SPOILER ALERT: This article contains details of Ken Auletta’s Hollywood Ending: Harvey Weinstein and the Culture of Silence, which came out this week.

Just a few months before the incarcerated Harvey Weinstein goes on trial anew for multiple West Coast sex crimes, Ken Auletta’s just-published Hollywood Ending: Harvey Weinstein and the Culture of Silence seeks to offer the big picture about the producer who brought arthouse to the multiplex and the industry that enabled his evil.

In the shadow of the 2017 exposés from the New York Times’ Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey and now fellow New Yorker scribe Ronan Farrow, Auletta’s 466-page hardcover book comes more than two years after the much-accused mogul was sentenced to 23 years behind bars by a New York judge for rape and sexual assault.

As much a biography in many ways of Harvey Weinstein’s brother Bob Weinstein, the New Yorker staffer’s long-gestating latest book is also less about revelations and more about reciprocity. Still, drawing deeply from his 2002 profile of the Shakespeare in Love producer and his more recent coverage of the 2020 New York City trial, Auletta’s manifold narrative is pockmarked with the horrors and realities of Weinstein’s rampant abuses.

“I wanted to write a biography that was not to paint Harvey as a cardboard cutout figure, but showed both the monster and the talent,” Auletta says of Hollywood Endings.

Auletta spoke with me recently about the book, his motivations, and the relationship between the Weinstein brothers. He also offered his take on the state of the #MeToo movement and Weinstein’s upcoming Los Angeles trial.

DEADLINE: You end the book with a quote from Bob Weinstein in reaction to his brother’s cold shoulder from prison. “It was a reminder for me: there is no Harvey, no real human being there.” Clearly that resonates with you. How?

AULETTA: That Harvey has no feelings. That he has no empathy. There’s a scene earlier in the book where Bob arranges for he and David Boies to go to lunch at the Four Seasons with Harvey. Bob and David Boies had talked about what he wanted to do. He wanted Harvey to be introspective, to look inside himself and to appreciate how much they have done in their career and enjoy it, smell the roses. And David started by talking about how a little farm boy, him, had grown up and had this very successful legal career and he looks back all the time with great pride and joy at his success.

And Harvey looked at him and when David was finished with this heartfelt talk, he looked at him and he said, ‘So, what’s the point? Why are you telling me this?’ And to Bob that illustrated, which again he came back to in that last quote I used in the book, that Harvey has no feelings. That he has no ability to look inside himself to appreciate things. He’s just angry and ambitious, but he doesn’t enjoy himself in a way.

Harvey was a brilliant manipulator of people and he knew how to use and abuse his power. And be it by giving book contracts or magazine pieces or cover treatment in a magazine or getting women to wear his wife’s Marchesa dresses in his movies.

DEADLINE: And he was often, at least through much of the 1990s and early 2000s, at the center of that power with his political donations and fundraising.

AULETTA: Exactly. Exactly.

DEADLINE: You know, I found the book as much about Bob as is about Harvey …

AULETTA: Really?

DEADLINE: Yes. You talk about him looking through the lens of this through his own addiction issues and how that really frames it, almost in an unapologetic way.

AULETTA: I think Bob, unlike Harvey, is introspective. I think Alcoholics Anonymous and the therapy he went through really helped reinforce that in him. So, he is a guy who is capable of thinking and digging down deeper into himself and to understanding other people including his brother. It was, at first, very difficult for him to talk to me. I really struggled to get Bob to cooperate. And then he finally did and he was very helpful to me.

DEADLINE: Do you believe he didn’t know the extent of Harvey’s horrors, the rapes, the NDAs, the payoffs, the harassment?

AULETTA: I did confront him, as you allude, to the fact that didn’t you know what he was doing? His basic answer is that I knew he was a sex addict. I didn’t know he was raping women. And by the way, a lot of people who worked with Harvey, their defense, when you ask did you know, was I knew he cheated on his wives. They say, I didn’t know what happened in those hotel rooms.

DEADLINE: What happened in those hotel rooms and other places was the focus of Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey’s reporting, and Ronan’s too. In that sense, Hollywood Ending stands in their shadow …

AULETTA: But you know what I tried to do is something different. I have great respect for Jodi and Megan and Ronan and the work they did. And their feat in getting women who were fearful to talk to them, I mean, I totally applaud what they did.

DEADLINE: And you mention that in the book repeatedly.

AULETTA: Repeatedly, and I mean that. But I’m doing something different. I’m writing a biography. It is the book I wanted to write when I decided to write it in the summer of 2018.

