LONDON — The Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney—who is working on a film about the late Fox News chief and alleged serial sexual abuser Roger Ailes—says Hollywood stands on the cusp of a widespread sex scandal with many more movie-industry power-players being exposed for attacking women.
The director, who said there would be additional revelations about Ailes in his 2018 documentary, told The Daily Beast that he could see a lot of similarities in the cases of the Fox News boss and movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, and suggested that more entertainment execs were likely to follow.
“Anybody who’s in the entertainment business or in the movie business had heard rumors [about Weinstein], but you know you have to be careful. The trick is proving that the rumors are true, but yeah, this had been one of those stories you kept hearing about and kept wondering,” he said.
“There wasn’t a lot of piling on with Ailes either until he was out [at Fox], I’m telling you that’s the way it works. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to come forward and be the one to say, ‘You know what, it’s a powerful person but I’m going to have my say because it’s important for the others.’ Once the person is out of power, it becomes easier for people to have their say and that’s I think what happened with Ailes.”
Weinstein was fired from the hugely influential film company he co-founded on Sunday night and sure enough—by Monday lunchtime—Hollywood figures were emerging from the shadows to attack a man they had once lavished with praise.
“There comes a moment when the veil of secrecy gets lifted and it’s like an inchoate agreement by society. It’s like, ‘OK, we’re not going to pretend that this didn’t happen anymore,’” said Gibney, who was at the London Film Festival to show a documentary that uncovers the truth about an unsolved massacre that killed six people in Northern Ireland in 1994. The Daily Beast will cover the film, No Stone Unturned, in detail later this week.
“Now we’re looking at the Harvey Weinstein thing, and we’ve looked at Cosby. And that’s kind of what I hope will happen with No Stone Unturned, too,” he said. “Because the stuff about Cosby had been rattling around for years. Even in the Andrea Constand case, many Jane Does had come forward, that was like seven years ago, but when the case was settled they all disappeared and they were very frustrated, and then you wonder why was it when suddenly Hannibal Buress started doing those comedy routines did everybody agree, ‘OK enough is enough?’ Same thing with Harvey.
“When does the public decide, ‘Wait a minute, why are we bending over backward from trying to keep so much evidence from the public view?’”
Weinstein will certainly not be the last Hollywood power-player to be named as an abuser.
“There are lots of rumors of men in power who abuse that power for sexual favors. And there are a lot of beautiful women in the movie industry,” Gibney said. “There are a lot of rumors swirling around a lot of people both in the present and the past.”
Gibney has previously made Emmy-winning films exposing abuse within institutions such as the Church of Scientology (Going Clear: Scientology & the Prison of Belief) and the Catholic Church (Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God).
He said there could be a burgeoning scandal of the scale we have seen in the Catholic Church, where serial abusers were allowed to carry on working within the church no matter how many times they had been accused.
“It’s not just Hollywood, I think it’s power in general. There’s a reason why the powerful escape scrutiny for so long—it’s because people want something from them. If you’re an actress, you want to get a role, if you’re a producer, you want a deal, and along the way people start making little compromises that end up being one big compromise. I don’t think it’s limited to Hollywood. We’re talking about Scientology, we’re talking about the Catholic Church. Wherever there’s power, there’s abuse of power, and there’s a kind of collective responsibility for allowing those abuses to continue.”
Gibney said the exposure of Cosby, Ailes, and Weinstein would help to convince victims of other abusers to come forward. He said part of that might include reform of the current Hollywood landscape where people are often forced to sign non-disclosure agreements as part of their deals with studios, agents or other media companies.
“Once it happens it allows other people to feel better about coming forward,” he offers. “I think over time as well what you’re going to see—and I’ve noticed this a lot with the Church of Scientology—is the NDA issue. Either there’ll be greater and greater reluctance to sign NDAs or there’ll be NDAs which have purposeful exclusions—of course nobody wants you to reveal what’s in the current script, everybody understands that—but why should NDAs protect abuse of power?”