Ashley Judd, who was among the first women to go on the record last year to accuse Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment, is now suing him. On Saturday, Judd spoke to a crowd at Tribeca Film Festival’s Time’s Up event about ways to move forward after harassment, including pursuing legal action. Now she’s taken her own advice and filed a lawsuit accusing Weinstein of defamation, sexual harassment, and violating California’s Unfair Competition law.
More specifically, Judd is suing Weinstein for allegedly hurting her chances of being cast in the Lord of the Rings movies after she rejected his advances at a Beverly Hills hotel in the 1990s. (Weinstein has denied all allegations of non-consensual sex.) “I lost money. I lost status and prestige and power in my career as a direct result of having been sexually harassed and rebuffing the sexual harassment,” she said in an ABC News interview with Diane Sawyer. “My career opportunities, after having been defamed by Harvey Weinstein, were significantly diminished […] My career was damaged because I rebuffed Mr. Weinstein’s sexual advances. I know it for a fact.”
Peter Jackson, who produced and directed the Lord of the Rings movies, said in December that he had been considering casting Judd (and Mira Sorvino, another Weinstein accuser) in one of two different roles in the franchise. “I recall Miramax telling us they were a nightmare to work with and we should avoid them at all costs. This was probably in 1998,” he told the New Zealand news website Stuff. “At the time, we had no reason to question what these guys were telling us—but in hindsight, I realize that this was very likely the Miramax smear campaign in full swing.”
Weinstein denied Jackson’s claims about Lord of the Rings on the grounds that his company, Miramax, ultimately lost the project due to lack of funding and was thus not involved in casting. But Jackson, in turn, pushed back against that denial, calling it “a deflection from the truth” and pointing out that he and co-producer Fran Walsh had “many casting conversations” with the Weinsteins during the 18 months they spent developing the film. Jackson certainly used the kind of language that could help Judd in her suit: Not only did he say he suspects he and Walsh “were fed false information about both of these talented women,” he also added that “as a direct result their names were removed from our casting list.”
Judd has said in a statement that she would donate any monetary damages awarded in the case to the Time’s Up legal defense fund.