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She Said : Interview with the New York Times Journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Towey on Their Harvey Weinstein Investigation

Synopsis : Two-time Academy Award® nominee Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman, An Education) and Zoe Kazan (The Plot Against America limited series, The Big Sick) star as New York Times reporters Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor, who together broke one of the most important stories in a generation–a story that helped propel the #Metoo movement, shattered decades of silence around the subject of sexual assault in Hollywood and altered American culture forever.
Rating: R (Language|Descriptions of Sexual Assault)
Genre: Drama
Original Language: English
Director: Maria Schrader
Producer:Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner
Writer: Rebecca Lenkiewicz
Release Date (Theaters)  Wide
Distributor : Universal Pictures
Interview with the New York Times Journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Towey

Q: You’re a part of a phenomenon that not many people get to experience. When you’re watching a reflection of yourself on screen, what does that feel like? 

JK: Well, we’re flabbergasted. We started out by investigating a movie producer, so we’re still a little confused about how this is about ourselves, and ended up on the big screen. But it’s our job to build people’s confidence in telling the truth.

I don’t know, you guys have seen the film so you be the judge. But my sense is they made a film that will help us build people’s confidence because it represents the integrity of journalism so beautifully, but also the integrity of the sources. Look at these sincere women who made the very difficult decision to speak up for the right reasons. Then look at the impact they produced all over the world. 

So we’re really moved and honored by this project, and grateful that it will help the story be remembered. 

Q: Could you please tell how challenging it was for you to give your own story away to a script writer? 

MT: Yeah, this certainly was an exercise in letting go. Jodi and I had gone to great lengths to document our reporting process in our book, She Said. So we felt like when it came time, after we had done this deal with the filmmakers, that we were turning over a very accurate blueprint of the story as it unfolded. 

We could tell, as they were making this film, in our dealings with the producers and the director and with Carey [Mulligan] and Zoe [Kazan], that they had a real commitment to tell this story with accuracy and with integrity. At the same time, we were grateful that they consulted us. We were grateful for the time that Carey and Zoe spent with us as they were preparing to play us in real life.  

There still was a moment — you saw this — where we were holding our breaths, not quite sure what to expect. But in the end, we were really impressed with what we saw, and it was clear that the care that we felt in the process was also expressed in the actual movie itself. 

Q: What did you take away from each woman that portrayed you? 

JK: I’ll say something about Zoe and you say something about Carey. 

In terms of Zoe’s performance, what I so appreciate is the sensitivity of per performance. She’s doing a lot of listening to traumatic stories, and part of what I think she does so well is that she’s really giving the scene to the woman she is talking to. She’s not dominating, she’s not speaking over them, she’s listening. And yet, because Zoe is such a deep, delicate performer, even as she’s listening, and even as she’s got this professional exterior that all journalists need to have, you can see the emotions that she is experiencing underneath. You know, the shock, the distress, the feeling of, God, we have got to get this story into print. We can’t let this behavior go unaddressed.

It comes to the surface in particular with that scene with Zelda Perkins in the London restaurant, because they kind of compressed my conversations with Zelda into this one extremely dramatic Samantha Morton scene. It’s practically a monologue where she’s detailing the terrible journey she’s been on over all of these years. Zoe looks at her and says “We will not let you down. We are going to find a way to publish this story.” 

So I’m so grateful to Zoe, sometimes in subtle ways, for communicating the level of responsibility that I felt in that moment. 

MT: I’m happy to answer what it was like to listen. Jodi and I are used to being the ones doing the interviewing and the observing, and the extracting of details that we think are going to help in the stories and articles that we write. 

So to have spent time with Carey as she was preparing for this role, and to have those roles reversed — to be the one on the other end with her asking questions and observing me, and studying me, as she prepared for this role — I will acknowledge was a little unsettling. It’s not the position I feel most comfortable in. But at the end of the day, when I saw this film, it was so wonderful to see all of that research expressed. 

This film doesn’t just depict us in our professional lives, it also depicts us in our personal lives. For me, that also meant showing people one of the most difficult periods in my life when I had postpartum depression, right after my daughter was born. Carey took a lot of time in talking to me about that. She herself had experienced postpartum depression. So while we felt really vulnerable in having those parts of our private lives depicted, I also think that a lot of women are going to see themselves in these roles. A lot of working women, mothers, are going to relate to the true-to-life depictions that they’re going to see in this film. 

Q: When you see your characters in the film, sometimes there was a good-cop/bad-cop vibe. Megan is more direct and Jodi’s more reserved in the film. What was the dynamic in real life when you were working together as a team? 

