The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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The Harvey Weinstein tapes

July 3, 2008 |  3:23 pm

There's nothing like hearing Harvey Weinstein's voice coming over the phone--a raspy, phlegmmy rumble that sounds like a cross between a New York subway train conductor and a beer vendor at a Mets game. Even though Harvey is most famous for his profanity-laced tirades, he has another, more seductive voice--a tone of bemused sarcasm that has the pungent crackle of Borscht Belt comedy and streetwise cynicism. That's the voice on display here in a New York Post Page Six item today about an anonymous ex-Miramax employee that the Post claims is writing an explosive tell-all book, based on 15 years of accumulated files and tapes.   

Etweinsteinbp0703 As if Weinstein didn't have enough problems already, with the Village Voice going through his garbage and his new company on the ropes as its money woes mount, he has now has to deal with a presumably disgruntled ex-staffer promising to reveal a new host of dirty laundry about Weinstein's days inside the Disney empire. The ex-employee gave the Post a seven-minute audio file to prove that the promised revelations weren't the work of "some kook." The audio file is a record of a 1996 conversation between Weinstein, then head of Miramax, and Joe Roth, then head of Disney's film division, sparked by the news that Mike Ovitz had just scored a $138-million severance deal after 16 unhappy months at Disney. Having spent a lot of time around both Weinstein and Roth, I can attest to the tape's veracity--it nicely captures Weinstein's caustic sarcasm and Roth's dry wit.

Outraged by Ovitz's sweetheart deal, Harvey encourages Roth to fire him, figuring he could make even more loot, saying, "Joe, I'll split it in half with you. I'll meet you in St. Bart's. We'll buy both halves of the island." Later, the two ponder an age-old Hollywood inequity, noting how many inept executives manage to fail upward and walk away with a lucrative payout.

Harvey: "Joe, you're a success. So therefore, you're a failure in this town.... Between [former Sony chief] Peter Guber and Mike Ovitz and [former HBO chief] Michael Fuchs--everybody got wealthy on failure. Jon Peters [Guber's Sony partner] walked away with $50 million!"

Roth: "You know what the problem is with you and me, Harvey? We care about the movies."

Harvey [dripping sarcasm]: "A tremendous mistake, Joe. We have character flaws that must be overcome."

The irony, of course, is that Harvey did walk away from Miramax with quite a sizable payoff while Roth, after leaving Disney, landed a huge Revolution Studios deal that left him set for life. Apparently success is not such a horrible career move after all.

Click on our continuation to play the Post's audio file and hear Harvey for yourself:

Harvey Weinstein photo by Daniel Acker / Bloomberg News