Disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein is being investigated by British and US police
Los Angeles (AFP) - The avalanche of assault accusations against Harvey Weinstein grew as more actresses came forward with explosive charges against the movie mogul, whose lurid behavior has opened a Pandora's Box of Hollywood harassment and hypocrisy.
The new claims landed as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as well as the Cannes film festival organization declared the abusive behavior repugnant, but also as film figures warned that such actions have gone virtually unchecked in an industry that for years has seen itself in a progressive light.
The Weinstein revelations are just "the tip of the iceberg," comedy actor and director Rob Schneider told TMZ.
"There's not one actress who doesn't have a story," he said, adding that he himself experienced sexual harassment by a male director when he was younger.
Amid the gravity of the situation, the Academy, which has awarded 81 Oscars to Weinstein films produced by Miramax and then the Weinstein Company, announced it would convene a meeting on Saturday to "discuss the allegations against Weinstein and any actions warranted by the Academy."
Weinstein, 65, has denied all charges, according to a statement from his spokeswoman Sallie Hofmeister. On Wednesday she offered "no comment" when asked about reports Weinstein was heading to Europe to enter a rehabilitation facility.
His company, The Weinstein Company, has insisted it knew nothing of the mogul's alleged misconduct. But the New York Times reported Wednesday night that it was in fact aware as far back as 2015 of settlements paid to three or four women. The Times quoted a lawyer, David Boies, who represented Weinstein when his contract was up for renewal in 2015.
The Times also said that last week Weinstein sent members of the company board an email saying they knew about those payoffs. The paper quoted what it called people who spoke on condition of anonymity about the confidential communication.
The scandal has rocked Hollywood, with the list of the Oscar-winner's harassment victims also reportedly now including Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Rosanna Arquette and French actress Judith Godreche.
But a new angle to allegations emerged Tuesday when three women, including an Italian film star, claimed that Weinstein raped them.
The Weinstein Company board has sacked him, and his wife Georgina Chapman told celebrity magazine People she was leaving Weinstein, with whom she has two children.
- 'Everyone knew' -
"I am profoundly devastated. I have lost my wife and kids, whom I love more than anything else," Weinstein told The New York Post, adding that: "I hope one day we can reconcile."
The latest allegations portray Weinstein as a ruthless sexual predator, who on at least one occasion sought to engage an actress in a threesome with another woman.
"He asked us to kiss and she began some sort of advances upon his direction," actress Cara Delevingne, who is also a fashion model, said in an Instagram post detailing an encounter at a hotel.
When Delevingne got up to hurriedly leave, she wrote, "he walked me to the door and stood in front of it and tried to kiss me on the lips."
The bluntest accusation came from Lea Seydoux, an award-winning French film star who wrote a devastating first-person account of her run-ins with Weinstein and others in an industry that essentially turned a blind eye to the abuse.
"That's the most disgusting thing. Everyone knew what Harvey was up to and no one did anything," Seydoux wrote in The Guardian.
She said she quickly figured out Weinstein's motives when they met. "He had a lecherous look. He was using his power to get sex," she wrote.
"He's big and fat, so I had to be forceful to resist him. I left his room, thoroughly disgusted."
Some of the worst misconduct allegations emerged in a New Yorker magazine investigation published Tuesday, which details charges by Italian actress Asia Argento that Weinstein forced oral sex and intercourse on her 20 years ago.
She told the publication she had maintained her silence until now for fear that Weinstein would "crush" her.
Another instance involved model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, whom the New Yorker said Weinstein met in March 2015.
- Bunga bunga -
According to the New Yorker, Gutierrez says Weinstein "lunged at her, groping her breasts and attempting to put a hand up her skirt" at a meeting in his offices in Tribeca.
She reported the incident, and the New York Police Department asked her to wear a wire.
In the audio of their conversation which was released by the magazine, Weinstein can be heard apologizing for grabbing her breast and then repeatedly pressuring her to come into his hotel room.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance decided at the time not to press charges after it emerged the young woman had attended one of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's infamous "bunga bunga" sex parties.
Amid concerns about potential criminality, Vance appeared before reporters Wednesday to justify the decision.
"Our sex crimes prosecutors made a determination that this was not going to be a provable case, and so the decision was made not to go forward," Vance said.
"Obviously he has some serious issues, and the tape is terrible."
The abundance of charges have sent tremors through the Democratic Party, whose heavyweights Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama stand accused of having waited too long after the revelations broke to disavow their friend and party donor.
Republicans have launched withering accusations that liberal elites were protecting one of their own, as those in President Donald Trump's party demanded that Democrats jettison contributions by the movie mogul.
Since 1990, Weinstein and his wife have personally donated more than $1.4 million to various Democratic candidates or groups, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.