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Harvey Weinstein: English actor says alleged sexual assault ruined film career

Sophie Dix
Sophie Dix said, once she was in the hotel room, ‘all the alarm bells started ringing’. Photograph: Graeme Robertson for the Guardian

An English actor who was on the brink of a career in the British film industry in the 1990s has told how her trajectory was “massively cut down” after an alleged sexual assault by Harvey Weinstein in a London hotel.

Sophie Dix claimed the Hollywood mogul performed an unwelcome sexual act in her presence after she was invited up his room at the Savoy hotel “to watch some rushes” – a film production term for unprocessed footage from a day’s filming.

She now says that what happened next was “the single most damaging thing that’s happened in my life”.

Dix had been cast in a new film with Colin Firth in 1990. Having been excited about her big break, she says that she accepted Weinstein’s invitation “naively”.

Once in the hotel room, “all the alarm bells starting ringing” and “within a heartbeat” she found herself pushed on the bed with him “tugging at her clothes”.

The young actor, who was 22 at the time, says that she managed to bolt to the bathroom and after some time in hiding opted to make an escape. She opened the door and found him facing her “standing there masturbating”.

The incident left her traumatised and depressed. She “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.

Dix, now 48 and a screenwriter, had thought she was on verge of a film career after appearing alongside Colin Firth and Donald Pleasance in a film called The Hour of the Pig in the UK and The Advocate in the USA. When Weinstein invited her to dinner at Joe Allen, an American restaurant in Covent Garden frequented by people in the entertainment business, she said she “felt flattered”.

She had met Weinstein socially with colleagues in the industry, but was nervous about the one-to-one because he was one of the most powerful men in Hollywood.

“Maybe I went to talk about the film, maybe I went because it was a dinner in Joe Allen with someone from Hollywood. The point was, I had met him before I was doing a film with him. It was an exciting time of my life. I was open and trusting and I had never met a predator; I had never considered a predator,” she said.

“He made sure the wine was flowing,” she recalls. He told her he was “struggling with scenes” in another film and explained she might be able to help if she came to his room to watch the rushes. “I went trustingly and naively perhaps ... I suppose I just took it at face value,” she said.

“As soon as I was in there, I realised it was a terrible mistake. I got to the hotel room, I remember talk of a massage and I thought that was pretty gross. I think he showed me his big back and I found that pretty horrid.

Harvey Weinstein at the Cannes film festival in 2015.
Harvey Weinstein at the Cannes film festival in 2015. Photograph: Bertrand Langlois/AFP/Getty Images

“Then before I knew it, he started trying to pull my clothes off and pin me down and I just kept saying, ‘No, no, no.’ But he was really forceful. I remember him pulling at my trousers and stuff and looming over me and I just sort of – I am a big, strong girl and I bolted … ran for the bathroom and locked the door.”

“I was in there for a while, I think. He went very quiet. After a while I remember opening the door and seeing him just there facing the door, masturbating, so I quickly closed the door again and locked it. Then when I heard room service come to the door, I just ran,” she said.

Dix told her family, friends and colleagues about the incident at the time, but has decided 26 years later to tell the story more widely because for the first time she feels it will make a difference.

“I was very, very vocal about it at the time. I didn’t want to own it. I wanted people to take it away from me. But I was met with a wall of silence. People who were involved in the film were great, my friends and my family were amazing and very compassionate, but people in the industry didn’t want to know about it, they didn’t want to hear.

She considered going to police and discussed the incident with other women, but they felt they would be “trashed” and lose their careers.

She also vowed never to see Weinstein again, but months later she said she got what she felt was a phone call from him telling her to “stop talking”. Then over Christmas that year, when her family were away to visit her brother in Australia, Weinstein called again.

She believes it was Christmas Day, but cannot be certain. She recalls she had been at friends’ for dinner and was back at her home in north London when the phone rang. It was a call that she said terrified her.

“’This is Harvey. How are you?’ I was paralysed. There was no one in the house, I remember … and then he said: ‘It’s a new year, and I’ve decided to turn over a new leaf and I’m going to start with you, and I’m going to say I’m sorry and is there anything I can do for you?’

“I remember those were his exact words. I don’t know if he meant money. I didn’t think what he meant at the time. I knew very definitely I was speaking to a tape-recorded situation and I said, ‘No, thank you,’” she said. “It was awful. I felt frightened. I was alone in the house. It was like further abuse, further trauma.”

Dix went on to have roles in television series such as ITV’s Soldier Soldier, but she never got another movie role and she now concentrates on her work as a screenwriter.

“I had done some TV and stuff before, that but this was my big movie break. I still had a decent acting career, but it was all in TV. I never really had a film career. I think my film career was massively cut short.

She hopes speaking out could help change what she describes as a “misogynist” and “antiquated” industry where “men hitting on women” in the workplace is accepted. “I told a lot of people who I thought might be capable of action, and I realised their hands were tied and they weren’t willing to help me in the way I hoped, so I just buried it.

“You think you go into the film business because you think it is this free-thinking, liberal-minded industry, but actually it could not be more opposite. It is as antiquated, as sexist and rigged as they come.

“What I’m interested in talking about is the aftermath of a trauma like that. I’ve had friends call this week after the New York Times pieces came out, some who are now really famous, who knew about it at the time, and they say: ‘This was the moment it changed for you.’

“It was massively damaging. It’s the single most damaging thing that’s happened in my life.”

She said she buried her memories of the incident until, this week, dozens of actors from Angeline Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow to Cara Delevingne stepped forward with allegations of unwelcome sexual overtures and assault. London and New York police have also said they have opened unspecified investigations into Weinstein.

Weinstein said he realised his behaviour with colleagues “has caused a lot of pain and I sincerely apologise for it” when the first allegations of sexual misconduct emerged a week ago.

He has subsequently “unequivocally denied” any allegations of non-consensual sex, and a spokeswoman has said that he never retaliated against women who refused his sexual advances.

“Mr Weinstein obviously can’t speak to anonymous allegations, but with respect to any women who have made allegations on the record, Mr Weinstein believes that all of these relationships were consensual.”

This article titled "Harvey Weinstein: English actor says alleged sexual assault ruined film career" was written by Lisa O'Carroll, for The Guardian on Friday 13 October 2017 06.24am

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