Actor Romola Garai felt ‘violated’ after Harvey Weinstein encounter

Exclusive: in which he wore a dressing gown, British star adds describing encounter

Harvey Weinstein auditioned an 18-year-old Romola Garai while wearing only a dressing gown in an experience in the Savoy Hotel that the British celebrity described as humiliating and “an abuse of power”.

The actor who starred in Atonement and the BBC series The Hour, told the Guardian she was left feeling “violated”. It is the latest of allegations of behaviour by the Hollywood mogul.

“Like every other girl in the industry, I’ve had an ‘audition’ with Harvey Weinstein, where I had actually already had the bible however you had to be personally approved by him,” said Garai. “So I had to go to his hotel room in the Savoy, and he answered the door in his bathrobe. I was just 18. I felt violated by it, it’s stayed very clearly in my memory.”

Garai said the incident in London was indicative of Weinstein’s strategy to women in the film business, consistently putting young female actors, often desperate to get a rest in the industry, to “embarrassing situations” to prove “he had the power to take action”.

“The transaction was just I was there,” said Garai, who once she was in the hotel room with Weinstein just sat on a chair and had a brief talk about film. “The purpose was that he could find a young girl to do this, I did not have a decision, that it was embarrassing for me and that he had the energy. It was an abuse of power.”

In an expos in the New York Times a week, it was alleged that Weinstein, one of the most powerful people in Hollywood who produced films such as Pulp Fiction, had been plaguing women in the film industry for at least two decades.

It was alleged that he had attained at least eight settlements which he would invite women under the guise of work to his hotel room and then greet them nude or ask them to massage him or see him shower.

Among his accusers are the actors Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan, and because they went public against Weinstein, others have come forward. The author and artist Liza Campbell stated Weinstein invited her and asked her to get in the tub with him, along with a US TV journalist stated Weinstein masturbated in front of her.

Weinstein had taken a leave of absence from his organization but on Sunday night the board declared he had been sacked after fresh allegations of misconduct. On Monday evening the NYT reported that, hours prior to the board announcement, Weinstein emailed associates in Hollywood requesting them to help stop him being terminated.

Actors including Meryl Streep and Judi Dench, the two of whom have starred in many Weinstein films, publicly condemned the producer, denying any knowledge of his activities, while Emma Thompson described him as a “predatory man”.

Streep added that the allegations had “appalled those people whose work [Weinstein] championed, and those whose great and worthy causes that he supported”.

Weinstein has expressed sorrow for his improper behaviour towards women stretching back years, saying “I own my errors”, but his attorneys say he also denies a number of the allegations made against him.

Harvey Weinstein has been fired from his production company over the sexual harassment allegations. Photograph: Guillaume Horcajuelo/Pool/EPA

Garai told the Guardian she “couldn’t be less surprised” by the allegations again Weinstein and stated the simple fact that the film industry was “very very very misogynistic” had intended Weinstein’s behaviour was approved. “You can’t find a celebrity that doesn’t have that kind of story about Harvey,” she said.

Describing her hotel room experience using Weinstein, Garai said she understood back then it was “bizarre” but that she “just attempted to make out as though it was normal because as far as I was concerned it was a job interview”. “I knew something had happened to me I did not enjoy and that I felt belittled by but I did not feel as though I had the right to complain.”

She added: “The men and women who asked me to go to his hotel room did so using an eye-rolling look of, ‘That is bizarre but you just have to take action, you’re not in any danger’. It was obvious they were uncomfortable asking me to take action, but that it had to be done.

“I remember the sensation of visiting him opening the door in the dressing table and thinking, ‘Oh god, this really is really a casting couch’. But I guess it just a girl that is older that I knew what it meant. At the time I knew myself to be a commodity and that my worth in the industry rested almost exclusively about how I looked and I did not actually think of myself to be any greater than that.”

Garai said she had never considered to raise the incident until now because in the film industry folks would be “shocked I even believed it was a problem”. Weinstein’s alleged behaviour towards women has been described as an “open secret”, and some thing Garai affirmed, saying that he was one of the most notorious offenders for this kind of behaviour in the film industry.

“It’s kind of amazing to me that this is news, it is just so well-known in the industry,” she said. “There are so many stories about him sending bizarre texts and harassing actresses, telling them he will give them a role should they come to supper with him — that’s really really common. And it is well-known that he’s had relationships who he’s worked with, or have worked for him. Given how successful he is, and given that they’re always with women who are a lot younger than him, I believe there’s clearly an imbalance of energy in those relationships.”

Garai landed the role in Dirty Dancing. During filming she stated she was put under pressure to eliminate weight and was constantly told she was obese, with meals she did not eat anything.

Garai reported that while the instructions came from lower-level producers, she thought that it was Weinstein placing the strain for her to lose weight to “fit his expectations of what a movie star should look like”.

“Harvey’s behaviour was accepted but it was approved because the business knows that what folks wish to see on screen is women that are thin and lovely with big tits and don’t say very much,” she said.

Garai said the incident with Weinstein was the most “explicitly problematic” of her career, but that just now, more than a decade later, had she actually come to terms with it. She added: “If somebody asked me now to go to their hotel room along with a guy was in a dressing gown I’m 100% convinced I would leave and say: ‘Would you prefer to come down to the bar and have the assembly with me when you’re dressed’.”

Meanwhile British prime minister Theresa May expressed her concerns over the allegations against Weinstein but her spokesman said the matter of whether he should keep the CBE he was granted in 2004 for services to the film industry “wasn’t one for Downing Street”.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

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