JK: That’s such a good question. It’s such a funny thing to see yourself being turned into a character on screen. There’s some dramatic license there, but also some truth. It’s also true that Megan is also an incredibly sensitive person. It’s also true that I’ve done a lot of tough stories that have involved going up against people who were much more powerful than I was. 

But what I think is true about the depiction is that Megan was having a little bit more confrontation with the men — including men like Lanny Davis. You can see Megan squaring off in conference rooms with this very experienced PR man who was representing Weinstein. 

It’s true that I was doing a lot of really careful listening with women who had really terrible stories, and in some ways it represents two poles of skills that all journalists need. You need the ability to be really tough and confrontational when the moment calls for it, and then you need the tools to be a really great listener and to establish trust with people who have been through really bad things. 

So I think the onscreen characters worked beautifully, but I think the truth is that, as you guys know, these are traits that all journalists need. 

Q: Since your story broke, there has been the explosion of the #MeToo movement and backlashes, and this ongoing conversation about sexual violence. Do you think this conversation has affected or deepened this movie and how this story is told today? 

MT: I think that five years after #MeToo went viral, it can sometimes be hard with all the twists and turns and complications that have arisen. It can sometimes be hard to remember what it was like in those first moments when this story did take hold. We all saw the dam break and felt this cosmic shift, as women all around the world began to speak out about their experiences of harassment and abuse — not just in Hollywood, but in all different professions and all different walks of life. 

It was clear that, when Jodi and I were doing our investigation, time and again we were told that nobody was going to care, that even if we were able to publish the truth, that it wouldn’t make a difference. Sexual harassment and abuse were just the way of the world and there was nothing that you can do about it. 

And boy, were they wrong. I mean, one of the things that has become clear in the last five years — and we could feel it right away, from almost the moment we published this story — is that people do care. We also had no idea how pervasive these issues had been for so many women in so many different places. 

So has society figured out how to stop these issues? Has it solved the problem of these issues five years later? No. It’s clear that there’s a lot more work to do. But we as journalists, we’re not activists, we’re not advocates, it’s not our job to solve problems. As journalists, our job is to bring those problems to light, to present the truth, to present the facts. So we as reporters are just going to continue doing our jobs, and that’s what we’ve done every step of the way over these last five years. 

Q: Both of you did quite a lot of investigative journalism long before Harvey Weinstein. What was the difference in investigating something so explosive that also deals with very famous, glamorous women who are extra careful, maybe extra afraid, of exposing themselves to the world on such a matter? 

JK: It was really a challenge. In the weeks before Megan came back to work and I was alone on the Weinstein investigation, I had set myself this task that was both tantalizing and impossible because I decided that I was going to reach these actresses, but I did not want to speak to their agents or representatives. 

It’s sort of funny that we’re gratefully working with the PR people from Universal on this film. But in the course of the investigation, those were exactly the kinds of figures that I was trying to bypass because I felt it was so important to reach the actresses directly. 

I was working to get their personal phone numbers or email addresses — in some cases, even sending notes to their relatives asking them to pass a private note, trying to find somebody who knew somebody who knew somebody who knew somebody. I really wasn’t an entertainment reporter. I don’t think I even knew a single actor in my personal life. So I had to be very creative. 

And then the further challenge was — even in the cases where I was able to catch phone numbers and surprise somebody on the phone — these are such personal questions that you’re asking. I almost felt like an actor myself, because I thought, I have to have the perfect lines that I can try to use to establish trust within the first, like, 45 seconds of a phone call.  

It did work. In the early weeks, I reached Rose McGowan, I reached Ashley Judd, I reached Gwyneth Paltrow. But there were also a lot of women who were freezing on the phone, or hanging up. That was part of the original bond between Megan and I, was that in the first phone call between us — which is depicted in the movie — I said to her, “I’m starting to hear these stories, but frankly, I need the pitch to be perfect because this is so, so hard. What did you say to victims in the past?” 

And that’s when Megan said, she had said to people “I can’t change what’s happened to you in the past. But if we work together, we may be able to take this experience and put it to some productive use.” So I don’t know if it resonates with all of you as journalists, but for me, something really clicked. In my own experience as a journalist, that is the best reason for a source to talk to you, because they are genuinely hoping to kindof donate their experience back to society and create some sort of constructive discussion. 

Q: How do you want this film to inspire not just women but men around the globe? 

MT: I think, at least in our experience in reporting this story in real life, and then as we report in our book, and now as we see this, miraculously, on the big screen, this is hopefully going to be inspiring not just for women but for men. This is a story about the power of the truth. You can encounter — especially in a time when there’s these allegations of “fake news” and sometimes the very notion of “fact” feels like it’s crumbling through our fingers. 

