Hollywood Ending: Harvey Weinstein and the Culture of Silence

Image of Hollywood Ending: Harvey Weinstein and the Culture of Silence
Release Date: 
July 12, 2022
Penguin Press
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“No matter how much you think you know about Harvey Weinstein, this book will make you realize how much bigger—and more interesting—the story is.”

Lord knows we’ve all heard just about enough of the movie mogul and convicted sexual predator Harvey Weinstein. Or have we?

Newspapers, magazines, and television programs in the last five years have given us a depressing blow by blow account of the disgraced movie maker’s horrid crimes against women, but this new book by New Yorker writer Ken Auletta shows us what we were missing: context.

In the hands of a great magazine writer like Auletta, we suddenly realize that what we know about Weinstein really was just skimming the surface. In this book that he always wanted to write—Hollywood Ending: Harvey Weinstein and the Culture of Silence—Auletta finally unravels the secrets he was trying to unearth 20 years ago when he did a major takeout on Weinstein and his Miramax Company for the New Yorker.

Back then, Auletta had heard the rumors about Weinstein’s beastly and criminal sexual behavior that eventually exploded into the public consciousness, but Auletta was too early. Weinstein’s victims were just not ready to talk, or they still were silenced by non-disclosure agreements. Eventually, thanks to a pair of New York Times journalists and Ronan Farrow, the women did talk.

It must have been galling for Auletta to watch as others realized the story he had tried to write. But now he’s back with a detailed and all-encompassing history of the Weinstein brothers and their film company Miramax. In outlining their successes and Harvey’s out of control appetite for money and sex, Auletta unearths the ultimate creation story of how this sexual predator was able to operate.

The failure of Harvey and Bob Weinstein’s father to achieve dreams of owning his own great company combined with their mother Miriam’s screaming and temper tantrums, play a large role in who Harvey ultimately became. Bob Weinstein had his own issues but seems to have avoided becoming quite as profligate as Harvey.

What’s surprising is how little Harvey tried to hide his larger than life excesses. His employees came in for a lot of abuse even outside the sexual realm. He was a bully of the first order. A woman who worked for the Weinsteins for 10 years is quoted by Auletta as saying, “We used to say of his home, ‘They must have done a number on those kids.’”

Auletta goes on quote another person familiar with Harvey: “Shocked by Harvey’s behavior, a former intimate conceded, ‘He’s like someone who’s been raised by wolves.”

But Auletta concedes that not everything can be blamed on the Weinstein boys’ parents. He falls back on that truism of philosophy: “Character is destiny.” Auletta writes that Harvey could never tame his four demons: his ferocious rage, his predatory sexual compulsions, his promiscuous spending, and his relationship with younger brother Bob.

This account is filled with the details that all those news stories left out. Not only how the Weinstein brothers rose to power but also the fact that Harvey had a gift for storytelling that few film executives possessed. Credit to Auletta for showing us that Harvey was not only a beast. There was a reason he rose to the top of the filmmaking ranks—he loved movies and knew a great script when he read one. He was also nicknamed “Harvey Scissorhands” for editing out the excesses in a director’s original cut and largely making it better.

Their home life was a horror show, but it filled the Weinstein brothers with an unquenching desire to become somebodies and not merely employees as they saw their father. They went to college in Buffalo and soon become extremely successful concert promoters in that city. They were there in the ’70s—the dawn of the golden age of rock concerts—and through competitiveness and sheer willpower, were able to control the scene in that city.

But they always saw themselves in another even more glamorous medium. Bob Weinstein was tasked with figuring out a way to segue into the brothers’ true love—movie making—and he did. Bob Weinstein comes in for quite a bit of admiration from Auletta for his behind-the-scenes manipulation and competitiveness. In this book, Bob Weinstein is perhaps finally given his due.

All the while, Auletta’s easy style of magazine writing is on display here, and it seems effortless, which, to anyone who’s ever tried writing for magazines, it is decidedly not. This is a pro’s pro we’re reading here, and it shows. There is anecdote after anecdote and detail piled upon detail, but the writing never sags. It soars! One cannot wait to pick up the book again to continue reading.

As for the not-so-secret-secret hovering over Harvey all those years, Auletta lets us in on the reason he feels it continued for so long: “Harvey’s movies wowed critics and made money,” he writes. “Furthermore, rumors of Harvey’s infidelities were not shocking in a film community where pressuring women for sex was business as usual. And if members of the community heard that Harvey sexually harassed or chased women—though almost uniformly they would later deny that they had—was this so very out of the ordinary in Hollywood?”

Auletta concludes it was not except that Harvey as usual overstepped even those warped norms. “Rape,” Auletta writes, “was out of the ordinary.”

No matter how much you think you know about Harvey Weinstein, this book will make you realize how much bigger—and more interesting—the story is. One wonders how long it will be before the Weinstein brothers get the full series treatment on a streaming platform.