He was then off to The Soho Hotel for a screening of his Oscar-nominated documentary 20 Feet From Stardom. That night he schmoozed Uma Thurman and Keira Knightley over scallop and grapefruit ceviche at a glitzy BAFTA nominee dinner he co-hosted at Little House. The next day he joined Amy Adams and Pierce Brosnan for Charles Finch’s pre-BAFTA dinner at Annabel’s. Sunday saw him scoop a BAFTA for Philomena and entertain half of Hollywood at his after-party at the Rosewood hotel (he’d insisted on a ‘dessert room’ replete with chocolate fountains). After chatting to Naomi Campbell and Oprah Winfrey, he retired to his vast suite, leaving Michael Fassbender to handle the after-after-party. On Monday he took a trip to Fashion Week, sitting on the Burberry front row, joking with Bradley Cooper and his opposite number of the fashion world, Anna Wintour. That evening he joined Helen Mirren and Ralph Fiennes at Buckingham Palace for a reception with the Queen. On Tuesday he donned his favourite Richard James suit for a brief appearance at the Elle Style Awards before boarding his Bombardier, with his mind turning to LA where he would do it all again. This time, for the Oscars.
Weinstein meeting the Queen at the Dramatic Arts reception
With 250 nominations and 80 wins to his name for films as diverse and distinctive as Shakespeare in Love, Pulp Fiction and The Artist, Harvey is King of the Oscars. At Miramax and then at The Weinstein Company, both founded and run with his quieter brother Bob, Harvey developed a reputation for talent-spotting, star-making and fearsomely effective awards-season campaigns. This year, though, he seems to have admitted defeat. ‘Right now, American Hustle, 12 Years a Slave and Gravity are in some sort of orbit: one day one wins, one day the other,’ growls the bear-like 61-year-old New Yorker, stirring Sweet’N Low into his coffee. ‘You can’t predict but [the race for Best Picture is] tightening, I think between 12 Years and Gravity.’
None of these films is — as he would put it — ‘his’. From the Weinstein slate, August: Osage County won nominations for Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts in the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress categories, but Streep is not a favourite. Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is only up for Best Song. Fruitvale Station (the story of a racially shaded shooting, as yet unreleased in the UK) and Lee Daniels’ The Butler were entirely ignored. His only real horse in the race for Best Film and Best Actress — Philomena, starring Judi Dench as an Irish mother searching for the son she was forced to give up for adoption — is an outsider.
‘There were a lot more films this year that were worthy,’ Weinstein shrugs. ‘Sometimes the outside one has a chance to get it for screenplay or for music. Sometimes they reward you. But look, when it comes to the Oscars anything is possible. I talked to David Puttnam [Labour peer and Oscar-winning film producer] last night about the year Steven Spielberg had Raiders and Warren Beatty had Reds. They were both sure they would win, and [Best Film] went to Chariots of Fire. Neither of them had seen it and they were, like, what is that?’
He says it’s a ‘huge mistake’ to believe that Academy members vote for or against Weinstein ‘product’ rather than according to aesthetics and taste. It’s one of several fallacies that he insists are woven into the Weinstein myth, including that he’s a ruthless recutter of his directors’ films, an autocrat and a bully. Hmm. Back in 1993, Fortune magazine placed the Weinsteins on its list of America’s toughest bosses, and tales of his grand edicts and abrasive statements (‘I’m the f***ing sheriff of this f***ing lawless piece-of-s*** town’) are legion. The ‘Harvey Scissorhands’ reputation persists: just last year, the South Korean director Bong Joon-ho and actor John Hurt protested about him recutting their film Snowpiercer, although the dispute has now been settled.
At the pre-BAFTA dinner with Keira Knightley
Certainly today he seems benign, mentioning his five children and his second wife, Georgina, warmly and often. He is shorter than you’d expect but hugely charismatic, his bulk streamlined by another Richard James suit chosen by his wife. He does a good job of sounding professionally sanguine, magnanimous even. The Butler and August: Osage County, both serious films, were well reviewed and financially successful: ‘Meryl I’ve made seven, eight movies with, and she has won Oscars on my watch. It’s someone else’s turn. Let it be. That’s good for our industry.’
He thinks Cate Blanchett will win Best Actress for Blue Jasmine, but kinda wishes it were Dench. Weinstein is known for his love-ins with actors and seems in the throes of full-blown passion for the 79-year-old Dame, who spent most of the awards season recovering from a knee operation. ‘I helped her in her early movie career, and there are so many movies I love her in,’ he enthuses. ‘She’s not been 100 per cent well. I wanted her to go to Los Angeles because I thought she had a great chance to win an Oscar. But without cam–paigning — and I only mean showing up, promoting your movie, not really campaigning — it’s hard to win.’
At the BAFTAs, in front of Oprah Winfrey and Philomena’s co-writer and star Steve Coogan, with Brad and Angelina in the background, Dench flashed her bottom at Weinstein to display a (temporary) tattoo of his initials — the bring-the-house-down punchline to her long-standing joke that she’d had it done. ‘It’s a nice butt,’ says Harvey. After that, and the fact that Philomena only won Best Adapted Screenplay, Weinstein’s lavish post-show bash might have been an anti-climax, but Harvey was there, embracing winners such as American Hustle’s Amy Adams and David O Russell. ‘We won the award for best party, I think,’ he says with a hangover wince. ‘It went on until 6am, apparently. I wasn’t there for the last bits.’
