Harvey Weinstein’s rise and fall signals the end of an era in indie film

 In Entertainment
Harvey Weinstein, the brash outsider from Queens who upended Hollywood, has always liked to think of himself as an underdog. So there may have been no prouder moment for him than the night of March 21, 1999, when he stood on the stage at the Academy Awards accepting the best picture Oscar for “Shakespeare in Love,” which had won in a stunning upset over Steven Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan.”

As his fellow producer Donna Gigliotti thanked him for “having the guts, the courage, the commitment to make this picture,” Weinstein beamed, soaking in the cheers from the crowd. He was at the peak of his power. Running Miramax with his brother Bob, he could turn art-house fare into mainstream hits, mint award nominations at an unprecedented clip and make or break careers. A 2015 survey of nearly 1,400 Oscar acceptance speeches by the website Vocativ found that Weinstein was thanked more frequently than God.

Yet some of the applause that night came from people who secretly — or not-so-secretly — rooted against him. Many in Hollywood felt the victory for “Shakespeare in Love” was as much a credit to Weinstein’s costly and bitterly fought Oscar campaign as to the film’s merits.

And some just found him generally loathsome. Weinstein was, and is, as famous for his temper as for his taste. He would regularly reduce people to tears with his blistering, belittling tantrums, unleashing torrents of profanity-laced verbal abuse — and the occasional ashtray or headlock — on whatever unlucky soul became the target of his wrath. His reputation for re-cutting directors’ movies was so firmly established, it earned him the nickname Harvey Scissorhands.

And, according to a bombshell report in the New York Times last week, he sexually harassed a series of women, including film stars and employees.

Even so, Weinstein reigned for years as one of the most powerful men in Hollywood, inspiring loyalty as well as fear as he changed the movie business in ways good and bad. With films such as “Pulp Fiction” he pumped up American independent cinema, while his all-out Oscar campaigns turned awards season into an often-nasty and increasingly expensive public brawl. Love him or hate him, he was a man you wanted on your side.

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