I was only 23 when I was “Harvey-ed.” It was 1997. I was a street-smart kid with a tougher skin than most, and I came out of my experience with Harvey Weinstein physically unscathed, but that doesn’t make the story less shocking or emotionally jarring.
As a model, I was used to predatory men and had become adept at brushing off unwanted advances and putting creepy perverts in their place. I had protected other, younger models from flashers and gropers, and had even scared away a knife-wielding attacker on the Paris Metro by laughing in his face. He didn’t know it was a nervous reaction and probably thought I was crazier than he. But all in all, I was still a naïve girl from New Zealand, and no matter how tough I thought I was, I was completely out of my depth and very trusting.
I met Harvey Weinstein in Cannes at the film festival. We were seated next to each other at a fancy dinner. I didn’t catch his name and assumed I was talking to another hungry producer trying to sell a little movie to the big-wigs. Feeling sorry for him, I went out of my way to be entertaining and nice. It wasn’t until later in the meal that I asked the name of his production company.
I laughed and told Harvey that we had a friend in common. Miramax had recently released the Oscar-winning film The Piano made by a family friend, Jane Campion. I told Harvey that Jane felt like a pseudo godmother to me and related a story of how, when I was an angry teenager in a fight with my mom, she had given me a note that read: “If you ever need to run away…” and made me feel like I had an ally.
With a dear mutual friend in common, I felt safe with Harvey. The night was young and so was I. After dinner, our large group, which included my Italian modeling agent, a few rich douchebags, some decorative models, and Harvey’s entourage, rolled out into the Cannes night. Black town cars and gleaming limos took us to various parties where we glittered and shone like everyone else.
Harvey and his assistant never left my side.
It was fun. The last time I’d been in the South of France was in 1990. I had watched helplessly as a celebrity vomited all over the bathroom at Jimmy’z after doing too much blow with another celebrity and politician in tow. In 1990, I was 16. But then, at 23, I was pretty jaded. Celebrities and their antics were old news. I could hold my own.
Around midnight, we ended up at a beautiful outdoor event at a mansion somewhere in a residential part of Cannes. Everyone was there, and everyone was fabulous. I saw a well-respected musician across the room. He yelled “Dolphin Girl!” and waved. I explained to Harvey that this wasn’t a nickname that had anything to do with the popular sex toy, but a name I earned after a particularly weird night in Sydney and a 3 a.m. skinny dipping adventure that scared the crap out of his band’s bodyguards.
In retrospect, I was putting on a tempting show. I didn’t intend to titillate Mr. Weinstein. I had no intention of leading him on. I felt safe in his company to be myself, and at no time in the evening did I feel anything but platonic energy from him.
Shortly after midnight, my crew made moves to leave. We were staying on a large yacht moored in the bay and required water taxis to get us back out to it. Harvey and his assistant offered us their cars and herded us toward the exit. My group was ushered into one car, and I was somehow separated from them and told to get into another car with Harvey and his two friends. Stupidly, I obliged. I was told we were all going to the same place.
To this day, I do not know if my Italian agent was in on the ruse. My instincts tell me he was.
We started driving. The five-minute drive to the waterfront was taking longer, and I asked where we were headed.
“Change of plans! We’re all meeting at the du Cap for one more drink.”
It’s a 30-minute drive to the du Cap, and it was close to 1 a.m. when we got there. We headed upstairs to Harvey’s room and opened another bottle of champagne while we waited for the gang to arrive.
But the gang never arrived.
After a few minutes, a couple of the guys made motions to leave temporarily to make calls. The energy shifted, and I became very uncomfortable. I turned to Harvey’s assistant and asked him to please get in touch with my friends immediately and find out where they were. He said he would go downstairs and see if they were having trouble getting up to the room, and left.
And suddenly I was alone in a remote hotel suite with Harvey fucking Weinstein.
My body went into high-alert. I was drunk, young, miles from home, without cash to get a cab, and no cellphone. The water taxis were about to stop running for the night. It was time to sober up, and fast.