I wanted to write a biography that was not to paint Harvey as a cardboard cutout figure, but showed both the monster and the talent. Showed the complicity of the Hollywood community in helping enable this guy. How did this guy do this for 40 years and no one blew the whistle on him? To me that was stunning, and it allowed me to do that. It also allowed me to write about Bob and the relationship between the brothers.

It’s almost a Shakespearean tale of how in the end Bob fires his brother — I mean, extraordinary. I mean, they were best friends. They shared a room together as children. They shared everything at Miramax and the Weinstein Company. And then at one point, as I describe and I have the audio tape of Harvey on June 2, 2015, [Harvey] tries to get the board of directors to fire his brother. And then some months later sucker-punches him and breaks his nose. Oh, my God. It’s just an amazing story to me.

DEADLINE: So, what were you trying to do with this book? I mean, it’s not like you haven’t written a lot about Harvey Weinstein…

AULETTA: I’m trying to understand what propelled Harvey Weinstein to do these monstrous things to women. That’s one thing. So, I went through his childhood and I talked to childhood friends, et cetera. And I learned that his mother had a role, and certainly the yelling that she was famous for among his friends, who they wouldn’t play poker at the house because she was always yelling and it was uncomfortable. And I also learned that, when you trace his life, that Harvey in junior high school and high school and then his first three years of college, I could find no evidence that he abused women. I found evidence he didn’t date very much.

DEADLINE: So, when was the shift to predator? 

AULETTA: He didn’t start abusing women until he had power with Harvey & Corky Presents and the promotion business. Then it escalated after that. So, that was to me a revelation. I also was interested in exploring further, and Ronan explored some of this and so did Jodi and Megan, the enabling culture and how that worked. I also wanted to look at the other side of the monster.

DEADLINE: Well, let me ask you, though, because you do open up the aperture to the mogul as well as the monster. What do you think is Harvey Weinstein’s Hollywood legacy?

AULETTA: Obviously a lot of it gets buried by his misbehavior and his conviction in a criminal court and a deserved conviction in my judgment. But I mean, clearly his movies alone stand up as a legacy. The Crying Game, My Left Foot, Shakespeare in Love, Pulp Fiction, I mean, I can go on and on. He was responsible for spotting, producing and/or distributing an amazing array of movies and you can’t take that away from him. And I wouldn’t take it away. I don’t think you should take it away him.

Now, that is shadowed by his monstrous behavior, but nevertheless those Academy Awards and those Academy Award nominations and those movies will always be there. In fact, you could argue when you look at Netflix and Amazon — look at some of the movies they’re doing, Roma for instance — I mean you could argue that Harvey’s success with foreign films and with quality films help give incentive to the streamers to try and do those kind of movies.

DEADLINE: Well, certainly before the exposés came out, people like Ted Sarandos thought Harvey was the rainmaker.

AULETTA: Absolutely. And Harvey was talking and doing deals with Ted Sarandos. But you know he did, one of the things that the streamers have an advantage is they don’t need, since they’re worldwide and people are home, they don’t need the same audience as theaters and they don’t need the movie theaters to chase them out, which was always a worry with Harvey.

DEADLINE: Shifting back to the monster, Harvey’s sentencing happened two years ago, and he has his Los Angeles trial coming up later this year. Obviously, the last couple of months we’ve seen the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard trial play out and the verdict. A result of that seems like the beginning of a backlash against the #MeToo movement. What do you think of that, in the context of your book?

AULETTA: I think #MeToo is a very healthy development. To strike fear in the hearts of men who take women for granted or harass them or abuse them is a positive thing. But, like any movement, there are excesses.

DEADLINE: Such as? 

AULETTA: For instance, when women say, argue, and many in #MeToo have argued, believe women as a slogan, believe women. Well, we’re journalists. If someone told you believe any studio head you talk to or told me believe any president or mayor or governor you talk to, I would say bullsh*t. I’m not going to. I don’t accept that as a journalist. The right slogan is listen to women, and that’s a much more constructive thing.

One of the things that inevitably happens in the excess is that everyone gets lumped together with Harvey Weinstein and we lose the gradation. Harvey Weinstein is an extreme example. You know Charlie Rose, Mike Oreskes the NPR editor, Al Franken, they don’t belong in the same grouping as Harvey. They weren’t raping women. And so, we have to have gradations. But, it’s very hard to do that when people are understandably upset about male behavior. Nevertheless, as a journalist, our job is to approach everything with a degree of skepticism.

For instance, I don’t believe in the death penalty and therefore if someone has committed an abuse, if they want a pardon they have to prove that they are contrite, that they apologize, that they’ve reformed in some way. And if they do prove that I would give them a pardon. And that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t serve some time, but it doesn’t mean that they should be put to death. And I think we indiscriminately put everyone to death and that’s kind of ridiculous and extreme.

DEADLINE: You confronted Weinstein back in 2002 over allegations of rape for your New Yorker profile. No one would talk at the time, but, as you detail in the book, you tried to catch him out via the money trail. But Weinstein and his brother showed you personal checks from Bob they said were to pay off having a consensual affair exposed and potentially ruining Harvey’s family. With the hindsight of time and having told the full story in the book of the assault, how do you see that situation now?

AULETTA: As I describe in the book, as you mention, I confronted him on that. He said I’m not going to talk. I said Harvey I need to see the canceled checks and I need to see them tomorrow. It was a Tuesday we were meeting, because Thursday we close the piece. And the next day he came back with his brother Bob and slid across the table two canceled personal checks from Bob. So, I couldn’t get him. I mean, he escaped.

It was Remnick [David Remnick, New Yorker editor] who decided, and I agree with his decision. He said Ken we can’t publish this. We’re not the National Enquirer. We don’t have evidence. We don’t have the women.

DEADLINE: Following the downfall and incarceration of Harvey Weinstein the past five years, I’ve wondered again and again, how he is paying for all this? In Hollywood Ending, you bring up him asking his brother for money – so from your POV, how is Harvey Weinstein funding what is a multimillion-dollar, multi-national defense fund?

AULETTA: That’s a really good question particularly as you saw in the later chapters in my book he was asking Bob for $5 million.

DEADLINE: But at the same time there were all these houses, all these multimillion-dollar properties sold. There have been accounts frozen by his ex-wives to make sure they are not left high and dry. There seems to be a morass of money moving around that almost resembles the levels he went to, to hide his crimes, previously …

AULETTA: Yes. He hired a very good L.A. lawyer, Mark Werksman. He’s got a legal team in New York. He’s got a legal team in London. For civil lawsuits he’s got different lawyers. So, you know, he’s got money. And if you look, by the way, at the amount of money he made at Miramax and the Weinstein Company, he made hundreds of millions of dollars. And so, is he still dipping into that? If he is, why was he asking Bob for $5 million?

DEADLINE: You look at their relationship a lot, but to go back to the thing you talk about is the overall arc of the book, which is power. Do you think that was part of it? Was the ask for the money just to see if he could still get his brother to bend to him again?

AULETTA: It might’ve been. I mean, I’m wary of psychobabbling, so I don’t want to jump into that one too quickly. But there’s no question that Harvey loved power, that part of his thing with women was conquest. He loved conquering people and he loved conquering them verbally as well as physically. So, that’s a plausible explanation. Is it the right explanation? I’m not sure.

I’m not sure where the money flow is truly coming from. I know he made a lot of money. I also know he gave a lot of money to his wives. And yet, 60 some odd million dollars in real estate sales … not all of which went to the wives, several hundred million dollars made at his companies, I mean, I assume he’s has an ability to tap funds. I mean, clearly, he does, because he still has his PR guy. He’s paying him too.

DEADLINE: PR that’s about to go into overdrive again with the L.A. trial in October, now that Weinstein’s New York state appeal has been turned down. As Weinstein’s biographer by choice, where is this all going to end?

AULETTA: I mean, they have 11 indictments in L.A., as I understand it. So, they will have more women testifying. We don’t know who those women are yet. I think Harvey knows, the defense knows, the prosecution knows, but that information has not been released.

My sense is it may even be a stronger case than the New York case against him. If Harvey is found guilty in L.A., he will be sent back to Wende Correctional Facility in upstate New York, outside of Buffalo, to fulfill the rest of his sentence in New York, which is a 23-year sentence of which he’s served two years already. And then after, if he lives that long, he would then go to L.A. But then there’s another wrinkle; there may be a trial in London.

And so, what would happen is if there’s a trial in London after the trial in L.A., if London is ready, presumably Harvey would be shipped to London, a prison there, and await trial. But eventually, assuming he lives that long, he will come back to complete his sentence in New York state first and then serve any subsequent sentences. If he lives that long.

DEADLINE: Even with the trials to come for Weinstein, at least a large portion of your ride on this journey is over with the publication of Hollywood Ending. A book is such a huge endeavor for anyone, no matter how many a person’s written, every one anew. Were there things that you had to leave out of this book that now you look at it and you wish you had included?

AULETTA: No. I left nothing out. I don’t feel “compromised” in any way. There’s nothing that I feel I left out that I should’ve put in to protect someone or something. So, I’m comfortable with what I published. I mean, stuff was cut out just for space reasons and it wasn’t as important as something else, but I left nothing out that I felt was vital.

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