MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
The New York Times has published a blockbuster story detailing allegations of sexual harassment against someone considered a king and queen maker in Hollywood.
(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Thank you, Harvey Weinstein.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Harvey and Bob Weinstein.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: And Harvey, blessed Harvey, Weinstein.
KELLY: Movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, who was behind big hits like "Pulp Fiction," "Life Is Beautiful" and "Chicago." So how is Hollywood reacting to these accusations? Well, with a shrug. Weinstein's behavior was apparently notorious amongst his staff, actors, executives, publicists.
Kim Masters is the host of The Business on KCRW, and she's editor-at-large of The Hollywood Reporter. I asked her to describe the power Weinstein holds in Hollywood.
KIM MASTERS: In the day, Harvey Weinstein was a magician in the Oscar race. Many people have statuettes on their mantle because of him. But in recent years, the last few years, it's been a lot rougher. And I actually don't think it's a total coincidence that this report about him is coming out at a time when he is kind of at low ebb in terms of his career.
KELLY: In a dry spell. Well, before we get to that, describe the behavior in question. What exactly are these allegations?
MASTERS: Well, I mean, we have been hearing allegations about Harvey Weinstein for years, some of which - but not all - are in The New York Times article that just ran. He has a pattern allegedly of asking women to meet him in hotels ostensibly for business purposes. And if they agree and go to these meetings, he has reportedly been in various stages of undress, including total undress, pressuring them for massages and all sorts of pressure to engage in activities that clearly have nothing to do with business to a greater or lesser degree of aggressiveness.
KELLY: You said this is something that you have been hearing about for years. I mean, the number of lawsuits that The New York Times is reporting he has settled would come up to least eight over the years. So, I mean, has this been just an open secret in Hollywood?
MASTERS: It has been, actually, an open secret, more and less. And, you know, many people in our line of work - you know, some people are saying, why wasn't this story broken sooner? Believe me; many of us have tried literally over the course of the last couple of decades.
KELLY: Well, what might be the consequences going forward for him? I mean, is it possible - can you see a scenario where he sits out a season or two and then comes back with a hit and all is forgiven?
MASTERS: No, I don't see that, actually. I think his name is very toxic right now. He is fighting for his professional life, obviously, apparently very passionately pleading to be allowed to - guaranteed that he can return if he takes a leave, as he has said he will, to address these demons of his. But I just don't see this being a thing. I mean, there comes a point where you're beyond the point of no return.
KELLY: The last thing to ask you is just the backdrop for all of this. Times have changed. This is not the first sexual harassment case to make headlines in the media and entertainment world. I mean, we've all followed the Bill Cosby trial, and then on the news media side there's Fox News and Roger Ailes and Bill O'Reilly. I mean, how does this fit into that wider context?
MASTERS: Well, clearly times have changed, and women are speaking out more. And that's a good thing. I mean, this behavior has gone on for years at the places you mentioned. And, you know, we're in 2017. And I feel hope that this is a wakeup call to people that this behavior is simply unacceptable and not to be tolerated.
KELLY: The days of the producer on the casting couch asking for - asking for services outside the realm of acting maybe finally...
KELLY: ...Getting put to rest.
MASTERS: I mean, that is a trope, you know, the producer on the casting couch. And I'm sure it was very true in the past and somewhat true today. But the kind of coercive behavior that's being alleged here, that is a standout even within the Hollywood community. Like, you might hear about somebody, you know, making a pass at a woman or pressuring her or saying I will give you this role if you do that for me. But I will say that in the chatter in Hollywood for a long time now, Harvey has been an outlier in terms of the pattern of behavior that's alleged.
KELLY: Thanks very much, Kim.
MASTERS: Thank you.
KELLY: That's Kim Masters. She is host of The Business on KCRW and also editor-at-large of The Hollywood Reporter.
(SOUNDBITE OF EL TEN ELEVEN'S "MY ONLY SWERVING")
KELLY: And the Weinstein Company's board of directors released a statement this evening strongly endorsing Harvey Weinstein's decision to take an indefinite leave of absence from the company beginning today. As for what comes next, that's still an open question. The Weinstein Company has hired a law firm to do an investigation and report to the board.
(SOUNDBITE OF EL TEN ELEVEN'S "MY ONLY SWERVING") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.