Trash Talking with Harvey Weinstein


New York is so filthy with moguls and millionaires that even the trash is rich.

I mean, movie impresario Harvey Weinstein is such a big shot that he doesn’t even promptly return text messages from Nicole Kidman? You can understand that Weinstein might be too busy to blow off Knicks owner Jim Dolan’s request for a “follow-up”; phone call—which Harvey did for at least a few days. Who would want to talk to Dolan anyway?

But if I were Harvey, I would text the hell out of Kidman every chance I got. And I would immediately return that call from local nightclub dude Armin Amiri offering me a chance to buy a photo of Lauren Bacall with another big-cigar guy, Fidel Castro.

And poor Michael Moore, who may have to drag his fat ass up to Weinstein’s office for a confrontation a la Roger and Me. Why? Harvey didn’t return Moore’s April 25 phone call for more than a month.

There is, however, one way of making Harvey Weinstein pick up: You pick up his trash and then pick through it. Which is what I did—strictly by accident—the other evening in Tribeca.

A friend and I stumbled across a recycling bin filled to bursting with what looked like screenplays. Atop the pile was a copy of Variety addressed: “Special Hand Delivery, Harvey Weinstein, 3rd Floor, 375 Greenwich St.”

I’d been having drinks at the Greenwich Hotel, Robert De Niro’s new hostel in the burgeoning Little Hollywood district he and Harvey and others have created in Tribeca. Weinstein’s offices have been in the building for years; he and De Niro opened Tribeca Grill on the corner of Greenwich and Franklin in 1990. After 9/11 De Niro started the Tribeca Film Festival to help the area recover, and provided a home for it in the Tribeca Film Center, which he opened in 1989.

So I already wasn’t surprised that Harvey’s trash was dumped in Tribeca. Applying the garbological principles laid out by junk scientist William Rathje, I determined that i was looking at Weinstein’s garbage from early June. I also did that by looking at the dates.

As for the contents, a lot of the paperwork was juicy—and I don’t mean with coffee stains. I mean with details about the revamped Project Runway, for instance.

When I called Weinstein with questions, he cracked wise.

“You want more of my garbage? How about a couple of shirts out of my laundry?” Harvey told me. He wouldn’t comment about what was actually in the stuff—it was pretty plain he wasn’t happy they’d been sitting out on the street for me to pick up.

But he obviously wasn’t happy about much of it even before it was trashed. That pile of screenplays I found? Garbage. Even Harvey wouldn’t put this stuff on the screen.

“I have developed a good sense of humor about my press over the years,” he told me. “I hope that my mother reads this article and realizes once and for all that I do work hard and I’m not sipping martinis on the golf course.”

True, there were no country-club receipts in the garbage. And there were a lot of documents detailing the work life of a modern, motivated, movie mogul. Page upon page prepared for Harvey were labeled either “Calls You Owe” or “Need to Call.” These call lists were prepared every day, and I had four of them, for June 9 through June 12, during which time a slew of producers, agents, attorneys, reporters, and actors begged for his attention.

They ranged from the mundane — Nicole David of William Morris called to say: “Alicia Keys is playing at the Garden on June 18—would you like to attend?” to the intriguing, like this one prompted by producer Mark Gordon’s call: “Mark said he would like to speak to you about the Richard Pryor project.”

As noted above, Harvey was not very good about some of the “calls he owes” people like Kidman and Michael Moore. Way back on May 2, producer Anna Miller had left this message: “I wanted to remind you of a book I sent a few years ago. Call me when you can.” Hey, what’s another few days when a year has passed?

The “need to call” lists were another matter. Topping Harvey’s June 9 “need to call” agenda was Gwyneth Paltrow, “re: PROMISES, PROMISES.” Has Paltrow heard that another update to the 1968 Broadway smash (in turn based on the Billy Wilder film The Apartment) is in the works and wants in? Does Anne Hathaway know that Paltrow may be interested in the lead role she’s reportedly already landed?

Harvey also needs to call stylist Rachel Zoe, Disney head Bob Iger, Sylvester Stallone (“re: Nelson DeMille’s book Spencerville”), Ron Perelman, Michelle Williams, Diane Von Furstenberg (“re: Fashion copyright matter”), Julia Roberts (“re: NY Concert – June 10; via Richard Lovett and Project Runway”), Kate Hudson (“re: DIOR”), Morgan Spurlock, and Tommy Hilfiger.

And Harvey needs to call Woody Allen (“re: Bullets Over Broadway”)—presumably about the rumored stage adaptation of Woody’s film. On a more somber note, Harvey’s also supposed to call Heath Ledger’s former agent, Steve Alexander, “re: heath ledger massage therapist.”

Harvey may be in need of some computer skills. Someone has printed out his e-mails, like one involving details of the new Project Runway, which, after its fifth season on Bravo (starting July 16), Harvey is moving to Lifetime for season six, which will partly be filmed in California. The wags have it that Harvey’s ego was offended that Bravo was getting so much credit for the success of the show, so he moved it to the more cautious, less gay Lifetime out of spite.

