Amazon apologizes to staff for Hollywood sex harassment charges – USA TODAY
Amazon Studios head Roy Price has been placed on a leave of absence.
Amazon’s expansion into Hollywood’s turf has lost some ofÂ its glow.
The Seattle-based behemoth, started two decades agoÂ as an online bookseller, has evolved into a business powerhouse making and streaming movies and TV shows â and selling you snacks to munch on while watching.
But its movie industry connection has now made it party to a worsening sexual harassment scandal.
Roy Price, who heads upÂ Amazon Studios, took a leave of absence Thursday after allegations arose of sexual harassment. Isa Hackett, the producer of the Amazon-created TV series The Man in the High Castle, told The Hollywood ReporterÂ in a story published ThursdayÂ that Price repeatedly propositioned her in 2015 using crudely suggestive language.
Hackett is the daughter of late author Philip K. Dick, whose book serves as the basis for the series. Tech industry websiteÂ The InformationÂ reported in late August that Amazon had investigated Price for these remarks.
Amazon exec Jeff Blackburn, the company’s senior vice president for business development, addressed the situation Friday in a memo to employees saying, “The news coming out of Hollywood over the past week has been shocking and disturbing â and unfortunately we are a part of it. Itâs sad and very disappointing to me.”Â Â BuzzFeed NewsÂ first reported on the memo.
Amazon confirmed to USA TODAY that the memo was sent by Blackburn. “Amazon does not tolerate harassment or abuse of our employees or our business partners,” he said in the memo. “If a concern is brought to our attention, we investigate it quickly and thoroughly.”
Price’s departure comes a week after The New York Timespublished a story detailing nearly 30 years of sexual misconduct by Harvey Weinstein, who with his brother Bob co-founded The Weinstein Company, a studio that produced Silver Linings Playbook and The King’s Speech.
Weinstein began a leave of absence Oct. 6 and was ousted from his company two days later. An article in The New Yorker magazine this week chronicledÂ accusations of rape and sexual assault against Weinstein. He has denied involvement in nonconsensual sex.Â
In a statement announcing Price’s immediate leave of absence, Amazon also said it would review options for projects it had with The Weinstein Co.Â
Two projects had been in the works from Amazon and Weinstein Television including The RomanoffsÂ from Mad Men creator Matt Weiner and an untitled David O. Russell series starring Robert DeNiro and Julianne Moore.
Russell, De Niro and Moore issued a statement late Friday saying, “We support Amazon’s decision asÂ In light of recent news and out of respect for all those affectedÂ we have decided together that it is best to not move forward with this show.
Hackett told The Hollywood Reporter she reported the 2015 incident to Amazon executives and agreed to talk to the magazine after several women came forward â including Angelina Jolie and Gwenth Paltrow â with allegations against Weinstein.
Actress Rose McGowan, who was mentioned in the Times story, criticized Bezos on Twitter Thursday, saying she warned the head of Amazon’s studioÂ about Weinstein raping her. “Over & over I said it. He said it hadnât been proven. I said I was the proof,” she tweeted. She didn’t name the exec referred to as “he.”
She called Amazon’s Academy Award Best Actor victory for Casey Affleck in the Manchester By The Sea “a dirty Oscar” because Affleck had been previously accused of making unwanted sexual advances while making 2010âs Iâm Still Here: The Lost Year of Joaquin Phoenix. Affleck, who settled suits brought by two women,Â denied those claims.Â
Amazon won another Oscar (best screenplay) for Manchester By The Sea, which it acquired at the Sundance Film Festival in 2016, reportedly for $10 million. It also won an Oscar forÂ best foreign language film for Iranian dramaÂ The Salesman.
The company has been a quick study in the original content business, aggressively taking on Netflix, as well as traditional Hollywood powers. In addition to throwing money around at film festivals, Amazon has made deals with big-name talent includingÂ The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman, who recently signedÂ a two-year deal to developÂ exclusive TV series and created the upcoming Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan series made with Lost co-creator Carlton Cuse and starring John Krasinski.
The Boston Consulting Group estimated that Amazon spent $3.2 billion on content in 2016 and the company has said it expected to double its spending on video content and triple it on original content.