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Colin Firth expresses shame at failing to act on Weinstein allegation

Colin Firth said he read the allegations against Harvey Weinstein ‘with a feeling of nausea’.
Colin Firth said he read the allegations against Harvey Weinstein ‘with a feeling of nausea’. Photograph: Stefano Rellandini/Reuters

Colin Firth has expressed his shame for not doing more when a British actor he worked with told him of “a distressing encounter” with Harvey Weinstein in a hotel room more than 25 years ago.

He spoke out after Sophie Dix, who starred with him in one of the first cinema movies he made, went public with details of an alleged sexual assault involving Weinstein.

“She told me she had had a distressing encounter with Harvey Weinstein,” Firth told the Guardian. “I don’t think she went into all the horrific detail I’ve read in her interview. But I remember her being profoundly upset by it. To my shame, I merely expressed sympathy.

“I didn’t act on what she told me,” he went on. “It was a long time ago and I don’t know if she remembers telling me, but the fact that I had that conversation has come back to haunt me in the light of these revelations. It’s the only direct account of this kind of behaviour by Harvey Weinstein that’s ever been told to me.”

It is the second time this week Firth has spoken out about the accusations of sexual misconduct mounting against Weinstein, who helped make him a household name with the Miramax-backed movie The King’s Speech.

Earlier this week he said it was “with a feeling of nausea” he read the allegations, describing Weinstein as “a powerful and frightening man to stand up to”.

After reading his former colleague Dix’s interview, he contacted the Guardian asking that his full statement in response be published.

“I am extremely pleased that Sophie is speaking out after so many years,” he said. “I ran into her at a party some time after filming Hour of the Pig – around 25 years ago.

“What I heard, it turns out, was part of a horrifying pattern. Other women have been hurt since. And those of us who didn’t act on our one bit of knowledge – and especially those of us who went on to work with Weinstein – have that on our conscience.

“I admire Sophie’s courage. This can’t have been easy,” he said.

The Hour of the Pig was one of both actors’ first cinema movies and was released in 1993 in the UK and the US, where it was titled The Advocate.

Firth continued working with Weinstein while Dix described how she was so shaken by her hotel room experience her film career failed to progress. She said she was left traumatised and depressed, “took to the bed for six months” and concluded that the movies were not for her. “I decided if this what being an actress is like, I don’t want it,” she said.

In an interview with the Guardian on Thursday, she said that although she had been “very very vocal” at the time her protests were met “with a wall of silence” and those who were “capable of action … weren’t willing to help me in the way I hoped, so I just buried it”. Dix went on to have a successful career in TV acting and screen writing, but felt a movie career was put out of reach after the incident.

In response to Firth’s comments on Friday, she said: “I am delighted Colin has spoken and I remember him being very supportive at the time. It’s never easy speaking out but I wanted to help resolve this problem and show that women cannot be treated like this in the workplace.”

She noted that working on the original movie was “just such a happy experience for me” but that she now felt obliged to speak out again. “I talked till I was blue in the face and nobody really who could have done anything was prepared to. That’s why I would feel like a complete hypocrite and failure for my daughters if I didn’t speak now,” she said. “I can’t bear the thought of my daughters having to fight that battle.”

She said she felt The Hour of the Pig had been her break in movies, but that she had been dealt “the bad ace” in her first hand and chose not to stay in the business after that.

The deluge of accounts of abusive behaviour in the US film industry that have followed the Weinstein allegations continued on Thursday night when Emma Thompson said Hollywood needed to change as a matter of “public health”.

Emma Thompson describes Weinstein as a predator

She described Weinstein a bully and a predator and said the scandal now engulfing the Hollywood mogul had echoes of Jimmy Savile. His behaviour, she said, was the tip of the iceberg in “a system of harassment and belittling and bullying and interference”.

In a frank and wide-ranging interview on BBC2’s Newsnight, she said the casting-couch culture exposed in the past week was endemic and part of a gender crisis that was endangering girls and women.

Everyday humiliation and sexual harassment were routine for women, she said.

“This has been part of our world, women’s world, since time immemorial.

“So what we need to start talking about is the crisis in masculinity, the crisis of extreme masculinity which is this sort of behaviour,” she said in the interview.

“One of the big problems in the system we have is that there are so many blind eyes and we can’t keep making the women to whom this happens responsible. They are the ones we have got to speak. Why?” she told Emily Maitlis.

Weinstein has “unequivocally denied” any “allegations of non-consensual sex” and has said that he is hoping to get a “second chance”.

He is facing allegations from more than 30 women of sexual misconduct, including at least three of rape.

When the allegations of a cover-up and payoffs to women first emerged a week ago in the New York Times, Weinstein apologised for any pain he had caused and said he would seek therapy.

This article titled "Colin Firth expresses shame at failing to act on Weinstein allegation" was written by Lisa O'Carroll, for The Guardian on Friday 13 October 2017 10.59am

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