Big Names Join Growing Chorus of Sexual Claims Against Weinstein

LOS ANGELES (CN) – Oscar-winning stars Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow were among several high-profile actresses to go public with harassment allegations against Hollywood heavyweight Harvey Weinstein on Tuesday as the New Yorker reported more sexual assault claims against the producer and executive.

Thirteen women had come forward with allegations that Weinstein sexually harassed or assaulted them, and three told the magazine that the producer had raped them.

Actresses Rosanna Arquette, Mira Sorvino, Paltrow and Jolie added to the claims of sexual harassment, while Italian star Asia Argento told the New Yorker that Weinstein had performed oral sex on her without her consent at the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc, on the French Riviera.

She said she was 21 at the time and said Weinstein “terrified” her.

“It wouldn’t stop. It was a nightmare,” Argento told the New Yorker.

Paltrow told The New York Times that, after Weinstein had given her the lead role in the film adaptation of Jane’s Austen’s “Emma,” he invited the then-22-year-old actress to a pre-production meeting at the Peninsula Beverly Hills hotel where placed his hands on her and asked for a massage.

“I was a kid, I was signed up, I was petrified,” she said, adding that she had turned down the offer.

Jolie said she had rejected Weinstein’s advances in a hotel room in the late 1990s, after the release of “Playing by Heart.”

“I had a bad experience with Harvey Weinstein in my youth, and as a result, chose never to work with him again and warn others when they did,” Ms. Jolie wrote in an email to the Times. “This behavior towards women in any field, any country is unacceptable.”

In a response to the New Yorker article, Weinstein’s spokeswoman Sallie Hofmeister said any “allegations of nonconsensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein.”

On Tuesday morning, former actress and screenwriter Louisette Geiss said Weinstein sexually harassed her at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, where the producer was promoting the documentary “Where in the World Is Osama bin Laden?”

She said Weinstein lured her to his office adjacent to his hotel room after she pitched an idea for a screenplay. He asked her to watch him masturbate as he sat in a hot tub.

“My heart was racing and I was very scared,” she said at a press conference at her attorney Gloria Allred’s offices in Los Angeles, her voice breaking at times.

She said Weinstein promised her a three-picture deal if she stayed and watched him, and grabbed her as she made for the door.

A mother of two, Geiss appeared on “The Drew Carey Show” and “The King of Queens.” She bowed out of the film industry in 2009 and now works in real estate, Allred said.

Geiss said the incident prompted her to walk away from the business. She told her sister and good friend about what had happened but this is the first time she’s gone public with the accusations, she said.

“When people ask me why I got out of the movie industry, I would tell them this story,” she said.

At the press conference, Allred confirmed she had been aware of allegations against Weinstein but declined to comment on why she had not come forward earlier.  She urged Weinstein to waive the statute of limitations that would prevent women from trying their claims, or arbitrate or mediate them.

“Many more women who alleged that they were victims never filed claims or lawsuits against him,” Allred said.” Many of these women feared the power that Mr. Weinstein had and were concerned if they took legal action or spoke out that he could ruin their careers.”

The latest accusations come after a New York Times investigation revealed sexual allegations against Weinstein, whose company Miramax was synonymous with the new wave of independent Hollywood films in the 1990s that introduced filmmakers Quentin Tarantino, Steven Soderbergh, Kevin Smith and Anthony Minghella to mainstream audiences.

Weinstein and his brother Bob left Miramax to start the Weinstein Company in 2005.

On Sunday, the Weinstein Company board fired Harvey, throwing the future of the company into doubt.

Regarded as an open secret in Hollywood, previous attempts to publicly disclose harassment claims were thwarted because of victims’ unwillingness to speak out. Harvey Weinstein has reportedly settled eight of the harassment claims out of court.

In a statement to the Times on Oct. 5, Weinstein said: “I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it. Though I’m trying to do better, I know I have a long way to go.”

He told the Times that he was working with therapists and planned to “deal with this issue head on.”

Allred’s daughter Lisa Bloom was representing Harvey Weinstein up until last week, when she resigned as his lawyer. She had told The New York Times that the producer denied many of the allegations as “patently false.”

Bloom had not represented Harvey Weinstein in any claim against him, Allred said, adding that she was proud of her daughter, loved her and she could represent who she liked.

“She doesn’t decide who I represent,” she said. “I don’t decide who she represents.”

Allred declined to comment on the specifics of Jolie and Paltrow’s claims.

“I’m glad that they have both made statements about this,” Allred said. “Women’s voice matter. Women are now empowered. And the casting couch scenario is just going to have to end. Women are not going to be silenced anymore.”

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