“I’m pretty sure I was Harvey [Weinstein]’s pick for this movie. And when you’re Harvey’s pick that’s it, whether they liked it or not!”
Reading those words in 2019 feels like a gut punch. But when Freddie Prinze Jr. was interviewed by The Daily Beast — along with his She’s All That costars and director Robert Iscove — for an oral history pegged to the film’s 15th anniversary in 2014, praising Harvey Weinstein’s involvement in a movie he distributed was practically the law. Just ask Meryl Streep.
It’s been more than a year since the New York Times and New Yorker published groundbreaking reports detailing multiple sexual harassment and assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein (he denies all allegations of non-consensual sexual encounters). Since then, the #MeToo movement has propelled women’s stories to the fore, forcing a collective reckoning around systemic gender imbalances across industries and society more broadly. It’s work that continues to this day, as new allegations against musician R. Kelly and Hollywood director Bryan Singer have made headlines, prompting a renewed conversation.
Any mention of Weinstein in 2019 carries the implicit understanding that he is a Bad Man — so much so that it’s easy to forget the extent of the power he once wielded over Hollywood. This is a man who shaped awards season as we know it. He was directly and prominently involved in the development of so many films we continue to love, watch, and praise to this day. He was, as Streep famously called him in her 2013 Oscars acceptance speech for The Iron Lady, “god.”
When She’s All That, a now-classic coming of age tale, was released on January 29, 1999, Weinstein was still running Miramax, the company he and his brother Bob co-founded in 1979. It was, for all intents and purposes, his project, and an unexpected one for a company that seemed more in line with edgy indies like Pulp Fiction, or Oscar-winning Shakespeare in Love (which Miramax also distributed and marketed) than a high school version of Pygmalion. But what’s clear now is that the brow level of the project was irrelevant — Weinstein’s approach was always the same. He was a micromanager, exerting total control over everything and everyone in his orbit regardless of potential prestige. And because of his reputation as a hitmaker, to disobey a request was to lose everything.
Perhaps that explains why Weinstein’s name appears 18 times in The Daily Beast article. There is an entire section devoted to his impact on the film, entitled “Harvey Weinstein’s Stamp.” For comparison, lead actress Rachael Leigh Cook only speaks 14 times. (Weinstein wasn’t interviewed for the piece.)
"Hearing Harvey Weinstein go, ‘I don’t care if your father died today! You’re going to the premiere of the movie!’ which was what they were feeding me, was hardcore.” - Freddie Prinze Jr.
The more innocuous anecdotes make abundantly clear his level of active participation in all of the movies he distributed. For one thing, he handed down films he had the rights to his films like Zeus on Mount Olympus.
“Harvey Weinstein gave the film to me,” Iscove said of his job as director. “I was one of the many people that was involved with Chicago after I did Cinderella, and there were many problems and Chicago was being put on hold, so he said, ‘In the meantime, I have this great project that I want you to direct.’” Chicago was eventually directed by Rob Marshall in 2002, and went on to win six Oscars. It was distributed by Miramax.
And then there was casting. As Freddie Prinze Jr. pointed out, Weinstein had near-ultimate power in casting decisions for the films he produced — something he allegedly used as a threat over women who refused his sexual advances. She’s All That famously features some of the most insane celebrity cameos. Usher and Lil’ Kim both make appearances. Both were Weinstein’s idea.
The now-famous bizarro dance scene set to “Rockafeller Skank” at the prom that totally makes the movie? Weinstein wanted it cut, and replaced with, of all things, a sword fight between Zach Siler (Prinze Jr.) and Dean Sampson (Paul Walker). When Iscove refused, the producer demanded that he use Usher in more scenes as the school’s resident DJ.
All of these small, seemingly harmless details build up to more disturbing realisations. Consider the fact that Dean’s sexual harassment and near-assault of Laney Boggs (Rachael Leigh Cook) not only goes unpunished, but is played for laughs at the end of the film.
The producer’s domineering attitude, and sometimes vicious temper, referenced by so many women over the last year, is clearly apparent in those Daily Beast interviews. Here’s how Prinze Jr. describes Weinstein’s reaction to hearing he might not be able to attend the film’s premiere in light of the anniversary of his father, actor Freddie Prinze’s 1977 suicide:
“They released the film on the day my father took his life, and that day, January 28, was a hardcore thing for me to process and deal with at that time in my life. I remember speaking to Kevin Pollak at the time and said, ‘I don’t think I can go to this premiere, man. I’m freaking out.’ And his wife at the time, Lucy, calmed me down to the point where I could get in the car and go there. I had crazy visions like something bad was going to happen. But I got there and everyone seemed to enjoy it. I’ve only seen the film once and it was in that weird frame of mind, so I’ve never really gotten the opportunity to properly appreciate it. Hearing Harvey Weinstein go, ‘I don’t care if your father died today! You’re going to the premiere of the movie!’ which was what they were feeding me, was hardcore.”
Five years after that interview, She’s All That is now celebrating its 20th anniversary. Weinstein, on the other hand, has been accused of impropriety by over 60 women, and is facing multiple legal battles and investigations in New York, Los Angeles and the United Kingdom. The Weinstein Company, which he co-founded with brother Bob Weinstein in 2005 after leaving Miramax, has shut down, its assets sold to Lantern Entertainment. A documentary about his alleged rampant pattern of abuse premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last week.
So, where does that leave Zack Siler and Laney Boggs? In 2019, Weinstein’s fingerprints are difficult to overlook, and even if you could, She’s All That has its failings: It’s full of the male gaze in what should be a woman-centric story, and features casual fat-shaming and a cavalier attitude to sexual assault make it feel dated. Still, its cultural impact, and enduring appeal thanks to fresh, interesting performances by its stars, is undeniable. It’s an iconic teen film for a reason.
Such was Weinstein’s impact on Hollywood that to eschew his products would mean erasing a large chunk of Oscar-winners, box office phenomena, and cult classics of the last 20 years. It’s not an easy choice to make. But what is clear is that alleged crimes cast a terrible shadow over all the films — many of them fantastic, enduring works of art — that he helped nurture and develop. Revisiting any of them requires a certain amount of mental gymnastics as we grapple with his impact, both on films and the people making them. I hope your mind is limber.