The BFI has become the latest industry body to punish the disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein over the allegations of sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape that have been emerging over the past few weeks.
Actresses as high profile as Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie and Kate Beckinsale have claimed that they were sexually harassed by the mogul, earlier in their careers, while Rose McGowan is among those who’ve alleged that he raped her.
The British film and television academy BAFTA was quick to suspend his membership and the American academy, which hands out the Oscars, was quick to go a step further, expelling from the organisation a producer whose films have garnered more than eighty Oscars and over three hundred nominations.
The BFI was in the awkward position of not having made a decision about Weinstein’s Fellowship, awarded in 2002, when it honoured the director Paul Greengrass with the same accolade at a glitzy ceremony at the close of the London Film Festival last weekend, but its board has now met and decided to strip him of its highest honour.
In a statement this afternoon, the BFI said, “The serious and widespread allegations about Harvey Weinstein’s appalling conduct are in direct opposition to the BFI’s values. The BFI Board has met and decided to withdraw the BFI Fellowship awarded to Harvey Weinstein in 2002. Sexual harassment, abuse and bullying is unacceptable under any circumstances. Everyone working in the film industry – in any industry – should be safe and respected in the workplace.”
Orson Welles and Sir David Lean were among the first to be honoured with the BFI Fellowship in 1983, but it was not a regular award until the London Film Festival began its current format of an Awards night in 2009, since when luminaries including Cate Blanchett, Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter, Stephen Frears and Steve McQueen have been made Fellows, in addition to ad hoc awards for stars including Hugh Grant, Mel Brooks and Al Pacino.
Hollywood figures have rounded on Weinstein, the latest being the Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks, who’s speculated that he will not be able to return to film producing and hoped that this would be a turning point for the industry. Another star, Ben Affleck, whose big break came in the film Good Will Hunting – produced by Weinstein’s previous company Miramax – was among the first to condemn his alleged behaviour, before having to apologise himself when video emerged of him groping the breasts of the presenter of a TV programme. The director Woody Allen, who’s faced his own sexual abuse allegations, said the situation was tragic for both Weinstein and the women involved but he cautioned against a witch-hunt against anyone men in Hollywood who “wink at a woman” – comments for which he was roundly condemned by Weinstein’s accusers.
The Producers Guild of America is another body that has withdrawn his membership, the French President has stripped him of that country’s highest civilian award, the Legion d’Honneur and the British government is coming under growing pressure to rescind his honorary CBE, a privilege granted in 2004. He’s also facing ongoing police investigations on both sides of the Atlantic.
Weinstein was been sacked as chairman of the company that bears his name and resigned as a director of the company after releasing his own statement, apologising for acting inappropriately and promising to get help to improve his behaviour. But he’s repeatedly insisted that any sexual contact with women had been consensual. His wife has left him.