Here is an example of how brave individuals, when they take the step of choosing to speak out and speak the truth, it shows what incredible impact they can have. That’s not just in relation to sexual abuse, I think that that’s about injustice and wrongdoing of all kinds. We see that time and again as journalists. Jodi and I have continued to cover a variety of stories and have encountered a variety of sources, male and female, and it’s incredible to watch what a big difference they can make when they have the courage to speak out. 

Q: What were some of the toughest times during the investigation, and how did you get through it? 

JK: I can give you two examples. There was a devastating moment when our editor, Rebecca Corbett, took us out to a bar — this was pretty far into the investigation — and then she said to us, “Okay, so what do you have? What are the Weinstein incidents that you really think are solid?” She knew the answer already, but she was forcing us to say it out loud to make a point. Which is, we went through Laura Madden in 1992, Gwyneth Paltrow in 1995, et cetera, et cetera. 

We told her everything we had. Then she said, “How many of these are on the record?” and we were forced to say “None”. And she said, “You do not have a publishable story.” And that was devastating to us because we knew so much at that point, and there was a fair amount of evidence for those women’s stories. But she was right: we were not ready to put it into the newspaper.

That filled us with much more fear than Harvey Weinstein ever did. It’s our joy to confront somebody like Weinstein, but the notion that we could learn these stories and that these women could trust us, and then be unable to publish and fail, and then Weinstein would win and that nobody would know the truth, and we’d go to our graves knowing that we had failed — that was really unbearable. And really motivating. 

Another scary moment: one of our fears was that some harm would come to the women because of our reporting. That was their greatest fear and it became our greatest fear as well. There’s a moment that’s referenced in the film. Zelda Perkins had a settlement, an NDA [Non-Disclosure Agreement] with Weinstein, and she agreed to speak with us anyway which was incredibly brave. But I was worried about it because at the time, it was unheard of for one of these women to break these settlements. 

So I called an attorney in the UK who specialized in this kind of thing. Without telling him the exact details of Zelda’s situation, I said “How dangerous is it for her that she’s talking to me? And how dangerous would it be for me to put her in the paper if she’s willing to go on the record?” This lawyer gave it to me. He said, “You are putting her in peril. She could face legal consequences. This is absolutely not done.”

I was really upset after that phone call because it made me wonder if I was doing something irresponsible as a journalist by pursuing this story. 

Q: What do you think that you two are getting some threat, or do you feel sometimes when you do investigations, do you sometimes feel unsafe or threatened? 

MT: Well, there was no question that Weinstein employed threats as he tried to stop this story. He hired powerful lawyers who threatened to sue the New York Times and sue us, if we published this story. We recognized later that he had hired private investigators to try to dupe us and track us and our sources, to try to stop this story. At the very end as we were preparing to publish, Weinstein actually barged into the New York Times uninvited, flanked by some of these powerful attorneys. 

So the more we reported, the more we observed that this was somebody — and we heard this in our interviews, people who had worked with him, people who had been in his movies — that he was a man who used a variety of underhanded tactics to get what he wanted. And the more we reported, the more we started to glimpse those firsthand. 

But the truth is, none of those succeeded. We didn’t feel threatened. We weren’t concerned about our safety. In fact, the more we saw those tactics, the more we saw those underhanded strategies that he was using, the more motivated we were to get to the finish line and to be able to publish this story, and seek to hold him accountable. 

Listen, are there reporters at the New York Times and around the world who are under serious threat in the course of reporting? Absolutely. And we are so inspired by our colleagues in war zones who are genuinely fearing for their lives as they do this work. We did not feel that way in the course of doing this reporting. In fact, as I said, we actually felt galvanized. We felt that much more inspiration to move forward and to hold this person accountable. 

Q: Thank you. 

She Said – Only In Theaters November 18.

Check out more of Nobuhiro’s articles.

Here’s the trailer of the film.

Nobuhiro Hosoki
Nobuhiro Hosokihttps://www.cinemadailyus.com
Nobuhiro Hosoki grew up watching American films since he was a kid; he decided to go to the United States thanks to seeing the artistry of Stanley Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange.” After graduating from film school, he worked as an assistant director on TV Tokyo’s program called "Morning Satellite" at the New York branch office but he didn’t give up on his interest in cinema. He became a film reporter for via Yahoo Japan News. In that role, he writes news articles, picks out headliners for Yahoo News, as well as interviewing Hollywood film directors, actors, and producers working in the domestic circuit in the USA. He also does production interviews for Japanese distributors of American films and for in-theater on-sale programs. He is now the editor-in-chief of Cinemadailyus.com while continuing his work for Japan.


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