PARIS — According to an ever expanding list of accusers, Harvey Weinstein has been sexually harassing and assaulting women for decades. As of Friday, 28 women have come forward to denounce the mogul, including some of Hollywood's most celebrated stars like Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie, who fended off his advances early in their careers. Rose McGowan accused Weinstein of rape in a series of tweets on Thursday, while investigators pursue criminal cases in New York and London.
Also on the list are a number of European actresses, including France's Florence Darel, Judith Godrèche, Emma de Caunes, and Léa Seydoux, as the scandal continues to make headlines around the world.
Though the French film industry is often held up as the singular rival to Hollywood, Weinstein was a relatively well-known figure in France, particularly after producing (and brilliantly promoting) the Oscar-winning feature The Artist in 2011.
Indeed, the "worst-kept" secret of his abusive pursuit of women also followed him across the Atlantic, where Le Monde reports that he was known at the Cannes Film Festival by the nickname "le porc" (the pig).
The revelations of the past week were bound to be viewed differently in France, where sex scandals inevitably reveal cultural differences with the United States. Paris, after all, has been the longtime base for Roman Polanski, who has been able to simply go on with his life (and award-winning film career) even after he was convicted in 1977 of sexually abusing a 13-year-old girl in Los Angeles. There was also the reaction in former IMF-chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn's being accused of rape, which was more confused and mildly mortified for a powerful man's reputation than outraged.
French daily Libération"s Oct. 12 front page
Still, though sure to never reveal prudishness in the face of sexual misbehavior, the French appear duly stunned by the Weinstein scandal. In a recent interview with Le Parisien, French film director Tonie Marshall said that the sheer scale of abuse at the top echelon of the industry would not happen in France, where the filmmaking is largely supported by public entities, and box office receipts are not necessarily the ultimate measure of success.
"In France, there isn't a single producer in our industry who would be in this all-powerful, kingmaker-like position," said Marshall, who was born and raised in France and is the daughter of an iconic French actress and an American film producer. "With this type of thing, it's always a question of exercising power over another person." And for Weinstein, sex was an offshoot of seemingly limitless power across an entire industry, over the course of decades.
The word "mogul" has its origins in India, but its modern manifestation is something particularly linked to the U.S. The way a sex-obsessed Weinstein abused his ever-growing industry might in front of people trying to pursue their own professional ambitions is, indeed, a disturbing plotline made for Hollywood. It is a reminder that this American scandal isn't only about sex and power, but also economics.