Kevin Spacey. Dustin Hoffman. Woody Allen. The list of predators and predatory behaviour in Hollywood is just growing in the light of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.
One artist who called it like she saw it is actor and producer Reese Witherspoon who spoke about Hollywood’s “ugly truth” at the Wall Street Journal Magazine’s Innovator awards. Named Entertainment Innovator of the Year, Witherspoon took the stage for accepting the award and made an impassioned speech.
“I don’t know if you guys heard but there has been a lot of stuff going on in Hollywood,” she said. “We’ve been dealing with some really ugly truth of sexism and sexual harassment, and it has been rampant for far longer than I have been an actress, and it’s brought back a lot of painful memories for people. It’s been a real time of reckoning for us and there is a definitely a growing realization that we need to take the time to really examine the biases that exist in our industry and make much needed change because this is not an issue about actors and actresses, this is a bigger issue about power.”
She continued: “I think we have to turn a critical eye about female leadership in Hollywood and whether that’s encouraged or even allowed because you can’t have accountability or awareness of different perspectives if women are not at the decision making table.”
Witherspoon, who was greeted on stage by designer and activist Diane von Furstenberg, went on to add that the purpose behind her production company was not just about making films and television but was about reaching women and also called for diverse, inclusive casting in a 9-minute long speech. “Women want to see every age of a woman on screen, they want to see every ethnicity of woman on screen, they want to see every size and every shape, and quite frankly we just can’t see the same films from the same group of people over and over again and expect society to change, and that’s why I wake up every day so impassioned to give more women opportunities to get their stories told.”
The actor, who co-produced the Emmy-award winning Big Little Lies has also backed other productions like Wild and Gone Girl and hopes to adapt more books into films where women take a central role. “I’ve had an incredible career as an actress and it’s my first love, I love being an actor but now it’s become abundantly clear to me that I have a new mission and that’s to do more for others in my industry,” she concluded. “I’m determined to create more opportunity for other women and people of color. To help them tell their stories. To encourage CEOs to take chances on high-level female executives and champion new female voices on film because the stories we tell have got to change. And sometimes change is about something small, sometimes change starts in a room like this with people like all of you. Thank you so much.”