Skydance Media raised quite a few eyebrows earlier this year by announcing that it had hired John Lasseter, the former Disney-Pixar executive accused of inappropriate behavior and unwanted touching, as the head of its animation division. Now that choice has led at least one high-profile actress to walk away from a Skydance project: Emma Thompson says she will no longer lend her voice to Luck, the upcoming movie directed by Alessandro Carloni, as a result.
Thompson explained the decision in a letter to Skydance that was provided to the Los Angeles Times, writing that she regrets not being able to work with Carloni but that she “can only do what feels right during these difficult times of transition and collective consciousness raising.” Thompson notes in her letter that Skydance employees are now facing the choice between working with Lasseter or leaving their jobs, and that while Lasseter is being paid millions for his second chance, it is unlikely that those employees can say the same.
Thompson also makes several pointed queries in the letter which challenge some of Skydance’s justifications for hiring Lasseter. In a memo to staff obtained by Deadline, Skydance Media CEO David Ellison wrote that “John has been forthright in taking ownership of his behavior, apologized for his actions and has spent the past year on sabbatical analyzing and improving his workplace behavior.”
Lasseter, who has admitted to vague “missteps” and apologized for any unwanted hugs, made a similar statement at the time: “I have spent the last year away from the industry in deep reflection, learning how my actions unintentionally made colleagues uncomfortable, which I deeply regret and apologize for. It has been humbling, but I believe it will make me a better leader.”
Thompson seems unpersuaded by the argument that it is acceptable to hire Lasseter because he will not repeat the behavior. “If a man has been touching women inappropriately for decades, why would a woman want to work for him if the only reason he’s not touching them inappropriately now is that it says in his contract that he must behave ‘professionally’?” she asks in her letter. “If a man has made women at his companies feel undervalued and disrespected for decades, why should the women at his new company think that any respect he shows them is anything other than an act that he’s required to perform by his coach, his therapist and his employment agreement? ”
Thompson invoked her own position of power in walking away from the role while chastising Skydance executives for not using their own to “step up to the plate.”
I am well aware that centuries of entitlement to women’s bodies whether they like it or not is not going to change overnight. Or in a year. But I am also aware that if people who have spoken out—like me—do not take this sort of a stand then things are very unlikely to change at anything like the pace required to protect my daughter’s generation.
Thompson is not alone in taking a stand. Mireille Soria, the chief of Paramount Animation who provided creative notes on Luck, reportedly told her staff earlier this year that they were under no obligation to work with Lasseter, and Women in Animation president Marge Dean wrote that Skydance hiring a person with a record of misconduct in a position of power has shaken the “sense of security that women didn’t need to be afraid to be in the workplace.”
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