Before the floodgates opened and dozens of women came forward to accuse now-disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment and assault, actress Heather Graham was already working on a unique way to share her own stories of Hollywood harassment.
Graham was one of many to meet Weinstein under the illusion of a business meeting — only to find he had a very different agenda.
The actress met the producer in the early 2000s to discuss possible film roles, and he said she could get a role if she slept with him — a situation many other women have echoed in their own accounts of encounters with Weinstein.
“My only recourse was writing and directing a movie about it because I thought it wouldn’t change, but now it is,” Graham said this week at a sexual harassment panel hosted by Women in Film, an organization that helps women break into the movie industry. “I really hope that it changes in a meaningful way.”
The film, titled “Half Magic,” is set for release next year and marks the actress’ feature debut as a writer and director.
The movie has been described as a comedy that finds a sisterhood of women — played by Graham, Molly Shannon, Stephanie Beatriz, and Angela Kinsey — who come together to fight back against the routine sexism they face in their professional and personal lives.
Though the film was being made long before the influx of sexual harassment and assault allegations in entertainment, media, and politics, the film now takes on a relevance for much of the country that it did not have before — especially for those previously unaware of the serious nature (and time frame) of the problems both women and men face in industries with little or no support for victims of sexual misconduct.
“There’s definitely all different kinds of sexism from many different people. The time is right, though — people seem more open to wanting to change these things, which is very good,” Graham told The Hollywood Reporter about her upcoming film. “A lot of people who have been sexually harassed — and I felt this about my experience — you want to hide it away in a part of your brain where you don’t want to think about it. When you talk about it, it brings up sad feelings, but at the same time it’s inspiring to feel that we’re all standing up for ourselves. This guy [Harvey Weinstein] losing his job was a great way of saying that this kind of behavior will be punished.”
“Half Magic” includes a predatory-like boss character played by Chris D’Elia; he partly represents the sexual harassment that has become so ingrained in the entertainment industry.
While “Half Magic” is getting more attention now than expected, Graham is not the first creator to turn to her art after experiencing sexual misconduct.
Actress Asia Argento recently shared a scene from a film she wrote, directed and starred in called “Scarlet Diva” in the wake of The New Yorker’s exposé on Weinstein’s alleged behavior. The scene used fictional characters to detail an experience Argento had told The New Yorker about, one in which Weinstein allegedly assaulted her. The film was released back in 2000.
Actress Dani Alvarado recently jumped behind the camera for a short film called “Lost Beneath the Stars.” A scene in the movie details an alleged encounter she had with director James Toback, who has been accused of harassment and assault by hundreds of women, in which he tried to use his position of power to convince her to sleep with him.
Another actress, Rose McGowan, has announced a book, entitled “Brave,” to be released next month. The book details her Hollywood experiences with sexual harassment and assault, which include an alleged assault at the hands of Weinstein. Considering how fearless and outspoken the actress has been up to this point since the Weinstein allegations, it’s anyone’s guess how many more stories could be held in those pages.
With victims feeling empowered enough now to not just call out sexual predators in the industry — but to even show them and their behavior to the world through film — means there have got to be a few unidentified sexual predators still in the ranks of Hollywood sweating bullets. They don’t know if their behavior will be revealed through a new media exposé, a memoir, or even a movie playing at their local theater.