The Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson alleges that Harvey Wienstein blacklisted actresses Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino from auditioning for the Oscar-winning trilogy in what he now believes was smear campaign by the disgraced Hollywood producer.
Jackson was recalling a pitch for his J. R. R. Tolkien adaptation to Miramax in 1998 and a meeting with Bob and Harvey Weinstein when he said that Harvey told him Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino should be removed from the casting process because they were "a nightmare to work with."
"I recall Miramax telling us they were a nightmare to work with and we should avoid them at all costs," Jackson told New Zealand publication Stuff. "This was probably in 1998. At the time, we had no reason to question what these guys were telling us - but in hindsight, I realise that this was very likely the Miramax smear campaign in full swing. I now suspect we were fed false information about both of these talented women - and as a direct result their names were removed from our casting list."
Sorvino and Judd are among the dozens of actresses who've leveled sexual harassment accusations against the Miramax-founder and both have responded to Jackson's recent revelations with Ashley saying: "I remember this well."
Many actresses have come out to say that once they resisted Harvey's reported advances they felt their careers were threatened.
Sopranos actress Annabella Sciorra, who accuses Weinstein of violently raping her, told the New Yorker she always suspected him of ruining her reputation.
"From 1992, I didn't work again until 1995," Sciorra said. "I just kept getting this pushback of 'We heard you were difficult; we heard this or that.' I think that that was the Harvey machine."
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Weinstein quickly responded the Kiwi director's story with a statement saying he denied being a part of the three films' casting process.
Weinstein said he has "nothing but the utmost respect for Peter Jackson" but that Jackson ultimately went with New Line over Miramax to produce the trilogy (Weinstein was only credited as an EP due to "contractual reasons" says Jackson).
The 65-year-old producer also said his company "always considered" both actresses for casting opportunities.
But Harvey's statement prompted Jackson to weigh-in again with a reply:
"Aspects of Harvey's denial are insincere. He is basically saying that 'this blacklisting couldn't be true because New Line cast the movie.' That's a deflection from the truth," Jackson said in a statement obtained by THR. "In the 18 months we developed the Lord of the Rings at Miramax, we had many casting conversations with Harvey Weinstein, Bob Weinstein and their executives."
The Oscar-winning director also says that he had a witness in his wife, New Zealand screenwriter, Fran Walsh:
"Fran Walsh was in the same meeting, and remembers these negative comments about Ashley and Mira as clearly as I do. We have no reason to make it up. Fran and I immediately remembered Miramax's negative reaction when we put their names forward, and we wondered if we had unwittingly been part of the alleged damage to their careers, at the hands of Miramax. ... If we were unwitting accomplices in harming their careers, Fran and I unreservedly apologise to both Ashley and Mira."