. Masse, who now runs the Hire Survivors Hollywood initiative, emphasized that Hollywood should “start expecting accountability from the people that have caused harm.” She listed “Community” creator Dan Harmon, who was accused of “past inappropriate behavior” by one of his former writers in 2018, as an example of someone who properly took responsibility for his actions.
“I think Dan Harmon is the best example I can think of of someone who took accountability,” Masse told Variety. “He just fully owned it, and the person he had harmed did accept that. That’s up to her, and you never have to, but I think he really understood. He should have understood sooner — but he understood the power he had and the position he was in, and he took responsibility. I wish people would look to that more as an example of how these things can change.”
She concluded, “Not everybody is necessarily a serial abuser like Harvey was. I think there are people who can learn and change and stop causing harm. We have to put an end to that lack of safety and respect.”
“She Said” opens in theaters on Nov. 18.
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