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Harvey Weinstein

(1952 - )

Harvey Weinstein is an American film producer and movie studio chairman best known as co-founder of Miramax Films.

Weinstein was born on March 19, 1952, in Flushing, New York, and grew up in a Jewish family in New York City. After high school, he attended university at SUNY-Buffalo.

In the late 1970s, together with his brother Bob, Harvey created a small independent film distribution company called Miramax, named after their parents - Miriam and Max. The company’s first releases were primarily music-oriented concert films such as Paul McCartney’s Rockshow. The Weinsteins slowly built upon this success throughout the 1980s with arthouse films that achieved critical attention and modest commercial success. Harvey Weinstein and Miramax gained wider attention in 1988 with the release of Errol Morris’s documentary The Thin Blue Line, which detailed the struggle of Randall Adams, a wrongfully convicted inmate sentenced to death row. The publicity that soon surrounded the case resulted in the release of Adams and nationwide publicity for Miramax. In 1989, their successful launch release of Steven Soderbergh’s Sex, Lies, and Videotape propelled Miramax to become the most successful independent studio in America.

Miramax continued to grow its library of films and directors until, in 1993, after the success of The Crying Game, Disney offered the Weinsteins $80 million for ownership of Miramax. Agreeing to the deal that would cement their Hollywood clout and ensure that they would remain at the head of their company, Miramax followed the next year with their first blockbuster, Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, and distributed the popular independent film Clerks.

Weinstein accepted Miramax's first Best Picture Academy Award in 1996 with the victory of The English Patient (Pulp Fiction was nominated in 1994 but lost to Forrest Gump). This started a string of critical successes that included Good Will Hunting (1997) and Shakespeare in Love (1998), both of which won several awards, including numerous Academy Awards.

The Weinstein brothers left Miramax on September 30, 2005, to form their own production company, The Weinstein Company, with several other media executives, directors Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, and Colin Vaines, who had successfully run the production department at Miramax for 10 years.

Weinstein was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in recognition of his contributions to the British film industry. He was also made a Chevalier (knight) of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Consulate in New York City in recognition of Miramax's efforts to increase the presence and popularity of foreign films in the United States.

In October 2017, the New York Times and The New Yorker reported that more than a dozen women accused Weinstein of sexually harassing, assaulting, or raping them. Many other women in the film industry subsequently reported similar experiences with Weinstein, who denied “any nonconsensual sex.” As a result of these accusations, Weinstein was fired from his production company, suspended from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, resigned from the Directors Guild of America, and denounced by leading figures in politics whom he had supported.

On May 25, 2018, Weinstein was charged by New York police with “rape, criminal sex act, sex abuse and sexual misconduct for incidents involving two separate women.” On that day, he was arrested after surrendering to the police. Weinstein was later released after $1 million bail was posted on his behalf. He later surrendered his passport and was required to wear an ankle monitor, with travel being restricted to New York and Connecticut.

The Weinstein Company was subsequently forced into bankruptcy, with Lantern Entertainment purchasing its assets in 2018. The company was shut down on July 16, 2018.

Weinstein’s trial began on January 6, 2020. On that day, Weinstein was also charged in Los Angeles with raping one woman and sexually assaulting another in 2013.

On June 8, 2022, Weinstein was charged by the Metropolitan Police with two counts of indecent assault against a woman in London, between July 31 and August 31, 1996.

A jury convicted Weinstein on February 24, 2020, of two of five criminal charges: one count of criminal sexual assault in the first degree and one count of rape in the third degree. The jury found him not guilty of predatory sexual assault. He was sentenced to 23 years in prison.

The trial in Los Angeles commenced in October 2022. Weinstein was charged with 11 counts of rape, forcible oral copulation, and sexual battery, stemming from alleged acts between 2004 and 2013. He was found guilty of 3 of 7 charges (four of the initial 11 charges were dropped) on December 19, 2022.

Weinstein was married twice. In 1987, he married his assistant Eve Chilton and had three daughters; they divorced in 2004. In 2007, he married English fashion designer and actress Georgina Chapman. They have a son and daughter. On October 10, 2017, Chapman announced she was leaving Weinstein after the sexual harassment accusations. They were divorced in 2021.

Sources: Wikipedia.

Photo Credit: David Shankbone (2010)