Wed, 27 Feb, 2019
Emma Thompson’s powerful open letter: “Why I quit”
Two-time Oscar award winner Emma Thompson has acknowledged and explained why she refused to work with Pixar co-founder and former Walt Disney animation chief, John Lasseter, in an open letter to Skydance Media.
Lasseter has previously been accused of sexual misconduct with female employees.
Thompson quit the animated film project Luck last month after Skydance chief executive, David Ellison, hired Lasseter who was forced out of Disney just last year after owning up to “missteps” in his behaviour towards employees.
In Thompson’s letter to Ellison, she wrote that she felt it was “very odd to me that you and your company would consider hiring someone with Mr Lasseter’s pattern of misconduct given the present climate”.
“If a man has been touching women inappropriately for decades, why would a woman want to work for him if the only reason he’s not touching them inappropriately now is that it says in his contract that he must behave ‘professionally’?” she continued.
“If a man has made women at his companies feel undervalued and disrespected for decades, why should the women at his new company think that any respect he shows them is anything other than an act that he’s required to perform by his coach, his therapist and his employment agreement?”
Thompson also acknowledged the company would be paying Lasseter generously in the role he was given, “How much money are the employees at Skydance being paid to GIVE him that second chance?”
She continued her letter saying even though she “regrets” having to quit the film since she desperately wanted to work with director Alessandro Carloni, she can “only do what feels right during these difficult times of transition and collective consciousness raising. I am well aware that centuries of entitlement to women’s bodies, whether they like it or not, is not going to change overnight. Or in a year. But I am also aware that if people who have spoken out – like me – do not take this sort of a stand then things are very unlikely to change at anything like the pace required to protect my daughter’s generation.”
Thompson’s letter was first published by The Los Angeles Times and was confirmed for authenticity by Thompson’s representative.
Lasseter’s hiring stimulated backlash, voicing that he didn’t deserve a second chance so quickly. Time’s Up, a non-profit organisation formed to rise against sexual harassment and gender inequality, said his hiring “endorses and perpetuates a broken system that allows powerful men to act without consequence”.
Shortly after allegations against Harvey Weinstein emerged in 2017, Lasseter announced he was taking a six-month “sabbatical” from Disney and apologised “to anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of an unwanted hug” or any gesture that made them feel “disrespected or uncomfortable”.
Disney revealed it was permanently cutting ties with Lasseter last June.
When hired by Ellison, Lasseter said he had spent the last year in “deep reflection, learning how my actions unintentionally made colleagues uncomfortable, which I deeply regret and apologise for”
Ellison said Lasseter had been “forthright in taking ownership of his behaviour” and that he didn’t take the decision of hiring him lightly.
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