Hollywood actor, Emma Thompson has “walked the walk” according to #TimesUp organisers, after choosing to withdraw from animated film Luck, which had jointly signed John Lasseter to be its new head.
In a letter to Skydance Media, Thompson questioned why a man like Lasseter -who’s been accused of multiple charges of sexual harassment- should be paid “millions of dollars” to be afforded a “second chance.” She urged the company to consider the ethical implications of hiring him, suggesting his reform would only be based on a clause in his contract and not a conscious understanding and desire to change.
Thompson’s stance was deemed by many as one of the most powerful responses triggered by the #MeToo movement. Melissa Silverstein, publisher of the website Women and Hollywood tweeted: “This is more than an open letter — Thompson has issued a rallying cry. We hope others with power and privilege will join Thompson in speaking out about abuses of power and those who enable that toxic behavior.”
Former Pixar boss, Lasseter rose to fame in the 1990s and 2000s after directing films like Toy Story and Toy Story 2, A Bug’s Life and Cars.
In 2017, after The New York Times published allegations against movie mogul, Harvey Weinstein, Lasseter took a leave of absence from his role at Pixar confessing to unexplained “missteps”. He left Disney permanently in 2018 before being offered the chief role at prestigious studio, Skydance.
Thompson expressed her regret at having to forsake the project, but said she felt her response was necessary given the current climate.
“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,” she writes. “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.”
As you know, I have pulled out of the production of “Luck” — to be directed by the very wonderful Alessandro Carloni. It feels very odd to me that you and your company would consider hiring someone with Mr. Lasseter’s pattern of misconduct given the present climate in which people with the kind of power that you have can reasonably be expected to step up to the plate.
I realise that the situation — involving as it does many human beings — is complicated. However these are the questions I would like to ask:
- 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? The message seems to be, “I am learning to feel respect for women so please be patient while I work on it. It’s not easy.”
- Much has been said about giving John Lasseter a “second chance.” But he is presumably being paid millions of dollars to receive that second chance. How much money are the employees at Skydance being paid to GIVE him that second chance?
- If John Lasseter started his own company, then every employee would have been given the opportunity to choose whether or not to give him a second chance. But any Skydance employees who don’t want to give him a second chance have to stay and be uncomfortable or lose their jobs. Shouldn’t it be John Lasseter who has to lose HIS job if the employees don’t want to give him a second chance?
- Skydance has revealed that no women received settlements from Pixar or Disney as a result of being harassed by John Lasseter. But given all the abuse that’s been heaped on women who have come forward to make accusations against powerful men, do we really think that no settlements means that there was no harassment or no hostile work environment? Are we supposed to feel comforted that women who feel that their careers were derailed by working for Lasseter DIDN’T receive money?
I hope these queries make the level of my discomfort understandable. I regret having to step away because I love Alessandro so much and think he is an incredibly creative director. But I can only do what feels right during these difficult times of transition and collective consciousness raising.
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.
Yours most sincerely,