Written by Alan Feuer
Sometimes his second ex-wife lets him spend the day with their two children. Sometimes he sleeps over at his best friend’s house in Connecticut and distracts himself with idle conversations about sports and national politics.
Every now and then, often pursued by cellphone camera spies, he slips out for a meeting at Cipriani Dolci in Grand Central Terminal in New York City, or goes to see a comedy show, or does a little shopping at a Target in the suburbs.
Mostly, though, in the past year and a half, Harvey Weinstein has been holed up on his own in a rented apartment in Manhattan, reading books, watching streamed TV shows, Googling himself and nervously obsessing about the outcome of his trial.
The trial, on charges of rape and other sexual crimes, is set to begin in earnest this week, with opening arguments scheduled for Wednesday. It is the latest and most perilous step so far in Weinstein’s turbulent two-year free fall, a downward spiral that began in late 2017 when, after years of private whispers, he was publicly accused of sexually assaulting and harassing scores of women.
Manhattan prosecutors say Weinstein is a serial sexual predator who should get the maximum penalty of life in prison. The trial is likely to hinge on the credibility of his accusers — six women will testify — and will delve into the complex issues of consent and power dynamics in the workplace.
His numerous accusers have said that he deserves no public sympathy and that his current misfortunes are the inevitable result of his serial mistreatment of women over the years. Plenty of others would agree: Weinstein has become a global symbol of the #MeToo movement and the behavior endured by women.
“You brought this upon yourself by hurting so many,” actress Rose McGowan said outside Manhattan Supreme Court on Jan. 6, addressing him on the first day of his trial. “You have only yourself to blame.”
In the wake of the allegations, Weinstein, the once formidable Hollywood producer, lost his marriage, his livelihood and a large part of his fortune. Now, according to those who have stuck with him, he is anxious — even petrified — about losing his freedom, too.
“He’s utterly isolated,” said Jeffrey Lichtman, a New York lawyer who recently befriended Weinstein. “And he’s terrified, especially of going to prison.”
In an email to The New York Times this month, Weinstein himself described the past few years as an “overwhelming” time that had given him the “opportunity for self-reflection and contemplation.”
He sees a therapist daily, he said, and has been practicing a 12-step program for sexual addiction. “I’ve found a spiritual connection I never had,” he wrote. “In that, I have experienced the power of being vulnerable.”
Some friends, however, have said that if Weinstein professes to feel sorry for his loved ones and accusers, he also — and perhaps even mostly — feels sorry for himself.
“He doesn’t get it,” said one friend who, like many, spoke on the condition of anonymity. “He thinks he’s the victim. He doesn’t blame himself for anything.”
Weinstein, who won acclaim for producing Oscar-winning films including “Pulp Fiction” and “Shakespeare in Love,” has steadfastly maintained that his sexual encounters with the scores of women who have accused him of misconduct from harassment to assault were consensual. One person who worked closely with him said that he genuinely believes the encounters “were transactional.”
In one of the few interviews Weinstein has given since his arrest, he seemed more concerned with his own well-being and public image than with the damage that he may have done to others. He told The New York Post in December that he felt his contributions to the film careers of women — both actors and directors — had been overlooked in the wake of the allegations. “My work has been forgotten,” he complained.
The movie producer’s fall from grace began in October 2017, after damaging stories about him appeared in The Times and The New Yorker, the first in a flood of public accusations from women about his conduct.
By February 2018, his production firm, The Weinstein Co., had gone bankrupt. Three months later, he was charged with rape and other sexual offenses by the Manhattan district attorney’s office. This month, the Los Angeles district attorney added to the criminal counts against him, charging him with raping one woman and sexually assaulting a second over two days in February 2013.
By the time of his arrest in Manhattan, in May 2018, he had already been sued in civil court by dozens of his accusers. And his wife of a decade, fashion designer Georgina Chapman, had divorced him and taken their two children, India, 9, and Dashiell, 6, to a house in Westchester County, a suburb of New York City.
Weinstein, 67, has been all but banished from the movie industry and no longer speaks with many of his friends and former colleagues — or with his brother, Bob, who was also once his business partner.
One of his remaining friends described him as “a leper.” His oldest friend and former college roommate, William Currao, said, “He doesn’t have many people left in his life, so I’ve seen Harvey put an added focus on caring for the people he still does have.”
Those who have stayed in touch with Weinstein have portrayed him as befuddled by the swiftness and severity of his downfall. He is preoccupied with the coverage about him in the media, as well as with his image as a villain, they said. He is also struggling, they claim, to come to grips with the widespread pain and outrage he has caused.
“Harvey is bewildered by how all of this played out,” Lichtman said, adding that Weinstein believes he is innocent. “He is numb, absolutely numb from all of this. He’s dazed.”
In some respects, Weinstein has been his own worst enemy from the start. In the film community, he was long known as a bully with a reputation for bottomless aggression. If he has found himself alone, those who know him say, it is largely because he has a habit of pushing those close to him away.
There is a long list of people who have tried — and failed — to help him. In the past three years alone, Weinstein has either fired or been left by several lawyers, some of whom, like David Boies, Lisa Bloom and Benjamin Brafman, are among the most prominent in their field.
He also had a highly public falling out with Michael Sitrick, his onetime publicity adviser.
His bossy and sometimes bellicose persona could become a factor in the trial. Not only has he second-guessed his lawyers and changed them several times, hampering his own defense; he has also tested the patience of the judge, James M. Burke, clashing with him over the use of a cellphone in the courtroom, then filing court papers accusing the judge of being biased.
As the trial approaches, Weinstein’s health has deteriorated sharply. Currao said that Weinstein was not well and has diabetes and hypertension. In December, he underwent a bilateral laminectomy, a back surgery his representative said was needed to repair his spine after a traffic accident in August, which occurred when he swerved his car to avoid hitting a deer.
After the surgery, Weinstein began using a walker with two yellow tennis balls affixed to its legs to smooth his passage and soon faced accusations he was exaggerating his injury in a bid for public sympathy.
He was so annoyed by the widespread disbelief about his health that he went behind his current lawyers’ backs and gave the interview to The Post in order, as he put it, “to show that I wasn’t faking.”
While Weinstein declined to discuss the state of his finances with The Times — he wrote that his priorities did not include his “personal belongings” — prosecutors in his case have said that he has sold at least six properties in recent years for nearly $60 million.
His own lawyers claim that much of that windfall has gone to support his two former wives, his four-person legal team and the remainder of his entourage, which now includes a crisis manager, a media consultant, a jury selection expert and a man responsible for making sure he always wears his electronic ankle monitor.
When asked by The Times what it was like to function without the even larger retinue of lieutenants and assistants that surrounded him in his heyday, Weinstein wrote, “I have always been self-sufficient.”
His film career, however, no longer exists, according to one close friend who has known him for more than 20 years. “If Harvey had the rights to a movie now, he couldn’t sell them,” this friend said. “The reputational issue is just too great, too risky. Everyone has turned their backs on this guy — everyone.”
And yet that hasn’t stopped Weinstein from seeking out deals.
Last summer, Weinstein, whose passport was taken from him as part of his bail arrangement, sought permission from the judge in his case to go to Italy on a business trip. His supporters say that he had gotten an unpaid consulting job in the country, advising a friend on how to mount a staged production of the hit movie “Cinema Paradiso.”
The judge denied his request to go abroad, but the friend, who has known Weinstein for more than 20 years, said the producer was planning, in true Hollywood fashion, on having a second act to his career.
“He’s a tough guy,” the friend insisted. “He thinks he’s going to get through this and then make a comeback.”
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines