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Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey
she said

She Said: How two journalists broke the silence around Harvey Weinstein

We speak to the reporters, Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor, about a new film about their New York Times reporting.

A GROUP OF nervous journalists and editors hover around a computer in a New York office. On the screen is an article that has been months in the making.

An editor presses publish: The 2017 exposé on Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct has gone live on the New York Times website.

Five years ago, the name Harvey Weinstein meant power. It meant a man who had multiple box office successes; a big man with a big name, who knew how to make someone a star. Along with his brother Bob, he was behind the success of films like the Crying Game, The English Patient, and Shakespeare in Love. His name was invoked in tens of Oscar winners’ speeches

But his was also was a name that for a large group of women meant fear and submission, shame and secrecy. One of those women was Laura Madden, an Irish survivor who was assaulted by the movie producer in 1992. The Monaghan woman had gone to meet Weinstein for a job interview in a Dublin hotel. The shame of what occurred stayed with her for years, and impacted her confidence and her career, she has said in interviews since. 

When the 2017 New York Times article by reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey was published, the team watching on knew that the article was important. What they didn’t know was that the ripple effects of their actions would be felt across the world. That Weinstein would be jailed. That he would be – right now – in court accused of rape. That sexism and abuse in Hollywood which had been covered up for decades would be aired. That the MeToo movement, started in 2006 by Tarana Burke, would become a global social justice phenomenon.

She Said

PastedImage-25531 Zoe Kazan as Kantor and Carey Mulligan as Twohey. IMDB IMDB

Now a new film tells the story behind the article, and how Kantor and Twohey spent months trying to convince survivors of Weinstein’s behaviour to speak on the record. The movie, She Said, is based on the book of the same name written by the reporters.

It opens in Ireland, focusing on how Laura Madden got involved in the film industry after spotting a crew filming near where she lived. From there, in the vein of Spotlight and All The President’s Men, the film builds an atmosphere of tension and suspense.

We follow as Kantor is assigned the article and begins trying to speak to former employees of Miramax, the company Weinstein ran with his brother Bob from the 1970s (the pair later left Miramax and founded the Weinstein Company, which ran from 2005 – 2017). At the time, Twohey was on maternity leave, but she later joined Kantor on the reporting, and together they tried to convince people to speak out – knowing what a huge ask it was.

In the film, Kantor is played by Zoe Kazan, while British actor Carey Mulligan plays Twohey. Both reporters had specific skills they could bring to play: Kantor was tenacious and calm, able to track down big names and try to get them on side; Twohey had a gift for getting people to speak on the record. 

Both women had by that stage considerable journalistic experience, and were no strangers to writing journalism that had an impact: Kantor’s reporting on Amazon gave an essential insight into the pressures on its staff. Twohey’s reporting about untested rape kits saw Illinois become the first US state to require the testing of every rape kit.

Their Weinstein article article won them a Pulitzer Prize, but it also led to Weinstein’s downfall.

‘Holding our breath’

Kantor and Twohey were understandably nervous about how the film would depict them. “When we first watched the film, I think we were both holding our breath, a little bit uncertain about exactly what these events that we had experienced in real life, and then written about in such great detail in our book, would look like on the big screen,” Twohey tells The Journal.

But they were “so pleased” with the result. “I think that this film does an incredible job of capturing the reality of investigative journalism, it really plunges you into the New York Times newsroom,” says Twohey. The film was shot in the actual glass-walled building.

But what really stood out to them, she says, was how the film brought to life the ”incredible women” they encountered in the course of their reporting. The film isn’t all about the big names. Instead, it shows how lesser-known women were key to bringing the Weinstein story to the public, like Laura Madden.

As we wind up the interview, Kantor tells me to make sure I tell Madden’s story to The Journal readers, which emphasises how important she was in the process of bringing Weinstein to justice. 

“A lot of the famous actresses got most of the attention once the story broke,” says Twohey.

