In an article for Variety published Tuesday, actress Heather Graham revealed for the first time publicly that producer Harvey Weinstein had once implied that she must have sex with him to get a role in a film, a proposition she rejected and which she regrets having not disclosed until now.
Graham's accusation comes amid a flood of accounts of disturbing sexual behavior by Weinstein, who has now been accused of sexual harassment and assault by several women and of rape by three women. The revelation of Weinstein's alleged decades-long abuse of his power has rocked Hollywood and prompted a number of women, including Ashley Judd, Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie, to give their accounts of victimization at the hands of the professionally and politically influential figure.
Graham's description of her encounter with Weinstein, which she says occurred in the early 2000s, reads like a classic case of the "casting couch predator," in which the filmmaker used his position as leverage to coerce the talent to engage in a sexual relationship in order to land a role.
Graham notes that in her first meeting with the Miramax and Weinstein Co. co-founder, Weinstein stated that he and his wife have an agreement that he can "sleep with whomever he wanted" when she was out of town, a comment that left her feeling "uneasy." However, he was careful not to explicitly state that she would only get a role if she slept with him.
In the early 2000s Harvey Weinstein called me into his office. There was a pile of scripts sitting on his desk. “I want to put you in one of my movies,” he said and offered to let me choose which one I liked best. Later in the conversation, he mentioned that he had an agreement with his wife. He could sleep with whomever he wanted when he was out of town. I walked out of the meeting feeling uneasy. There was no explicit mention that to star in one of those films I had to sleep with him, but the subtext was there.
In their planned follow-up meeting, which was to occur at his hotel, the location and his willingness to overtly lie to her in order to coax her into coming was enough of a red flag that she was able to get herself out of the situation:
A few weeks later, I was asked to do a follow-up meeting at his hotel. I called one of my actress friends to explain my discomfort with the situation, and she offered to come with me. En route, she called me to say she couldn’t make it. Not wanting to be at the hotel alone with him, I made up an excuse — I had an early morning and would have to postpone. Harvey told me that my actress friend was already at his hotel and that both of them would be very disappointed if I didn’t show. I knew he was lying, so I politely and apologetically reiterated that I could no longer come by.
Graham underscores that after she pulled out of the meeting, she was never hired for any of his films. She also states that she never spoke up about what had happened, something for which she now partly feels "ashamed."
That was the end of that encounter — I was never hired for one of his films, and I didn’t speak up about my experience. It wasn’t until Ashley Judd heroically shared her story a few days ago that I felt ashamed. If I had spoken up a decade ago, would I have saved countless women from the same experience I had or worse?
Graham goes on to describe the conundrum that so many in her position have struggled with, namely how to determine "what defines sexual harassment in the workplace?" Weinstein avoided any explicit sexual proposition, only implying that she must sleep with him to get a role. In those kinds of situations, said Graham, victims "don’t want to be attacked for reading into something that may or may not have been there." Specifically for women, she said, they fear appearing "weak for not being able to handle ourselves in a business run by men" and potentially being perceived as "a Difficult Woman."