There have been books written—and likely more to come—about all the ways Hollywood, and especially Hollywood men, Did Not Talk about Harvey Weinstein. Which is to say they talked, of course, across literal decades of abuse. But not anywhere that was especially useful to the women trapped in Weinstein’s orbit, whether it was Quentin Tarantino “knowing enough” to wish he’d said more, or Matt Damon seemingly embracing willful ignorance when he heard someone was writing a “hit piece” about his benefactor and friend. These individual cases can be fascinating as much for what they didn’t accomplish as what they did, though; take, for instance, Brad Pitt, who was asked this week about threatening to kill Weinstein if he ever touched Gwyneth Paltrow again.
Paltrow originally told this story on The Howard Stern Show last year, following up on details she’d revealed the year prior to The New York Times. In the Times story, she’d recounted the ways Weinstein attempted to leverage control over her career, circa Emma, into his tried, tested, and thoroughly vile method of inviting young actresses to engage in sexual behavior with him. After the encounter, which included Weinstein touching her inappropriately and inviting her to his bedroom, she told her then-boyfriend Pitt about it. Per Paltrow, he approached Weinstein outside a play premiere in 1995, and told him, “If you ever make her feel uncomfortable again, I’ll kill you.” Describing the incident, Paltrow highlighted how much she appreciated the gesture, saying, “It was the equivalent of throwing him against the wall, energetically. It was so fantastic because what he did was, he leveraged his fame and power to protect me at a time when I didn’t have fame or power yet. He’s the best.”
Pitt, to his credit, obviously has no interest in taking credit for any of this; he looked visibly uncomfortable this week when CNN’s Christiane Amanpour called him one of the “heroes” of the incident. “At that moment, I was just a boy from the Ozarks on the playground and that’s how we confronted things,” Pitt says in the interview, noting that he simply didn’t want anything bad to happen to Paltrow while she continued to work with Weinstein. He then pivoted the conversation back to talking about the ways Hollywood is hopefully changing in response to the #MeToo movement.
It’s worth noting that this story doesn’t end with Pitt shouting at Weinstein and Weinstein apologizing, all wrongs righted. Instead, the producer simply called up Paltrow, yelled at her, and threatened to take away a star-making role in the Jane Austen adaptation. (And though his harassment of her reportedly stopped, it obviously didn’t for many others) Years later, she would help journalists Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor—who, with Ronan Farrow, won the Pulitzer Prize for the reporting that brought Weinstein down—connect the dots of the story, but that was a process that took more than 20 additional years to play out, despite the story being known by two of Hollywood’s most powerful performers. It’s mostly just a reminder of how grimly entrenched these power dynamics were (are?), and the ways even legitimate gestures of protection can amount to very little in terms of mitigating actual harm.
Anyway, happy weekend!