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In a wide-ranging conversation with Refinery29 to promote her YouTube Premium series, Sideswiped, actress Rosanna Arquette opened up about her career, being blacklisted for speaking out against the sexual harassment she faced in Hollywood, and why she's excited to do a comedy.
Arquette is an American legend. She starred alongside Madonna in Desperately Seeking Susan. She was in the cult classic Pulp Fiction. She had two huge hit pop songs written about her in the 80’s (watch the video above to find out which ones). And she experienced what she later realized was acceptable industry behavior for a A-list actress: being sexually harassed and intimidated at work.
"I have talked to so many young actresses who had to take their clothes off at the last minute. I actually had that happen to me. I was 18 or 19. I was young. It was one of my first movies. I auditioned, everyone had to come in their bikini. I got the role. He [S.O.B. director, Blake Edwards] goes 'Yeah, yeah, the bikini top, just lose it. It doesn’t work. Okay everybody, action!' I am like...'Take my bikini top off?' And he goes, 'Yeah, you got a problem with that?' That intimidation at that moment, having to make the decision right there on the spot. And I did it. And I come back and he plays [a song] on my tits. So we want to stop that from happening to young actresses."
That's just one of many stories Arquette has to tell. Perhaps the most famous is the one she recounted to New Yorker journalist Ronan Farrow last October: She was at the height of her career when she was invited up to Harvey Weinstein's hotel room. It was there that she says he sexually harassed her. "The original harassment happened just like a lot of the women. I had a film that I was supposed to do, and I was supposed to pick up a script from Harvey. And Harvey wants to have dinner at the Beverly Hills Hotel. I arrive at the hotel, and they say, 'Mr. Weinstein will see you upstairs.'" Arquette told Refinery29 how Weinstein opened the door in his white robe, complained of his neck ache, and put her hand on his genitals. (Weinstein has publicly denied all accusations of nonconsensual sexual activity.)
After she rejected his advances, Arquette says her career changed. "He goes, 'You’re making a very big mistake.' I said 'I’ll never be that girl,' and I went down the elevator. It was a significant change in life."
Arquette says she was retaliated against for rejecting Weinstein's advances, and she wasn’t the only actress whose career was allegedly damaged by his desire for payback. Daryl Hannah, Mira Sorvino, Asia Argento, and Rose McGowan were also vocal about Weinstein’s abuse and saw their careers suffer as a result. "You see Peter Jackson coming out and saying that he was talked out of seeing Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino for Lord of the Rings... So we all have compared notes, and it’s the same story. All of us. Everyone who came out were affected. The only person that seems to really have done fantastic is Gwyneth [Paltrow]."
Arquette also recently learned she had been spied on for decades. "We have proof. We have proof that he did go and spy on me." When asked how she knew, she explained that Farrow had uncovered profiles made by private security agencies of her and other actresses who attempted to expose allegations against Weinstein. "The New Yorker found it all. They have the proof."
In sharing her story publicly with Farrow, Arquette became one of the first women to blow the whistle on Weinstein. The story also helped continue the international MeToo movement that Tarana Burke launched in 2006 and Alyssa Milano helped go viral in 2017. "At this point, I am doing this for my daughter. I am doing this for young women who are coming up in this business who need to feel safe."
Now, Arquette is back on our screens and doing something she's been longing to do: a female-centric comedy.
In her new YouTube Premium series, Sideswiped, Arquette joins comedian Carly Craig and actress Chelsea Frei in a multi-generational comedy about online dating created by Craig herself. "I got a love letter from Carly. She sent me this amazing letter. She had been thinking about me to play her mother." Arquette plays Mary, who she describes as "an immature child." "She was fun to play! It was really a stretch for me," Arquette says sarcastically. Mary had kids at 18 and never got to experience "fun or dating". After her husband dies, Mary moves in with her daughter, Olivia (played by Craig), and encourages her to date all of her Tinder matches on the eve of her 35th birthday.
"It’s a comedy, and it's light. With everything going on in the world right now, having something to laugh about is refreshing for all of us. I have played a lot of dark characters for a lot of years. I love being light and having fun." After the year she's had, can you blame her? Arquette has gone from Hollywood's ex-leading lady to an industry disruptor. "This is a paradigm shift. It's here," she declares.
After Years Of Being Blacklisted From Hollywood, Rosanna Arquette Is Back In A Female-Centric Comedy