Oscar winner Emma Thompson has revealed she quit animated film Luck because former Pixar co-founder and Walt Disney animation chief John Lasseter was also hired for the project.
In a scathing open letter run first in The Los Angeles Times on Tuesday (US time), Thompson said she could not work with the embattled Mr Lasseter because of his “pattern of misconduct”.
The Love Actually and Harry Potter star, 59, wrote she abandoned her role in the highly-touted movie last month “to protect my daughter’s generation”.
Gaia Wise, Thompson’s daughter with actor husband Greg Wise, 52, is a 19-year-old university student.
Melissa Silverstein, founder of the Women and Hollywood organisation, which campaigns for inclusion and gender equality, called Thompson’s decision to walk from Luck “one of the most significant moments in the Me Too movement”.
"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." https://t.co/weQPhWssyY
— Melissa Silverstein (@melsil) February 26, 2019
In November 2017, shortly after movie boss Harvey Weinstein was disgraced by a string of sexual harassment allegations, Mr Lasseter took a six-month “sabbatical” from Disney, acknowledging “missteps” in his behaviour.
He apologised to “anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of an unwanted hug” or any other gesture that made them feel “disrespected or uncomfortable”.
The director of Pixar and Disney hits including Toy Story, Cars and A Bug’s Life, Mr Lasseter planned to return to Disney but he was shown the door last June.
In mid-January, Mr Lasseter, 62, was hired as head of animation for Skydance Media, the film production company behind Luck.
Days later, Thompson quit, calling the situation “complicated” in a January 23 letter addressed to Skydance and its CEO, David Ellison.
“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 wrote.
The Men in Black star slammed Mr Lasseter’s hiring as “very odd … given the present climate”.
Wrote Thompson, “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?”
Workplace gender inequality organisation Time’s Up said giving Mr Lasseter a second chance so soon “endorses and perpetuates a broken system that allows powerful men to act without consequence”.
When he was hired for Luck, Mr Lasseter said he had spent the past year in “deep reflection, learning how my actions unintentionally made colleagues uncomfortable”.
It angered politically-outspoken Thompson, who wore sneakers to Buckingham Palace when she was made a dame commander of the British Empire last November.
“The message seems to be, ‘I’m learning to feel respect for women so please be patient while I work on it, it’s not easy.'”
She ended her letter by writing that “centuries of entitlement to women’s bodies … is not going to change overnight”.
But, she said, if she did not “take this sort of stand then things are very unlikely to change at anything like the pace required to protect my daughter’s generation”.