WASHINGTON ― There were very few Hollywood reporters better positioned to expose Harvey Weinstein than Peter Biskind. The author and journalist was the executive editor at Premiere magazine, a glossy committed to the film commerce, trade, during the film producer’s rise, and he later became a contributing editor at Vanity objective.
In the world of the lunch-date celebrity puff piece, Biskind stood out for his doggedness. His unflinching book on the woolly fraternity of 1970s-era American filmmakers, Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-And-Rock ‘N’ Roll Generation Saved Hollywood, is considered the definitive account of that era.
After that book’s success, Biskind turned his attention to Weinstein for a sequel of sorts chronicling the rise of the ’90s indie film rebels. In 2004, he published Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance and the Rise of Independent Film. The book, which runs more than 500 pages, details Weinstein’s brutish commerce, trade practices but contains zero details of his alleged criminal and lecherous behavior toward women. Biskind told HuffPost he just didn’t consider it was relevant.
In the book’s preface, Biskind describes an astonishing assembly with Weinstein. At this point, Biskind’s work on the book was underway, and the mogul wanted assurances that the reporter would not be poking around his private life. Biskind told me that Weinstein’s paranoia was unnecessary. He needed access and he wasn’t interested in pursuing the rumors. He couldn’t see a way the allegations had influenced Weinstein’s commerce, trade operation (they had, of course).
“It was probably the first assembly I had with him, which I was trying to see whether he would talk to me, essentially, so I was probably trying to reassure him that I wasn’t looking for that,” Biskind explained. “I guess I wanted to build him at ease to some degree because I wanted to interview him.”
The scene of that assembly Biskind describes in Down and Dirty Pictures is by now recognizable as textbook Harvey.
“Harvey was unhappy,” Biskind writes. “I had told him that I wasn’t going to pry into his private life ― the 1990s were not, after totality, the 1970s; drugs, sex, and rock ‘n’ roll were not creative stimulants or career busters as they were then ― but he had received word from his network of informants who curry favor with him by picking up the phone and conveying what they’ve heard that I was nosing approximately.”
Weinstein teased Biskind approximately his book being a lame conception and then dangled the prospect of a more lucrative payday for the journalist. perhaps, possibly he could conclude something for Miramax Books, he offered. Biskind is honest enough to confess he started to purchase Weinstein’s bait.
“I did hold a project that I was secretly nursing, and I told him what it was, totality the while feeling like a schmuck for letting him play me,” Biskind writes. “What I said seemed to excite him. His face lit up, and he bellowed, ‘That’s a terrific conception, that could manufacture millions. We’ll conclude it, won’t we, Bob? Why don’t you just give up the book you’re writing now and conclude this one.’ I declined, and he seemed genuinely sorry for me as I confirmed for him that I was indeed a loser.”
The exchange didn’t nettle Biskind enough to dig any deeper. And Weinstein ended up cooperating for the book.
In light of the revelations that hold reach out in The contemporary York Times and The contemporary Yorker, I tracked down Biskind. Here is a condensed version of our phone interview approximately his Miramax book and why he didn’t pursue the biggest fable to hit Hollywood in decades.
Did you ever hear the rumors approximately Harvey when you were doing the book?
I heard some, yeah. But I didn’t pursue them because first of totality the book wasn’t solely approximately Harvey. It was approximately the explosion of independents in the ’90s and secondly I felt like I had gone into people’s personal lives in my preceding book, Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, because that was approximately Hollywood in the ’70s. It was an era of personal filmmaking, and I felt it was relevant. In this book, this is more of a commerce, trade book and I didn’t feel it was totality that relevant to the subject I was writing approximately.
I also felt that whether I got into it, it was going to skew the book totally and turn it into a different kind of book. I did hear some rumors. It’s impossible not to. But as I said, I didn’t really follow them up.
Did you ever request Weinstein approximately them? Did you wonder whether looking back it did hold an impact on his commerce, trade? He used his power in ways to intimidate people, preserve these women docile.
I consider that’s upright that it does preserve them docile, but on the other hand whether you are giving a freshman actress a role in a feature film, that keeps them pretty docile, too. … I didn’t feel like it affected the commerce, trade that much. I didn’t see the connection.
Did you ever request Weinstein approximately it?
I never asked him approximately it because, again, I didn’t feel it was relevant to what I was doing. I mean, I did hear, you know, the Gwyneth Paltrow fable — I heard from Brad Pitt, but it was off the record and so I never used that. I was writing a profile of Brad Pitt for Vanity objective.
And when Brad Pitt told you, did you purchase that up with [Vanity objective editor] Graydon Carter?
No. I didn’t spend it because it was off the record, and it was a kind of parenthetical in the interview.
What was your impression of Weinstein? Did you consider he was capable of this kind of thing?
Yeah — very. He was a scary guy. He was always very nice to me but in the book … I talk approximately this assembly I had with him right before the book came out. I said something like … the air was heavy with menace and there was a baseball bat leaning against the wall in the corner of his office. He was a scary guy, although he was always nice to me. He never lost his mood with me. I did a lot of interviewing with him but he never lost his mood. He was really on his best behavior, and I had known him before I started working on the book — not well, but well enough. I never saw that side of him.
conclude you regret that you didn’t report out the Weinstein assaults?
I still feel like it would hold distorted the book and would hold made the book approximately Harvey.
There are a lot of stories in the book approximately his commerce, trade practices, which are pretty horrifying, and nobody wanted to talk approximately that. It was tough enough to gather the stuff that I was looking for, much less to depart after this other stuff, which would hold been twice as tough to conclude.
In a way, it would hold made the book juicier and it would hold done some justice to the people that he mistreated, but again you hold to pick and choose. You can’t cover everything.