Longtime fans predict doom. But the e-mails suggest that whether or not Runway wanes, Harvey is a hands-on details guy: He seemed to peruse a series of e-mails regarding the show’s makeup and “hair category.” A crucial one was sent May 26 to several people at L’Oreal by Lori Sale, a former Weinstein Company employee now at the Paradigm agency:

“I wish there was more time. Twc [The Weinstein Company] has already gone to great lengths with new partner at lifetime to not only secure both categories for you but also to be flexible toward loreal in coming up with an alternative for you on their packaging of [seasons] six + seven. Unfortunately, due to filming of season five and tresemme’s feeling that they are being iced out of season 6, there just is not more time to give. As you know, season five commences in days…twc is now at risk that tresemme will pull out of season 5, which puts twc at risk for 1.1m [$1.1 million]. Carol is welcome to call hw [Harvey Weinstein] or me, but the deadline has to remain at close of business tuesday for loreal to decide on hair category for [Project Runway]/models for season 6 and structure of [seasons] 7/8. I would additionally say that the whole reason we are to this point is a result of the relationship! Without the relationship and the history, l’oreal would not have the opportunity to even engage in the opportunity to obtain the hair category.”

Tresemmé iced out of Runway! Oh, the fur (or at least the hair) is going to fly. If you watch the show, you know how carefully Tim Gunn announces that contestants will be taking their models to the “Tresemmé hair salon” and the “L’Oreal makeup room.” It’s no secret that companies like Tresemmé and L’Oreal pay big bucks for that kind of product placement in such a huge hit as Runway. But that last line is precious; translation: We may be asking for a lot of money, but there are plenty of other companies lining up to replace Tresemmé, and you better act fast. Just how much money? That’s spelled out in another e-mail included on the same page, one that is addressed from Sale to Harvey himself:

“Hw – if you get a call from carol hamilton it will be regarding [Project Runway] season 6 and beyond. I’ve imposed a tuesday, close of business deadline for them to commit to hair category in addition to make up. They have two choices: 1) Take both hair and make up for [$2 million] plus [$1 million] to twc (no split) for season 6 and [$2 million] for hair and makeup for season 7 plus [$1 million] to twc for a total of [$6 million]. 2) Commit to season 6 only for [$2 million] hair/make up plus [$1 million] to twc] and then by 3rd episode must pick up both season 7 + 8 for a total of [$8 million] (but must take additional [$1 million] to twc regardless) They have asked for additional time and I have declined that citing tresemme and season 5 which starts shooting shortly. Call me if you have questions. Best, lori”

Got that, H.W.? Lori’s playing hardball with L’Oreal, so don’t blow it and give the company any additional time to dither. They need to cough up $6–8 mil if they want to tease models’ hair on camera for a few seasons.

Further evidence that a less-gay Runway on Lifetime is going to get sillier and even more blatantly placed with products is in another phone message from underling Barbara Schneewiess on the boss’s call list: “Just wanted to confirm that you’re okay with the creative for the Igor challenge on Project Runway.”

This appears to be a reference to the animated kids’ film Igor that Weinstein’s company is producing, and suggests that contestants on the new Lifetime version of Runway will be making outfits for the movie premiere or something. The tie-in possibilities are endless!

I know from the hand-scribbled notes on some of this stuff that Harvey did more than just toss it.

For example, a letter from French producer Pierre-Ange Le Pogam refers to the distribution of a sequel to Arthur and the Invincibles. That partly animated film was directed by Luc Besson and released initially in France in 2006 as Arthur et les Minimoys, but Besson went public with his disappointment with how Weinstein had handled it for its 2007 American release. (Weinstein had hired Madonna, Snoop Dogg, DeNiro, and others to voice the characters, but critics creamed it.) Weinstein responded that Besson was a “has-been.” In the letter, Le Pogam refers to meeting Weinstein at Cannes and discussing a sequel, and offers a 30 million euro guarantee for its distribution. Someone—apparently Weinstein himself—scribbled a note on this letter: “Get a response from the French lawyer as well as the American…Watch the tricks”.

And tricky situations: Nicole Kidman pops up again in a couple of unsigned copies of contracts for The Reader, which is currently filming without her. She dropped out when she got pregnant for the first time with her new husband, Keith Urban, and was replaced by Kate Winslet. The documents contain details that are probably pretty standard for highly paid stars like Kidman: the size of her name in advertising, a guarantee of first-class travel, a right not to have her hair “permanently” colored, restrictions against nudity not already spelled out in the screenplay, the right to keep one of each item of her wardrobe.

But here’s a nugget: Kidman agreed on a salary of only $100,000, plus $450,000 if the movie breaks even. That’s a pittance for a star in her bracket, but not unusual when an actor really wants to take part in an “art” movie.

Speaking of pittances—although not to the people affected—the documents reveal that Harvey was told that health care insurance for his two housekeepers was going up by $13,080 in the next year. (Hey, I can relate, Harv.)

As far as office expenses go, I couldn’t find any mention of a key piece of equipment that today’s mogul must have.

So I went to Staples, bought him a shredder, and mailed it this morning.