Did rejecting Harvey shut down our careers?
Actress Alice Evans, wife of Ioan Gruffudd, reveals her sinister encounter with disgraced producer Weinstein - and how she thinks it impacted on her and her husband
'How's your Harvey- meter?" asks a female producer, her eyes flicking up and down the regulation 8x10 headshot with my acting credits stapled to the back. "I've no idea," I lie, trying to sound unconcerned, although my palms have begun to sweat and familiar feelings of dread have invaded my stomach.
"Because Harvey would like to sign off personally on the lead roles for this," she continues. "So obviously, if you're on good terms... well, you know." She smiles. "Yep," I say, with the insider's "I know what you mean" laugh. Which is insane, because what she and I both know is that the subject at the core of this delicate dance we're doing is whether or not Harvey Weinstein has ever come on to me.
It's 2003. I've been a working actress for six years, and have a decent slew of credits. Lead roles. I'm not a household name, but neither am I a complete interloper, although that's exactly what I feel like, sitting on this plastic chair in a Soho office crammed with headshots just like mine covering the walls, the desk, the floor. I feel like none of the roles I've worked so hard to get make any difference in this case, because there's no chance whatsoever I will get this job. And I am right. Because I've already failed The Harvey Test.
Rewind a year. Cannes 2002. I've been flown into the film festival by the production company of a French language film I'd been in the year before that was looking for foreign investors. Once the meetings have been completed, we all go our separate ways and make a plan to reunite that evening at a beach party at the Carlton Hotel, where we are staying. I am standing at the bar on my own when out of nowhere a hand extends with a cocktail in it and a voice says: "Here."
I look up. I have no trouble recognising him and half wonder whether Harvey must have made a mistake, but no: he's handing it to me. "Thank you," I manage. And then, taking a large slug: "I'm Alice." "I know exactly who you are," he says, and I feel a surge of silly pride. "Oh. I know who you are, too." "Good start," he goes on, and I laugh nervously into my drink. Harvey stares at me. Then begins to look over my shoulder. And I panic a little.
This is my moment to impress Harvey Weinstein. If I'm boring he'll walk away and I may never get a second chance. Oddly, despite having heard endless stories about massages and worse in hotel rooms, it doesn't even cross my mind - not for a second - that he might try the same on me. Why would he?
I'm not that type of girl. (In retrospect, this may seem disingenuous, but does anyone really feel like they're "that sort of girl"?) I'm nervous, though. I blurt out the first thing that comes to mind: "My boyfriend screen-tested for you in New York yesterday." "I know," says Weinstein without blinking. "He did an incredible job. He's a talented guy." Wow. I'm flattered by proxy. I can't wait to tell Ioan (Gruffudd, my now husband) the good news. I'm so excited I take off on some boring tangent about auditions and films and suddenly, out of nowhere, he's asking me to go into the hotel bathroom with him. I laugh, make a joke. Keep rambling.
But he continues. "Just go. I'm right behind you. I want to touch your t***. Kiss you a little." He moves right up close to me and looks me up and down. I can feel his breath. And it's not your average tipsy come-on. It's sinister. The sort of thing that makes you want to run away fast. Now this wouldn't be hard. We're in a very public place. He knows I could make a scene. But as I extricate myself (by moving backwards and murmuring various excuses), Harvey utters a phrase that has stayed with me forever. "Let's hope it all works out for your boyfriend," he says.
The next morning, Ioan calls me. He has a film being promoted at Cannes, too, and we have lunch planned. He sounds so buoyed by the good news about the audition that I stop short of telling him about the bathroom proposal.
I feel quite conflicted. Clearly, I should never have to walk into a public bathroom and let a stranger touch my breasts, but something about the whole encounter makes me feel like I've let him down. Like I could have handled it better. Harvey didn't actually do anything wrong. He propositioned me, overtly, repeatedly, then he turned nasty when I said no, but that's not illegal. And yet I can't help feeling I'm the one who has behaved badly here - and that somehow I will be made to pay.
My worst fears are confirmed when I spot Harvey at a party that night and make my way over to say hello. I'm not sure what to expect, but I'm hoping to hear some friendly banter so I can stop worrying. I tap Harvey's shoulder. He spins around and for a second I see his face cloud, then turn steely. "Do I know you?" he asks calmly. Then he walks away and I'm left standing there, stunned.
The next day, Ioan still hasn't heard anything about the audition. In Hollywood, no news is rarely good news. We sit despondently eating lunch with a member of his management team and they go over the audition scenario. The phone refuses to ring and my panic rises. Finally, Ioan gets up and goes to the bathroom. Watching him go, the guy leans in and asks: "So what really happened with Harvey?" And I tell him - by this point desperate for some sympathy.
"I was worried you might say that," he nods. "They called this morning. It's not going Ioan's way. I'm not going to tell him just yet - he's got interviews to do this afternoon and I don't want to upset him."
I was never again considered for a Weinstein film, and neither was Ioan.
I'll never know if my refusal to be sexually available for Weinstein at the moment he fancied his little fix had me blacklisted or whether I'm inflating my own importance in a much bigger picture. But I do know this: this total lack of concern for me as a woman - and more importantly a human being - shocked me to the core and affected me for years.
But it's not just me we're talking about today. And actually, it isn't just Harvey Weinstein. As long as there are sociopaths in positions of control in Hollywood (and, sadly, these people, both male and female, exist in every industry) who are known to use their positions of power to torture desperate, hopeful people but are never publicly denounced, then Harvey's fall from grace will mean nothing.
There will always be those who would rather play it safe than try to change the status quo, and more than one person tried to stop me from writing this piece, concerned about "what it might do" to both my career and Ioan's, but I'm heartened by the many who have spoken out in recent days, not just against Harvey but a culture of sexual bullying within the industry that's neither a "game" nor part of some quaint movie tradition, but unacceptable on a very basic human level.
And I really hope that the "you can count on me - I won't tell" days are over. None of us should be counted on to cover up the immoralities of those above us - and all of us should now tell.