Harvey at the Oscars in 1999 with the Shakespeare in Love team
Harvey has three teenage daughters, the eldest 19, from his 17-year first marriage to his former secretary Eve Chilton, whom he divorced in 2004, plus a three-year-old daughter, India Pearl, and a baby son, Dashiell, with Chapman. Depending on how you calculate it, he is on the third, fourth or fifth phase of his career. Harvey was born in 1952 and Bob two years later in Flushing, New York, to diamond cutter and war veteran Max and his wife Miriam. The boys grew up in a loving but otherwise unprivileged atmosphere. Harvey reportedly worked double shifts in a post office to pay for his further education and, on finding that his college couldn’t afford to stage a Crosby, Stills & Nash concert, raised the money himself with Bob and a friend called Corky Burger.
This led to more concert promotion, some concert films and the purchase of an old theatre where the brothers put on a film festival — they famously got hooked on arthouse cinema when they went to see Truffaut’s The 400 Blows aged 12 and 14, believing it was a sex film. In 1979 they founded Miramax, named for their parents, and began repackaging and distributing alternative American and international films by the likes of Soderbergh, Greenaway and Almodóvar. They retained creative control and gained huge commercial clout when Miramax was sold to Disney in 1993 for $60m, and had a string of successes producing for Tarantino, Minghella, Frears et al. But they walked away over creative differences — not least the refusal of Disney’s then CEO Michael Eisner to greenlight a $180m adaptation of The Lord of the Rings — and set up The Weinstein Company in 2005.
With backing of almost $1bn, brokered by Goldman Sachs, they bought into fashion, social networking (who remembers A Small World, a Facebook for high-net-worth individuals?) and cable TV, without much success. So they restructured and refocused on their core business, movies, and became leaner and fitter (metaphorically speaking). Although they launched a lawsuit last year against Warner Bros (over whether they are owed profits on all three or just the first of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit films), they have even reconciled with Disney, regaining access to Miramax’s back catalogue and working on new co-productions, such as a sequel to Shakespeare in Love. Harvey describes the love-in between his mother, now 87, and the sovereign funds that own Disney, who credited her with brokering the deal: ‘Her line is, she’d have done this years ago, but the boys screwed it up with their revenge against Disney, and their bad attitude. There are two sides to that story, Mom, but OK, whatever.’ Now, it seems, the Weinsteins are ready to diversify again.
Promoting Sex, Lies and Videotape with younger brother Bob
The first instance of this, or at least the one Harvey wants to talk about ‘so I can sell some cinema tickets’, is Escape from Planet Earth, his first animated production. Cal Brunker’s film (out here next Friday) is a snappy, Pixar-ish sci-fi adventure about two blue brothers saving their fellow extra-terrestrials from a mad general played by William Shatner. Harvey jokes that he made it because he ‘just needed a rest from actors talking back to me and telling me what to do all the time’, but, in fact, ‘I am the father of four daughters and they drove me to this: they think it’s the coolest thing I’ve ever done.’ He’s loaded it with jokes for dads, too: references to his own films, characters called George and Lucas, and a sustained mickey-take of Simon Cowell written by Stephen Fry and delivered by Ricky Gervais as the spaceship’s computer.
And he’ll be back in London very soon. The Weinstein Company is expanding into stage musicals based on its cinematic properties: the second incarnation of Finding Neverland, with new music by Gary Barlow and a new script by James Graham, is due to open in Boston and London later this year. Adaptations of Chocolat and Cinema Paradiso are to follow. He loves seeing these favoured stories live anew (especially Neverland, ‘because it’s about family’) and also relinquishing the control he enjoys on movies. ‘It’s a great, fun, collegial process,’ he says. ‘Other people do the work and I ride along, but I am never the front person.’ There is also the thrill of watching a show change, night after night, in front of an audience, whereas: ‘I can’t watch my movies more than once or twice once they’re finished, because I always think I could have done better.’
Perhaps the biggest shift, though, is their massive expansion into TV production. ‘In five weeks we start Marco Polo in Malaysia and Pinewood,’ he says. ‘It’s $8m an hour, a ten-hour series for Netflix. We have a budget for armies.’ He’s just come from a meeting about a BBC co-production of War and Peace, written by the original House of Cards writer Andrew Davies. He’s bought Peaky Blinders to sell to America, having produced its creator Steven Knight’s first film Dirty Pretty Things. Knight is now also writing the Entourage-style comedy series Chef, starring Bradley Cooper, for the Weinsteins. For Harvey, TV is about these creative synergies, about financial stability (compared to the peak-trough economics of film) and about space to tell a story. The reason he is famous for cutting films is that many are too cluttered with storylines for their running time: ‘So TV gives me an opportunity to paint on a bigger canvas.’
These days, it seems, television dominates his domestic set-up. The remote control, chez Weinstein, is controlled by Georgina and three-year-old India. ‘After the Oscars, six of Georgina’s girlfriends are coming up to our house in Connecticut to watch House of Cards, the second series, in two nights,’ he grouches. ‘What the hell is that about? I can’t get them to watch the John Ford movie on the classic movie channel. And I was up until 1am last night watching Dora the Explorer…’
Escape from Planet Earth is out on 7 March