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Toronto 2010: Harvey Weinstein, now on screen

September 16, 2010 | 12:08 pm


For two decades, Harvey Weinstein has been one of the movie industry's most colorful and controversial behind-the-scenes players. Now he's being thrust front and center into the spotlight: Canadian documentarian Barry Avrich has made a film titled "Unauthorized: The Harvey Weinstein Project" and on Thursday, IFC Films announced that it had acquired most world rights and will release the movie stateside.

A statement from IFC described the film as a "powerful, uncensored, no-holds-barred account" tracing Weinstein from his early days as a theater operator and concert promoter in upstate New York to the present day as the head of an embattled independent-film company. The period includes his discovery and promotion of numerous new filmic talents, his high-profile tangles with the Walt Disney Co. and his making no small number of enemies with a famously brass-knuckled approach. 

Weinstein apparently did not cooperate with the production and tried to persuade Avrich not to move forward. But that did not stop the director from making the film, and it apparently won't stop IFC from releasing it -- even though James Dolan, the chairman of IFC parent company Rainbow Media, is a known friend of Weinstein.

The polarizing film executive has figured in numerous books about the indie-film world, such as John Pierson's "Spike, Mike, Slackers and Dykes" -- and also has been satirized on HBO's "Entourage" -- but he's never been a starring player in a documentary before.

The announcement comes after a week at the Toronto International Film Festival in which the Weinstein Co. and IFC tussled over rights to the films on offer, with each coming away with two titles.

Avrich is known for directing a number of music-themed documentaries and also made a similarly themed doc in "The Last Mogul," about legendary studio chief Lew Wasserman. It remains to be seen how hard-hitting this effort will be. Among the biggest open questions is how much associates and rivals of Weinstein -- and there are abundant numbers in each group -- will spill their feelings on camera.

Avrich's statement, at least, did not play up the muckraking. "Harvey and Bob Weinstein, without a question, redefined so many rules of Hollywood marketing, distribution and filmmaking that you simply can't ignore their impact on history," he said. "Many of their business principles and strategies also redefined other industry practices and quite frankly, other industries. Without Hollywood's 'Last Bully,' there would be no 'Pulp Fiction,' no one would have known about that English patient, Rob Marshall would still be a chorus boy and Quentin [Tarantino] would be recommending Bruce Lee's greatest hits in some video store."

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Harvey Weinstein at the Sundance Film Festival in January. Credit: Peter Kramer / Associated Press

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