This past April, Ashley Judd filed a defamation lawsuit against Harvey Weinstein, claiming that the producer sabotaged her career after she rejected his sexual advances. (The lawsuit was filed after Peter Jackson gave an interview in late 2017 claiming that he had been interested in casting Judd and fellow Weinstein accuser Mira Sorvino in The Lord of the Rings, until Weinsteins company claimed the actresses were nightmares to work with.)
In new paperwork filed by Weinsteins lawyers, the defense team claims that its client absolutely was not trying to sabotage career—in fact, he was trying to do the opposite: win her an Academy Award. So that he could sleep with her.
Weinsteins defense cites a bargain that Ashley Judd herself has described—one she made when allegedly cornered in Weinsteins hotel room 20 years ago, after being summoned there for what she was told would be a breakfast meeting. Judd has said that—after Weinstein greeted her at the door in a bathrobe, asked her for a massage, and requested that she watch him shower—she suggested a “mock” bargain as a hasty exit strategy: Judd “would consider letting him touch her only if she won an Academy Award in one of his films.”
According to the new paperwork filed by the producers lawyers, “Weinstein then attempted to live up to his part of the bargain by trying to cast Plaintiff in as many roles as possible that could earn her an Academy Award.”
Weinsteins legal team maintains that Weinstein cast Judd in two films around and following The Lord of the Rings—Frida and Crossing Over. In the motion to dismiss, Weinsteins lawyers also allege that Judds sexual-harassment claim “fails to plead that she and Weinstein had the kind of professional relationship grounded in trust covered by the Act, or that the purported harassment she experienced from Weinstein was severe or pervasive—especially since [she] alleged it was a one-time event and she and Weinstein struck, in [her] words, a bargain with respect to future sexual activity.”
On Thursday, Judds attorney Theodore J. Boutrous called the filing “offensive.” In a statement, he added, “We look forward to opposing his flawed motion, moving forward with discovery into his outrageous behavior, and proving to a jury that Mr. Weinstein maliciously damaged Ms. Judds career because she resisted his sexual advances.”
In a statement to People, Weinsteins attorneys, Blair Berk and Benjamin Brafman, vasaid, “Mr. Weinstein has never at any time committed an act of sexual assault, and it is wrong and irresponsible to conflate claims of impolitic behavior or consensual sexual contact later regretted, with an untrue claim of criminal conduct. There is a wide canyon between mere allegation and truth, and we are confident that any sober calculation of the facts will prove no legal wrongdoing occurred.
“Nonetheless, to those offended by Mr. Weinsteins behavior, he remains deeply apologetic.”
Over 60 women have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct. Last week, Weinstein pleaded not guilty to three new charges—including predatory sexual assault and a criminal sexual act. The predatory sexual assault charges carry a minimum sentence of 10 years, and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Weinstein has denied all allegations of nonconsensual sex.
Get Vanity Fairs HWD NewsletterSign up for essential industry and award news from Hollywood.Julie MillerJulie Miller is a Senior Hollywood writer for Vanity Fairs website.