As one of the first actresses to speak out publicly against Harvey Weinstein, Ashley Judd detailed in October how the former Miramax producer made unwanted sexual advances to her twenty years ago, including offers for a massage and to watch him shower. Now Judd is suing Weinstein, claiming that he retaliated against her professionally and sabotaged her career after she rejected his overtures.
Judd alleges in a lawsuit filed Monday in Los Angeles County Superior Court that Weinstein made false and malicious statements about her, which resulted in a lost opportunity to work in the "Lord of the Rings" movie trilogy.
The star claims in the suit that Weinstein falsely told director Peter Jackson and producer Fran Walsh that Judd was a "nightmare" to work with and that Miramax had a "bad experience" working with her.
"With those baseless smears, Weinstein succeeded in blacklisting Ms. Judd and destroying her ability to work on what became a multi-billion-dollar franchise," the complaint alleges.
Miramax held the rights to "Lord of the Rings" at the time, and both Harvey Weinstein and his brother, Bob, are credited as executive producers on the movies.
Harvey Weinstein denied Judd's accusations in a statement from his spokesman, who noted that the actress was cast in two subsequent Weinstein projects, including the 2002 movie "Frida."
Judd is seeking unspecified damages, including punitive damages. The actress intends to donate any money recovered in the lawsuit to a charity that benefits women and works to combat sexual harassment and discrimination.
She is also seeking injunctions against Weinstein engaging in unfair competition and any further retaliation against her.
"Mr. Weinstein's abusive conduct toward others has caused no end of damage to aspiring actors and others in the film and entertainment industry. As my experience and the experience of others shows, even a few false statements from Mr. Weinstein could destroy potentially career-changing professional opportunities," Judd said in a statement. "It's time that Mr. Weinstein be held accountable for that conduct and for the ways in which he's damaged careers."
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher is representing Judd in the suit. The firm said it, too, would donate any recovery of attorney fees to charity.
"Our aim in bringing this suit is to hold Mr. Weinstein accountable for his retaliation against Ms. Judd," said Theodore J. Boutrous Jr., a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, in a statement.
He added that one of the aims of the suit is to "shine a light on the broader economic damages caused when individuals in positions of authority attempt to punish those who have resisted their improper advances."
In her lawsuit, Judd claims that Jackson and Walsh met with her in L.A. to discuss a role in the movie trilogy but then mysteriously removed her from consideration. She said she never learned why until reading a December 2017 interview in which Jackson told a New Zealand publication that Weinstein dissuaded him from hiring Judd.
"It was only after this interview was published that Ms. Judd learned that Mr. Weinstein's conduct was the reason why she had not been cast," the suit alleges.
In the interview, Jackson said that Weinstein tried to dissuade him from hiring both Judd and Mira Sorvino. "I now suspect we were fed false information about both of these talented women — and as a direct result their names were removed from our casting list," Jackson said in the interview.
Judd, 50, alleges that Weinstein has engaged in a pattern of behavior in which he has attempted to discredit women who have rejected his unwanted sexual advances. Her initial allegations against Weinstein were reported in October in the New York Times, in which Judd recalled their encounter at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills.
"How do I get out of the room as fast as possible without alienating Harvey Weinstein?" Judd recalled thinking in the New York Times article.
A spokesman for Weinstein said in a statement, "The most basic investigation of the facts will reveal that Mr. Weinstein neither defamed Ms. Judd nor ever interfered with Ms. Judd's career, and instead not only championed her work but also repeatedly approved her casting for two of his movies over the next decade."
He continued: "The actual facts will show that Mr. Weinstein was widely known for having fought for Ms. Judd as his first choice for the lead role in 'Good Will Hunting' and, in fact, arranged for Ms. Judd to fly to New York to be considered for the role. Thereafter, Ms. Judd was hired for not one, but two of Mr. Weinstein's movies, 'Frida' in 2002 and 'Crossing Over' with Harrison Ford in 2009. We look forward to a vigorous defense of these claims."
The disgraced indie movie mogul faces accusations from more than 80 women of sexual harassment and assault. He has denied all accusations of nonconsensual sex.
Weinstein, who was fired from Weinstein Co. late last year after the scandal broke, is dealing with multiple lawsuits and criminal investigations related to his alleged misconduct.
9:55 p.m.: This article was updated throughout with additional information about the lawsuit.
9:54 a.m. May 1: This article was updated with a statement from Harvey Weinstein's spokesman.