Peter Jackson and Harvey Weinstein are engaging in a war of words over the audition process for “The Lord of the Rings.” Jackson claims when he was working with Miramax on early development of the J. R. R. Tolkien adaptation in 1998 that Weinstein blacklisted actresses Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino from auditioning, allegedly telling Jackson that both were a “nightmare to worth with.”
Weinstein quickly responded to Jackson’s story and denied the claims were true. A publicist for the disgraced former studio executive issued a statement in which Weinstein said he has “nothing but the utmost respect for Peter Jackson” and assured that he was not involved in casting. Weinstein noted that “Miramax lost the project and all casting was done by New Line.”
Jackson has now responded to Weinstein’s denial in an exclusive statement to Deadline. According to the filmmaker, “Aspects of Harvey’s denial are insincere. He is basically saying that ‘this blacklisting couldn’t be true because New Line cast the movie.’ That’s a deflection from the truth.”
Jackson says that he developed “The Lord of the Rings” at Miramax for 18 months and had numerous casting conversations with Harvey and Bob Weinstein. Jackson lists names such as David Bowie, Daniel Day-Lewis, Max von Sydow, Claire Forlani, and Liam Neeson as names that were thrown around in his conversations with the Weinstein brothers. He also stands by his claim that Judd and Sorvino were also considered.
“Among the many names raised, Fran and I expressed our enthusiasm for Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino,” Jackson says. “In fact we met with Ashley and discussed two possible roles with her. After this meeting we were told by Miramax to steer clear of both Ashley and Mira, because they claimed to have had ‘bad experiences’ with these particular actresses in the past. Fran Walsh was in the same meeting, and remembers these negative comments about Ashley and Mira as clearly as I do. We have no reason to make it up.”
Sorvino and Judd are two of the women who have accused Weinstein of sexual harassment. Many of the accusations involving Weinstein mention the fact that he would threaten the careers of the actresses who refused his advances.
“This type of comment is not unusual,” Jackson says of Weinstein’s bad reaction to Judd and Sorvino. “It can happen with any studio on any film, when different actor’s names come up in conversation – but once you hear negative feedback about somebody, you don’t forget it.”
“Nearly 20 years later, we read about the sexual misconduct allegations being made against Harvey Weinstein and we saw comments by both Mira and Ashley, who felt they had been blacklisted by Miramax after rejecting Harvey’s sexual advances,” he continues. “Fran and I immediately remembered Miramax’s negative reaction when we put their names forward, and we wondered if we had unwittingly been part of the alleged damage to their careers, at the hands of Miramax.”
Head over to Deadline to read Jackson’s statement in its entirety.