Harvey left the room, but not for long. He re-emerged naked a couple of minutes later and asked if I would give him a massage. Panicking, in shock, I remember weighing the options and wondering how much I needed to placate him to keep myself safe. He asked if I would like a massage instead, and for a second, I thought this might be a way to give him an inch without him taking a mile.
I told him I was uncomfortable and that I was angry that I had been tricked into this position. He pleaded with me to let him massage me, and I let him put his hands on my shoulders while my mind raced.
How could I make it to the door? Who would help me? Would anyone hear me if I screamed?
I took note of the thick walls. I remembered the way the staff had simpered and ingratiated themselves to the film titan when we came in. I took stock of the other men who had enabled this situation, lying to my face to lure me here. The realization sunk in. I had no friends at the du Cap. I had visions of my lifeless body being thrown onto the rocks below.
I was terrified.
I’m fortunate, however, to have a gene that makes me really angry and focused when I’m scared. It’s gotten me out of more than one scrape, and it wasn’t going to fail me now. I shrugged Harvey’s hands off me, ran into the bathroom, and locked the door. Harvey chased me, dick, balls, and all, and banged on the door with his fists, pleading with me to come out.
There was no bathroom phone. Dammit! I looked around — nothing but little bottles of fancy toiletries and a hair dryer. I was going to have to talk myself out of this one.
I felt outside of my body as I assessed my situation and heard myself, a 23-year-old girl from New Zealand, reprimand this grown man as if he was a small child.
“This is unacceptable. Put your clothes on you naughty, naughty boy.”
Harvey, contrite, promised to cover himself and leave me alone. I came out of the bathroom and found him sitting on his bed, wearing a bathrobe, crying.
“You don’t like me because I’m fat,” he whimpered.
“Are you serious?” I yelled. “I’m fucking furious at you. You chased me around naked and scared me. You acted like a friend and then tricked me. This is no way to behave. Shame on you.”
“I’m sorry,” he cried. “How can I make it up to you?”
“Get me home. Now.”
Harvey dressed and made a call. His assistant arrived, looking ashen and uncomfortable. He couldn’t meet my eye. I had really liked him too. I felt so betrayed and used.
The three of us went downstairs to where the town car was waiting. We got into the back. Harvey sat in the middle. I was silent. His assistant and I stared straight ahead. The ride was bizarre. Harvey, clearly wanting to show some kind of remorse, or to win back my affections, began to speak some nonsense about making me a star. At one point, he said, “I want to be your Rock of Gibraltar.”
I still don’t know what that means.
The water taxis weren’t running and I was stranded on the shore, but Harvey kept the penthouse suite at the Majestic Hotel for “emergencies” and we headed there. While he went to the front desk to tell them I would be staying, his assistant took the opportunity to apologize to me.
“I’m so sorry,” he said. “I want you to know that of all the girls he does this to you are the one I really felt bad about. You deserve better.”
This comment made me nauseous. It was an admission of his sycophantic enabling. I could see the guy felt truly remorseful. He was near tears. But I could also tell that he had no idea how messed up this “apology” was. How many girls were there? Did this shit happen every day?
Harvey returned. The two men accompanied me up to the suite, and Harvey told me I could help myself to anything and that he would arrange transport back to my boat for me in the morning.
We bid each other a terse farewell, and I triple-locked the door.
It was 3:30 a.m.
I looked around. The lover in me of great stories was amused now that I was safe. I called my mother in Australia and woke her up to tell her the story. I helped myself to the mini-bar and had a drink. I remembered a new actor acquaintance I had met that week who was staying in the hotel and called reception. I was put through to his room and woke him up.
“Rufus, it’s Zoe. Sorry to wake you but…”
“Don’t tell me. You’ve been Weinstein-ed?”
“How the f…?”
“I was trying to warn you all night,” he said. “He does this to everyone. How do you think girls get parts in his movies?”