But this film, really, correctly places a lot of the attention on some of the lesser-known women, women who had worked for Weinstein as young women, who went to work for him at his companies and were victimised by him, and the incredible role that they played in our investigation.

“It was really a small number of women who were brave enough to participate in our reporting, and ultimately go on the record. And yet they had such a huge impact.”

She and Kantor were delighted that the spotlight was given to these people. That’s particularly important when, as the film shows, the impact of what occurred forced some women out of the industry altogether, some because of Weinstein’s connections and others because the world of film had damaged them so much. 

Though many of the celebrities appear in the film via voice only, Ashley Judd plays herself, replaying what it was like to decide whether to go on the record and put her career at risk.

Samantha Morton makes a stunning appearance as Zelda Perkins, an ex-Miramax employee who stood up to Weinstein after her colleague accused him of trying to rape her. Jennifer Ehle is also fantastic as Laura Madden, showing how even years after the incident, the impact of what had happened was with her.

Careers and motherhood

She Said brings in a personal aspect from both the women’s lives into the greater narrative of the investigation: the fact they are mothers. We see how Kantor balanced, with her reporter husband, the demands of their careers while raising two daughters. We also see how Twohey experienced post-natal depression following the birth of her first child.

“Our kids both inspired and impeded the investigation,” says Kantor. “And I think the film does a beautiful job of portraying that.”

“Part of what really inspires us about [She Said] is that the team brought such dignity and grace to it. When Carey as Megan, or when Zoe, as me, is struggling with some aspect of parenting, on the one hand you feel that it’s hard, and you feel the very harried quality.

“But I think that they also brought a real dignity and respect to the way that they portray that.”

We don’t really know how people will react to this film. But we hope that lots of women will feel that they’re seeing themselves up there.

‘An unforgettable moment’

PastedImage-75599 Patricia Clarkson and Andre Braugher

Andre Braugher and Patricia Clarkson play two pivotal editors who worked with Kantor and Twohey on the story. Braugher portrays Dean Baquet, a former executive editor (he has since retired from the NYT), while Clarkson portrays Rebecca Corbett, head of investigative projects at the newspaper. The pair support the reporters as they challenge Weinstein to give them a statement on the allegations.

The role was a personal one for Clarkson, as she had her own experience with Harvey Weinstein. She worked with him and had “deep suspicions about him, having been bullied by him in my career”, she tells The Journal. 

“It was an unforgettable day and moment in many people’s lives and the lives that he ruined; the lives that he changed forever,” recalls Clarkson of when the article was published. “I think for all of us, it was a high watermark of journalism. And I’m so thankful to those incredible journalists who never gave up.”

When the story first broke, Braugher was sceptical that justice would be achieved. “I said to myself, this is Harvey Weinstein: as powerful as he is, as rich as he is, as many lawyers and enablers as he has, it’s not going to be possible for the story to stick. And amazingly, it did,” he says.

I’m very surprised that it did. Because having spent decades in the business, I felt as though it would once again be business as usual, as though justice would be postponed, would be put off by Harvey’s influence and his power, and the pervasive system of enablers and protectors that he had.

He had felt “as though historically [Weinstein] was untouchable, and men like him were untouchable”. “Not anymore,” interjects Clarkson.

Because of this, Braugher says it is the beginning of a worldwide movement to create equity for women, particularly women in Hollywood, ”because by far women are the chief victims of this kind of exploitation”.

Adds Clarkson, “I think what’s important for people to remember is, Harvey’s protectors and entourage was taken down also, maybe not legally, but they are persona non grata.”

They are no longer in our industry, they are all gone, all of them, every single one of them. And that is what is also essential, is their silence was not golden. And that’s what I’m thankful for also, is that the mighty – and the not so mighty that surrounded the mighty – fell also. 

She Said is directed by Maria Schrader from a screenplay by Rebecca Lenkiewicz. It’s in Irish cinemas from 25 November.

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