Collateral damage: The unseen fallout from Hollywood's sexual misconduct scandals
One actor's fall from grace creates a ripple effect on co-stars, animators, editors and more
The audacity of the plan made jaws drop even among Hollywood know-it-alls: erase and replace an actor from a finished film.
In early November, director Ridley Scott, 80, vowed to re-shoot scenes and re-edit the kidnap drama-thriller All the Money in the World to excise Kevin Spacey — just weeks before the film's theatrical debut.
"I thought, it could not be left to die," the Gladiator filmmaker told CBC News during an interview in Los Angeles. "And the only way to do that was to completely re-cast."
Canadian icon Christopher Plummer was parachuted in as Spacey's replacement to play billionaire oil tycoon J. Paul Getty. Stars Michelle Williams and Mark Wahlberg joined the hastily reunited team in Rome and London for nine 18-hour days of shooting during the American Thanksgiving holiday.
"The memory department was the biggest challenge and flying from New York," said Plummer, 88, admitting he doesn't enjoy plane travel. "Once in London, I had a marvellous time doing it."
The result is something of a miracle for Tinseltown: a revamped film that will open on Dec. 25 — a mere three days later than originally scheduled.
The unprecedented actor swap garnered multiple Golden Globe nominations and awe from the industry, following some calls for a boycott of the dramatic thriller originally marketed heavily on Spacey's performance.
The bold decision to extinguish Spacey amid rapidly mounting allegations of sexual harassment and assault against the disgraced Oscar winner (who was still paid for his earlier participation, Scott noted) is part of a stark reality facing Hollywood today: grappling with the often far-reaching collateral damage when a high-profile figure is toppled.
The New York Times and New Yorker's initial exposés about powerful Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein this fall marked a tipping point. Since then, dozens of individuals have come forward about experiencing sexual harassment and assault, with millions more chiming in online about their own experiences under #metoo.
The aftermath has included Weinstein's namesake production company being pressured to cut all ties to films in its stable, including Paddington 2 and Wind River. Netflix abandoned a Gore Vidal biopic — starring and produced by Spacey — which was already in post-production. On the eve of its theatrical release, Louis C.K.'s movie I Love You, Daddy was dropped by its North American and international distributors after multiple women accused the comedian of sexual misconduct.
The take-down of powerful entertainment figures has been harrowing for accusers and messy for an industry in which projects often involve dozens if not hundreds of workers. As movie, TV and streaming projects at various stages of completion have been halted, shelved or outright cancelled, it's affected the livelihoods of many below-the-line employees.
'Just stop working on it'
After Louis C.K.'s admission that allegations about him "are true," TBS suspended work on his animated comedy series The Cops. A Canadian team of animators was about half-way done the prime-time show's first episode when news about C.K. broke, said the show's line producer Mark Van Ee.
"We found out the news the same time as everyone else. … Then we all spent the weekend worrying and wondering what was going to happen," he told CBC News from Vancouver.
"On the Monday, we found out and that was it.… 'This happened and the show is not going on.' And 'Just stop working on it.'"
The project reportedly had about 100 employees, approximately half of them animators and other creative workers in Vancouver.
"I'm sure he's heard it from 100 people in the past weeks: 'How could you do this? You know how many people this affects?' Obviously he knows," said Van Ee, who had been a big fan of the now disgraced comedian.
"I'm not sure I would actually want to meet him after all this, to be honest."
The show, revolving around two Los Angeles beat cops (voiced by C.K. and Albert Brooks), had already gained buzz and kudos for what was being touted as an irreverent take on contemporary issues featuring a progressive cast that included gay, lesbian and trans performers.
"It was upsetting 'cause you do put all this time and effort into something and one decision suddenly erases it," noted Shawna Mauchline, who was a build supervisor for The Cops.
Despite the job instability, however, Mauchline said she feels heartened by this new climate in which victims can come forward and harassers face consequences.
"Support is very important — supporting the victims, supporting the people who get let go," she said.
"I think that's one of the bigger things that we can always try to do moving forward."
'I had to go back and fix my film'
In addition to regaining rights to a project that had been tied up with The Weinstein Company, Canadian filmmaker Barry Avrich is poised to make a film about Weinstein.
Just days before the first allegations against Weinstein emerged in early October, Avrich had signed a deal with TWC to distribute his forthcoming documentary Prosecuting Evil, about legendary Nuremberg prosecutor Ben Ferencz.
The Montreal filmmaker has had a tricky relationship with the movie mogul over the years, after publishing the 2016 book Moguls, Monsters and Madmen: An Uncensored Life in Show Business and releasing the 2011 doc Unauthorized: The Harvey Weinstein Project.
"When the scandal [broke], I felt morally obligated to fix the film I'd made about Harvey earlier," Avrich said.
"I made a film about a bully, an extraordinarily arrogant, difficult, almost Mafioso-like filmmaker... But I did not make a film about a sexual predator, and I felt I had to go back and fix my film."
Though he was successful in extricating Prosecuting Evil from the recent deal with TWC, Avrich was unable to convince IFC Films — the rights-holder for Unauthorized — to let him re-make that doc. So his next project will be a film examining Weinstein and the wider culture in entertainment and media which permitted widespread sexual harassment and assault.
"When the Matt Lauer headline came out, people said 'Oh no, not him!' I worry that people are putting alleged abusers in different categories versus focusing on the culture that needs to change," Avrich said. He is concerned about the public becoming desensitized amid an onslaught of revelations.
People are willing to talk, and I think that's what's going to ultimately change the culture.— Barry Avrich
When he was making Unauthorized, Avrich said he'd only heard about Weinstein being a womanizer and was unable to confirm any "whispers" about settlements the powerful producer had secured. "Doors were slammed," he recalled, when he reached out to some of the high-profile former collaborators who have since come out against Weinstein.
Now, "people are willing to talk, and I think that's what's going to ultimately change the culture," Avrich said.
And Scott's successful resurrection of an Oscar hopeful — at record speed — could be a way forward for studios.
"They take way too long to shoot films," said Scott.
With files from Eli Glasner and Nigel Hunt