Legendary movie mogul Harvey Weinstein sat down for a lively, career-spanning discussion at the Toronto Film Festival hosted by Credit Suisse and The Daily Beast. From the tumultuous history of ‘Gangs of New York’ to Meryl Streep’s unique preparation methods for ‘August: Osage County,’ here are the best bits.
A modish mélange of A-list stars, film executives, and journalists gathered at the Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto on Tuesday night to honor the man, the myth, the legend: Harvey Weinstein. Nicknamed “The Punisher” by none other than Meryl Streep, the bullish movie mogul’s name has become synonymous with Oscar—he has racked up 321 nominations and 78 wins, including two out of the last three Academy Award winners for Best Picture.
Weinstein, former head of Miramax and now The Weinstein Co., carried a whopping seven films into this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, including Stephen Frears’s Philomena, the Nelson Mandela biopic Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, the ensemble dramedy August: Osage County, starring Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, and more. And Weinstein is no stranger to TIFF, having used it as an awards launching pad for several of his Oscar-winning hits, including The King’s Speech.
On making August: Osage County:
The process of August: Osage County is an interesting one. About five or six years ago, a young guy who works for me named Ben Famiglietti walked into my office and said, “I just read an amazing play.” I said, “Let me read it.” And he dropped off a 190-page script, and I said, “This is crazy.” And then I started reading it and it was the most incredible dialogue I’d read in a long time, up there with Tennessee Williams. These people were desperate for money, and I think it was $500,000 or something… I wrote the check [for the rights]. The play went on to win the Pulitzer Prize and was a financial success at the box office, and they kept their word and Jean [Doumanian] sold us the rights to make it a movie. George Clooney was our biggest competitor, so I thought it was only fair that George produce the movie with Jean.
On working with Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts on August: Osage County:
Off-set, the cast loved each other. Meryl’s process is one of the most interesting ones. In order to do this role correctly, she was at Costco at two o’clock in the morning shopping like a homeless person. She becomes the role. She lives it. She is it. This is my sixth movie with her, and we’re about to do a seventh, and an eighth. And [Julia Roberts] loved it. It’s her favorite role, and she’s spectacularly good in the film. I’ve known her 20 years, and she was actually giddy last night. She and Taylor Swift went into the SoHo House and they went to the photo booth and they were just hugging all night with each other, with their tongues sticking out. Taylor Swift, I think, was shocked that Julia Roberts knew who she was, and Julia Roberts had the same reaction.