BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) — The Variety Power of Women event celebrates the philanthropic efforts of those in the entertainment industry, with causes ranging from the education of at-risk youth to humanitarian assistance for children in developing countries.
But with the Harvey Weinstein scandal still fresh and ongoing, there was a more charged atmosphere Friday at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel than that of a normal industry Hollywood luncheon.
The urgency was palpable as Gwyneth Paltrow, who this week accused Weinstein of sexually harassing her early in her career, took the stage and said how honored she was to feel the support of everyone in the industry this week, and as “Wonder Woman” star Gal Gadot told the crowd of some 500 entertainment industry professions that her director Patty Jenkins “represents everything that is good in Hollywood.”
Few were as blunt as host Judd Apatow, however, who wasted no time both celebrating The New York Times journalists who cracked open the story of Weinstein’s alleged decades of sexual harassment and assault and taking jabs at the suggestion that The Weinstein Co. should remain in business.
“People say, ‘What will become of Harvey Weinstein’s company?’ To which I reply: ‘Who gives a (expletive)?’ Shut it down,” Apatow said. “And what about his staff? People say, ‘Did they know?’ Of course they knew.”
Apatow, who has been one of Hollywood’s most vocal on the subject, applauded the women who came forward to tell their stories and “end this nightmare.”
“This is leading to a new examination of how women are treated in our industry, and hopefully we can create a healthier environment where women don’t feel fear and are supported when they speak up because of creeps like Harvey Weinstein,” he continued. “It’s easy not to be a creep. It literally takes effort to be a creep. It takes no effort not to be a creep.”
Apatow also got some digs in at James Cameron for criticizing the film “Wonder Woman,” and, later, President Donald Trump and Bill Cosby.
Cameron, Apatow said, “Is a little jealous that Wonder Woman was a huge hit. His ego got a little hurt because people weren’t talking about his movie from 1991 … He says he’s pro women, but you don’t really show this by being critical of someone else’s movie.”
Variety editor-in-chief Claudia Eller said she believes that this is an inflection point in the industry that will lead to the eradication of “this abuse of power.”
“This is not new,” Eller said of the harassment of women in the entertainment business. “But what is new is what is happening right now.”
Michelle Pfeiffer, who was recognized for her support of the Environmental Working Group, applauded Paltrow and the other women who have come forward for speaking out. “It took a lot of courage,” Pfeiffer said.
But Weinstein talk eventually gave way to the charitable causes people like Priyanka Chopra, Kelly Clarkson and Octavia Spencer were there to uphold, including UNICEF, the XQ Institute, the Anti-Recidivism Coalition and City Year.
“It’s really wonderful to be in a room with so many women who are making a difference and supporting the causes that mean the most to them,” Paltrow said. “I feel very honored to be amongst you all.”
Spencer, speaking on behalf of City Year, said that the past few weeks have been, “unbearably dark” between the natural disasters and the scandal that “rocked us to our core.”
“(Weinstein) abused his power for nearly three decades,” Spencer said. “As a result, women across the world are banding together, leading the charge to make sure these victims are heard and policies are changed.”