Roy Price resigns as Amazon Studios chief following sexual harassment allegation

Roy Price resigned as the head of Amazon Studios on Tuesday after an allegation that he had sexually harassed a television producer working on one of his shows.

Price’s departure, confirmed by an Amazon Studios representative, comes less than a week after he was placed on unpaid leave following accusations made by Isa Hackett, an executive producer on the Amazon drama series “The Man in the High Castle,” that he made lewd remarks and unwanted advances in 2015.

“I’m pleased Amazon is taking steps to address the issues,” Hackett said in a statement Tuesday.

“An important conversation has begun about the need to create a culture in our industry which values respect and decency and rejects the abuse of power and dehumanizing treatment of others,” she said. “This is truly an opportunity to find a better way forward, and ultimately toward a balanced representation of women and minorities in leadership positions.”

Price’s rapid fall from one of Hollywood’s fastest-growing studios comes in the midst of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, which has brought to light years of alleged sexual misconduct against women by the producer.

While Weinstein’s scandal involves more than 30 women who have accused him of harassment and assault, Price faced one accusation of harassment. But Price also faced larger questions from actress Rose McGowan, who accused the studio head on Thursday of ignoring her claims that she had been raped by Weinstein.

On her Twitter account, the actress addressed Amazon.com founder and Chief Executive Jeff Bezos, saying: “I told the head of your studio that HW raped me. Over & over I said it. He said it hadn’t been proven. I said I was the proof.”

The Price situation differs from the Weinstein scandal in that Price was an employee, not an owner and therefore had less less organizational power and influence on those who might oppose him, said Tom Nunan, a veteran film and TV executive and lecturer at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television.

“Perhaps Price knew this story would not go away and it was best for him to simply do the right thing."

Under California and federal law, companies are required to investigate claims of workplace harassment.

Hackett reported the incident to Amazon executives, who then engaged an outside investigator to look into her claim. The findings haven’t been disclosed.

With all of Hollywood focused on Weinstein and Price, companies are likely to take prompter action to address sexual harassment claims in order to avoid larger claims, said Eve Wagner, an employment attorney and founding partner of Sauer & Wagner.

Amazon’s leadership crisis comes at a time of tremendous growth for the fledgling movie and TV studio. Since its founding in 2010, it has significantly ramped up production of original content, including the TV series “Transparent” and last year’s Oscar-winning movie “Manchester by the Sea.”

Acclaimed filmmakers like Woody Allen, Richard Linklater and Todd Haynes have flocked to Amazon Studios, making it a significant force in the independent film world.

Price was widely seen as playing a major role in the studio’s success. But in an August report by the tech news site the Information and a more detailed story published last week by the Hollywood Reporter last week, Price’s behavior was called into question. Hackett told the Hollywood Reporter that the executive made lewd remarks to her during a promotional tour at Comic-Con in San Diego in 2015, including repeatedly propositioning her on a cab ride.

Hackett told the trade publication that she rejected Price’s advances, telling him that she is a lesbian with a wife and children. The producer is the daughter of Philip K. Dick, the author of the original 1962 novel “The Man in the High Castle.”

Price’s resignation isn’t likely to impact Amazon’s commitment to making streaming video available to its subscribers, according to Michael Pachter, managing director of equity research for Wedbush Securities.

He estimates the company is spending $4.5 billion this year on video content. Original series and other content are available to Amazon Prime members who spend $99 a year for free shipping from the e-commerce site.

“It’s been a real value enhancer,” Pachter said. “Amazon is not going to stop doing it. It just means getting a new person in there is going to change the content mix over the next few years.”

One Amazon show that definitely isn’t moving forward is a planned series from Oscar-nominated director David O. Russell that was to star Robert De Niro and Julianne Moore. The untitled project, which was being made in partnership with Weinstein Co., was scrapped last week.

Albert Cheng has been named to run Amazon Studios on an interim basis. Cheng was named chief operating officer of Amazon Studios in 2015 after a career at ABC, where he oversaw the network's digital efforts.

Price’s resignation from Amazon comes the same day that Weinstein stepped down from the board of directors of Weinstein Co. The board also formally ratified its Oct. 8 decision to fire Weinstein from his role as co-chairman.

“The swift reaction and accountability that came for Roy Price is a good sign,” said Shaunna Thomas, co-founder and co-executive director of UltraViolet, the women’s advocacy group.

“It shows there is a cost for treating women badly.”

The subject of workplace harassment has been the subject of some Amazon shows produced during Price’s tenure, including “Good Girls Revolt,” about a group of female journalists fighting workplace discrimination.

Comedian Tig Notaro, whose Amazon series “One Mississippi” recently depicted a powerful male executive sexually harassing a woman during a business meeting, said every member of her show’s all-female writing staff had experienced sexual harassment or assault at some point.

“It may seem prophetic of us in light of these explosive headlines, but unfortunately too many women have a sexual harassment/assault story and are probably and very sadly not surprised by recent events,” Notaro said.

Times staff writers Stephen Battaglio and Meredith Blake contributed to this report.

david.ng@latimes.com

Twitter: @DavidNgLAT

​​​​​​meg.james@latimes.com

Twitter: @MegJamesLAT


UPDATES:

6:15 p.m.: This article was updated with additional context about the Harvey Weinstein scandal and comments from Isa Hackett and others.

This article was originally published at 1:35 p.m.

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