He went on to list a slew of female actresses who he suggested had slept with Weinstein to get roles. He told me that everyone in Hollywood knew, and no one did anything to stop it. Clearly the victim-shaming rumor mill had already been working overtime.
“I missed it. I’m so stupid.”
“Do not go to sleep,” he warned. “Harvey doesn’t sleep. He will be back.”
I hung up.
At 6 a.m., the water taxis began running, and I was already waiting on the dock. The air was warm and the sleeping town of Cannes looked peaceful as it dwindled into the distance. Dressed in yesterday’s evening wear, with what was left of yesterday’s make up, I did not make a pretty picture.
I boarded our yacht and spent some time leaning over the railings, feeling the breeze in my hair, looking back at the town and the last of its streetlights flickering in the distance. I took stock of the night and felt grateful for my assertiveness. Finally, exhausted, I slunk down to my cabin.
A couple of hours later, over breakfast, the smirks and knowing winks that passed between my group made me feel unsupported, disbelieved, whorish, and cheap. No one believed my story. They all thought I had slept with Weinstein. My indignant denials were further invalidated when 13 red roses were delivered by water taxi out to the yacht, with a note that read, “Thank you for last night.”
Humiliated, I told my agent I never wanted see Weinstein again and demanded that we did not attend any events with him for the rest of the festival. My agent promised me we would not see Harvey again.
Comforted, I spent the day catching up on sleep.
That afternoon, I was told we would spend the evening seeing a premiere of John Turturro’s new movie. We dined on the boat and readied for another night on the town. Cars collected us from the dock and took us to a small theatre.
Inside, it was empty.
There was no one there.
The theatre was just for us.
My agent, giddy with excitement, informed us that the theatre had been rented for our small party as a gift.
We sat down to watch the movie. As the lights dimmed, a large, heavyset man entered the cinema and took the seat directly behind me. I knew who it was.
The opening credits began to roll, and the Miramax Films sequence glittered onto the screen.
In the 20 years that have passed since this story took place, I have told it many times. Every time I tell it, I’m enraged anew at the culture of misogyny and abuse that is rife with powerful men in every industry. Every time I tell it, I’m disgusted, all over again, at the insidious “bro-codes” that many men subscribe to. A code that says it’s okay to enable your friends and employers to intimidate, threaten, and manipulate women into sexual situations against their will. A culture that sees women as prey.
But most of all, I remember the statement Weinstein made as he cried on his bed:
“You don’t like me because I’m fat.”
That says it all. Hearing those words the first time, I saw, in an instant, an unattractive, overweight kid who never got the girl in high school and went on to become one of the richest and most powerful men in the world so he could take revenge on the girls who rebuffed him when he was young.
I almost felt sorry for him.
Later in the week, I would discover from my actor friend, Rufus Sewell, that he did in fact see Harvey in the Majestic Hotel elevator shortly after 7 a.m. that morning, heading up to the suite.
I like to imagine his face when he found it empty.
I saw Weinstein years later in LA when I was working as a hostess at Ago Ristorante. I was trying to be an actress and really could have used that “Rock of Gibraltar.” He looked at me, and I turned away.
Nothing was worth the price I would have to pay.
I wish I had spoken up sooner. I wish I hadn’t thought this type of behavior was normal at the time. I wish I had thought there was something, anything, I could do to stop him from hurting women all these years. I wish this type of man was not so prevalent. And I wish I had learned from this experience and not ended up in a relationship with a man just like him!
There is not a woman I know who hasn’t been emotionally or physically tormented, threatened, intimidated, abused, and terrified at the hands of bullies like Weinstein and Donald Trump (another creep I met in the late 1990s). Society condones it. Women forgive it. Men enable it. I’d like to thank the New York Times for exposing this beast and giving me the courage and impetus to tell my story.
Scary Mommy has reached out to Harvey Weinstein’s representative for comment, but has not received a response.