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Harvey Weinstein, CBE (born March 19, 1952) is an Americanmarker film producer and movie studio chairman. He is best known as co-founder of Miramax Films. He and his brother Bob have been co-chairmen of The Weinstein Company, their film production company, since 2005.

Education and early career

Born in Flushing, New York, Weinstein and his younger brother, Bob, grew up in a Jewish family in New York Citymarker, residing in a housing co-op named Electchester. He graduated from John Bowne High School, and then the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Weinstein, along with his brother Bob Weinstein, and Corky Burger independently produced rock concerts as Harvey & Corky Productions in Buffalo through most of the 1970s. Both Weinstein brothers had grown up with a passion for movies and they nurtured a desire to enter the film industry. In the late 1970s, using profits from their concert promotion business, the brothers created a small independent film distribution company called Miramax, named after their parents - Miriam and Max. The company's first releases were primarily music-oriented concert films such as Paul McCartney's Rockshow. In the early 1980s Miramax acquired the rights to two British films of benefit shows filmed for human rights organization Amnesty International. Working closely with Martin Lewis, the producer of the original films, the Weinstein brothers edited the two films into one movie tailored for the American market. The resulting film was released as The Secret Policeman's Other Ball in May 1982 and it became Miramax's first hit. The movie raised considerable sums for Amnesty International and was credited by Amnesty with having helped to raise its profile in the US.

Further development of Miramax

The Weinsteins slowly built upon this success throughout the 1980s with arthouse films that achieved critical attention and modest commercial success. Harvey Weinstein and Miramax gained wider attention in 1988 with the release of Errol Morris's documentary The Thin Blue Line which detailed the struggle of Randall Adams, a wrongfully convicted inmate sentenced to death row. The publicity that soon surrounded the case resulted in the release of Adams and nationwide publicity for Miramax. In 1989, their successful launch release of Steven Soderbergh's Sex, Lies, and Videotape propelled Miramax to become the most successful independent studio in America.

Also in 1989, Miramax released two art-house films, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover and director Pedro Almodóvar's film Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, both of which the MPAA rating board gave an X-rating, effectively stopping nationwide release for these films. Weinstein sued the MPAA over their rating system, although his lawsuit was later thrown out; the MPAA, however, agreed to introduce the new NC-17 rating following this episode.

Miramax continued to grow its library of films and directors until, in 1993, after the success of The Crying Game, Disney offered Harvey and Bob $80 million for ownership of Miramax. Agreeing to the deal that would cement their Hollywoodmarker clout and ensure that they would remain at the head of their company, Miramax followed the next year with their first blockbuster, Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction and distributed the popular independent film Clerks.

Miramax won its first Best Picture Academy Award in 1996 with the victory of The English Patient. This started a string of critical successes that included Shakespeare in Love and Good Will Hunting.

The Weinstein Company

On March 29, 2005, it was announced that the Weinstein brothers would leave Miramax on September 30 to form their own production company, named The Weinstein Company with several other media executives as well as, reportedly, directors Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez.

The new studio immediately garnered Academy Award nominations for Transamerica and Mrs. Henderson Presents, and box office success through Hoodwinked and Scary Movie 4.

Criticism of Weinstein

While lauded for opening up the independent film market and making it financially viable, Weinstein has been criticized by some for the techniques he has allegedly applied in his business dealings. Peter Biskind's book, Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance and the Rise of Independent Film, details criticism of Miramax's release history of their Asian films. Miramax purchased some Asian films, including Shaolin Soccer and Hero, that had been successful worldwide, but did not provide them with immediate US release, and edited their content, which upset some people. Shaolin Soccer specifically was significantly cut by 26 minutes, which angered fans of the film, and Miramax took legal action against companies importing the licensed Hong Kong DVD release, effectively banning the film from US viewers until their cut version was released almost 3 years after its release in Hong Kong. On hearing that Miramax co-chairman Harvey Weinstein would try to cut animator Hayao Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke to possibly make it more marketable in his opinion, one of Studio Ghibli's producers sent an authentic katana with a simple message: "No cuts".

Another example cited by Biskind was The Quiet American, directed by Phillip Noyce. The film tested relatively well on September 10, 2001. After the September 11, 2001 attacks, in a period where all US studios were examining their upcoming releases to ensure that they took account of the change in public climate, Weinstein allegedly held the film until testing it again on October. This time, the scores were much lower, possibly due to the critical tone of the film towards America's past foreign policy. Noyce delivered the finished film in May 2002, but was allegedly unable to get a response from Weinstein. He elected to not screen the film at the Toronto International Film Festivalmarker until he was lobbied by star Michael Caine, who threatened to boycott publicity for another film he had made for Miramax. The movie was released in November but failed to find an audience. It was alleged that Miramax did not make a major effort to promote the film for Academy Award consideration, though Caine was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor.

In a 2004 piece in New York magazine, Weinstein appeared somewhat repentant for his often aggressive discussions with directors and producers. However, an October 13, 2008 Newsweek story criticized Weinstein, who was accused of "hassling Sydney Pollack on his deathbed" about the release of the film The Reader. After Weinstein offered $1 million to charity if the accusation could be proven, journalist Nikki Finke published an August 22 email by Scott Rudin asserting that Weinstein "harassed" Anthony Minghella's widow and a bedridden Pollack until Pollack's family asked him to stop.

In September 2009, Weinstein publicly voiced opposition to efforts to extradite Roman Polanski from Switzerlandmarker to the U.S. regarding 1977 charges of unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old, to which Polanski had pled guilty before fleeing the country. Weinstein, whose company had distributed a film about the Polanski case, questioned whether Polanski committed any crime, prompting Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley to insist that Polanski's guilty plea indeed qualified his action as a crime, and that several other more serious charges were still pending.

Activism

Weinstein is a supporter of the American Democratic Party. He received press coverage for his support of Hillary Clinton's 2008 Presidential campaign.

Legal problems

In February 2009, former Sam & Dave singer Sam Moore filed suit against Harvey and Bob Weinstein over the alleged use of Sam & Dave's career as a model for Soul Men, a Weinstein Co. comedy starring Bernie Mac and Samuel L. Jackson.

Depictions in media

A character portrayed by Maury Chaykin on the HBO TV series Entourage is based on Weinstein. The character is portrayed as an intimidating and aggressive producer. Weinstein himself has reportedly responded positively to the character.

Selected filmography

Producer



Director



Executive producer





References

External links




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