Good grief. I just read Salma Hayek’s piece in the New York Times. It’s a horror through and through — Harvey Weinstein is a terrible human being. There was the familiar constant pressure for sex, and his anger when denied, but what’s new here is how Weinstein, who had a reputation for sponsoring great art movies, was in active force in compromising the art. What he did to Hayek’s movie, Frida, was unconscionable.
Halfway through shooting, Harvey turned up on set and complained about Frida’s “unibrow.” He insisted that I eliminate the limp and berated my performance. Then he asked everyone in the room to step out except for me. He told me that the only thing I had going for me was my sex appeal and that there was none of that in this movie. So he told me he was going to shut down the film because no one would want to see me in that role.
Frida Kahlo did many self-portraits, and her striking appearance was part of her identity, and Weinstein wanted to reduce her looks to something more conventional? She was afflicted with polio as a child and severely injured in an accident in her teens, and lived her whole life with a disability and chronic pain, and Weinstein wanted to erase that in a biography? How clueless is he, and how many of the good Weinstein-produced movies were made in spite of his interference, and how much better would they have been if he’d never been allowed to say a word?
He offered me one option to continue. He would let me finish the film if I agreed to do a sex scene with another woman. And he demanded full-frontal nudity.
Christ. Hayek gave in on that demand, reluctantly, and with much anguish. But now you’ll need to keep this in mind next time you watch Game of Thrones or some cop show which features a stroll through a strip joint. The nudity isn’t some critical part of the story, or even a part of the atmosphere added for verisimilitude. It’s probably because some guy high up in the production likes the power of being able to compel the women acting in his show to expose themselves. It’s not that nudity and sex can’t be a natural part of a story, but that there’s so much of it, and it’s almost entirely gratuitous.
It sort of turns out well, with regard to the movie, at least…except for the part where Hayek’s success was added to the Weinstein luster, and that he then intentionally stunted her career.
Months later, in October 2002, this film, about my hero and inspiration — this Mexican artist who never truly got acknowledged in her time with her limp and her unibrow, this film that Harvey never wanted to do, gave him a box office success that no one could have predicted, and despite his lack of support, added six Academy Award nominations to his collection, including best actress.
Even though “Frida” eventually won him two Oscars, I still didn’t see any joy. He never offered me a starring role in a movie again. The films that I was obliged to do under my original deal with Miramax were all minor supporting roles.
It seems just to me that Weinstein’s reputation as a patron of the arts is going down in flames, along with his reputation as a decent person.