Harvey Weinstein has been kicked out of the group that awards the Oscars and his producers guild expulsion is a formality at this point, but now questions are being raised about what to do with other bad seeds who remain card-carrying members of the entertainment industry’s most prestigious organizations.
Before Saturday, only one person is said to have had their Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science membership revoked, and that was for loaning out awards screeners. And before Monday, the only people to have lost their Producers Guild of America standing were those who had failed to pay their dues. Now, both organizations have opened a can of worms in expelling Weinstein for conduct following more than three dozen accusations of sexual harassment, including from some of Hollywood’s most well-known actresses.
“People recognized this was an extremely important decision on the part of the Academy,” film academy board member and Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy told The Associated Press Monday. “I think they made the right choice.”
The film academy said its decision was, in part, to “send a message that the era of willful ignorance and shameful complicity in sexually predatory behavior and workplace harassment in our industry is over.” The board also intends to establish ethical standards that its members will be expected to uphold.
The implications could be far-ranging for the 8,400-plus member group. What becomes of Roman Polanski, who in the 1970s pleaded guilty to having sex with a 13-year-old girl he plied with champagne and Quaaludes? Or Bill Cosby, who has faced dozens of allegations of sexual assault?
The list of film academy members is not public, and thus, occasionally there are incorrect assumptions made about who is in fact a member. Woody Allen, for one, is not.
“We are going to have to look at what does that mean for the future, what kind of changes — moral clause — that we need to put into the bylaws at the academy,” Kennedy said. “And then I’m sure that the next step will be that we’ll start to look at some of these other people.”
Now the scrutiny around other potentially problematic members has already become something of a dark joke.
John Oliver took the organization behind the Oscars to task this week on his HBO show.
“Yes, finally — the group that counts among its current members Roman Polanski, Bill Cosby and Mel Gibson has found the one guy who treated women badly and kicked him out,” Oliver said Sunday night. “So congratulations, Hollywood. See you at the next Oscars where — and this is true — Casey Affleck will be presenting Best Actress.”
Neither the film academy nor the PGA responded to requests for interviews.
Sasha Stone, the founder and editor of the Hollywood awards blog Awards Daily thinks there will be enormous pressure on the film academy to evaluate other members, but believes that even among the most frequent names mentioned the differing circumstances behind each are significant to members.
“What I suspect will happen is that the Academy will want to plug the leak so that it doesn’t become an institution that requires its members to behave perfectly,” Stone said. “If there are enough victims, as is the case with Weinstein, that alone creates pressure. It really comes down to them not wanting to deal with the bad publicity involved in standing behind a repeat offender.”
The extent of what it will be able to do is still a major question.
Film academy president John Bailey said in a memo to members Tuesday that the organization, “Cannot, and will not, be an inquisitorial court, but we can be a part of a larger initiative to define standards of behavior and to support the vulnerable women and men who may be at personal and career risk because of violations of ethical standards by their peers.”
But even speaking out about conduct, unrelated to screener loaning or excessive awards season parties, is a bold and unprecedented move for an organization that has become a metonym for the overseers of entertainment industry at large in recent years.
“The Academy was not set up for this in terms of its structure. The board meets, what, three times a year at most sometimes? They are not a government agency and they’re not a judicial branch. They are also not a union … I think that gets a little lost sometimes,” said Gregory Ellwood, the editor-at-large of The Playlist. “In many ways it speaks to what the Academy has been in the past decade. It has been, for Hollywood, a looking in the mirror decade and they have had to lead the charge in this way and they haven’t always been prepared.”
This includes the film academy’s recent efforts on behalf of diversity among its membership ranks.
“The Academy is shifting. Everything is shifting,” said Laura Dern, who is a film academy member. “Hopefully as we move forward, more and more will shift. And there will be zero tolerance for unconscionable behavior, for abuse of power, to not only women but to men as well, in our industry and others.”