News, Culture & Society

Piers Morgan’s phone call with Harvey Weinstein

We first met at the 2008 Bafta awards. A burly, bustling, bearded man brushed aggressively past me and then stopped in his tracks. 

‘Piers Morgan?’ 

‘Harvey Weinstein?’ 

‘I found your book [The Insider] on Matthew Vaughn and Claudia Schiffer’s yacht and loved it,’ he barked. ‘All those conversations with Diana and Blair, it was amazing. I couldn’t put it down.’ 

Then he rushed away before I could sell him the movie rights. 

My personal experience of Harvey Weinstein was almost entirely positive, though I saw at first hand the extraordinary power he wielded over his actors

A month later, I was reporting from the Oscars red carpet and asked everyone to perform their ‘good loser face’ – the fake one stars feign when they hear they didn’t win. 

Harvey flashed a grotesquely insincere smirk: ‘I’m SO happy just to be nominated, I don’t CARE if I win or lose…’ 

‘All bulls***, right? I interrupted. ‘One hundred per cent, Piers, and nobody knows bulls*** better than you!’ 

Winning is all that’s ever mattered to Harvey Weinstein, a ruthless, cunning, streetfighting hustler when it came to making his movies box-office hits and winning awards. But in my many dealings with him he was also hugely charismatic, entertaining and helpful (if it suited him), and it would be disingenuous of me now to say otherwise. 

When I joined CNN in 2010 we developed a mutually beneficial relationship: Harvey had films to sell and I had a nightly interview show to fill. ‘I’m like Domino’s,’ he told me. ‘I always deliver.’ 

He did, too. He delivered me Colin Firth with acute laryngitis at the height of The King’s Speech mania. 

‘I’m only here because Harvey ordered me to be here,’ croaked Firth. He delivered Jennifer Lawrence after she tried to cancel on me at the last minute. ‘Jennifer, get to Piers Morgan’s studio NOW!’ I heard him bark down the phone. 

And he nearly delivered Julia Roberts. ‘Can you get me Julia?’ I asked him when August: Osage County came out. 

‘Sure,’ Harvey replied, promptly connecting us – doubtless to Julia’s horror – via our personal email addresses, and instructing: ‘Dear Julia, please do Piers’s show.’ (Tragically, her sister died that same day, so it never happened.) 

Harvey even once tried to deliver me an award. After an explosive encounter with Robert Blake, a Sixties actor accused of killing his wife, Harvey declared with typical hyperbole: ‘This is the greatest piece of TV journalism I have ever seen. I will make sure you get an Emmy nomination for this. I’m handling the award campaign!’ 

It failed, but he did deliver me a movie part. When Harvey guest-hosted for me at CNN, he emailed: ‘Thank you for entrusting me with your show. Now it’s my turn to find you a movie.’ 

A few months later, Simon Cowell called: ‘Just met Harvey Weinstein. Are you willing to play yourself in the Paul Potts movie?’ Of course I was, and I did indeed play myself in the Weinstein movie, One Chance, in which James Corden portrayed the first winner of Britain’s Got Talent. 

So my personal experience of Harvey Weinstein was almost entirely positive, though I saw at first hand the extraordinary power he wielded over his actors and the way he viewed everything through the prism of a ‘you help me, I’ll help you’ lens. 

Last time I saw him was ten months ago, for lunch at London’s Rosewood hotel to discuss a US gun violence documentary I’ve been working on. He was his usual bombastic whirlwind of energy and enthusiasm that day. 

Fast forward to a very brief phone conversation we had four days after the scandal broke, and he sounded a very different, downcast and desperate man. Now he’s in an Arizona clinic, fired from his own company, dumped by his wife Georgina, disowned by Hollywood and facing criminal prosecution. 

There’s no defence for the sickening way Harvey Weinstein treated so many women. None. The big question is, why wasn’t it exposed earlier? 

Over the years I heard plenty of stories about Harvey’s legendarily monstrous temper. Only last month, my former US assistant, who now works as an LA hotel concierge, told me he’d just been appallingly rude to her, screaming abuse down the phone. 

‘He has intimidated many members of staff,’ she said. ‘He’s a tool.’ 

But I never heard the horrible sexual abuse stories now pouring out. It seemed to be Harvey and Hollywood’s dark, vile secret. Of all the stars to denounce him, the one that will hurt most is Meryl Streep, who called him ‘God’. 

In February 2014, Harvey threw an Oscars dinner party at the Montage hotel in Beverly Hills. ‘You must come,’ he said, ‘the whole of Hollywood’s going to be there.’ 

I arrived late. ‘Grab a chair anywhere,’ he said. I spied an empty one at a nearby table. ‘Anyone sitting here?’ I asked. A regal head turned towards me, said, ‘Hello Piers’ and bade me sit. 

It was Meryl. All around me were A-list stars – including Bono, Oprah Winfrey, Robert De Niro, Jamie Foxx, Taylor Swift and Harry Styles. At the end of the night, Harvey took the microphone: ‘There are only two things you have to answer to in life – God and Meryl Streep. Thank you and goodnight.’ 

Everyone roared. Meryl held her heart and blew him a kiss. In that moment, Harvey Weinstein was King of Hollywood. Now he’s the cover of Time magazine with the headline ‘Producer. Predator. Pariah.’ 

Meryl – with rank hypocrisy, frankly, given her decades-long support for fugitive child rapist Roman Polanski – has chucked her ‘God’ under a gigantic bus of disgust. So the other God is pretty much all Harvey Weinstein’s got left, and I don’t imagi imagine those conversations will be easy either.