British actor Romola Garai has added to the chorus of sexual harassment allegations against the disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein, saying she felt "violated" after auditioning for him as an 18-year-old.
The star of Atonement and the BBC series The Hour said the Hollywood mogul was wearing only a dressing gown during their meeting at London's Savoy Hotel, which she described as an "abuse of power" that left her feeling humiliated.
Speaking to the Guardian, Garai said the incident early on in her career had stuck in her memory. “Like every other woman in the industry, I’ve had an ‘audition’ with Harvey Weinstein, where I’d actually already had the audition but you had to be personally approved by him,” she said. “So I had to go to his hotel room in the Savoy, and he answered the door in his bathrobe. I was only 18. I felt violated by it, it has stayed very clearly in my memory.”
Garai added that Weinstein's inappropriate behaviour towards her was characteristic of his attitude towards women in the film industry. “The transaction was just that I was there,” she said, adding that the pair then spoke briefly about film afterwards.
“The point was that he could get a young woman to do that, that I didn’t have a choice, that it was humiliating for me and that he had the power. It was an abuse of power,” added Garai, who had been auditioning for 2004's Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, according to the Guardian.
She said she went along with the situation and acted normally, despite knowing it was "weird", "because as far as I was concerned it was a job interview”. “I knew something had happened to me that I didn’t like and that I felt belittled by but I didn’t feel like I had the right to complain.”
She continued: “The people who asked me to go to his hotel room did so with an eye-rolling look of, ‘This is weird but you just have to do it, you’re not in any danger’. It was clear they were uncomfortable asking me to do it, but that it had to be done."
Once Garai landed the role, she says she was pressured to lose weight, regularly told she was fat, had food taken from her trailer and was observed to make sure she didn't eat anything – instructions that she believes came from Weinstein, so that she “fit his expectations of what a movie star should look like”.
“Harvey’s behaviour was accepted but it was accepted because the industry knows that what people want to see on screen is women who are thin and beautiful with big tits and don’t say very much,” she added.
Garai said she "couldn't be less surprised" by the scandal surrounding Weinstein that blew up following an exposé in the New York Times last week. “You can’t find an actress that doesn’t have that kind of story about Harvey,” she continued, adding that his behaviour was considered the norm in a “very very very misogynistic” film industry.
She has never thought about mentioning the encounter publicly until now because she thought people would have been more shocked that she "even thought it was an issue", agreeing with the claim that Weinstein's alleged inappropriate behaviour towards women was an "open secret" in the industry.
“There are so many stories about him sending weird texts and harassing actresses, telling them he’ll give them a part if they come to dinner with him – that’s really really common. And it’s well known that he’s had relationships with a lot of people that he’s worked with, or have worked for him," she added. "Given how powerful he is, and given that they are always with women who are a lot younger than him, I think there is clearly an imbalance of power in those relationships.”