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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Harvey Weinstein stars in 'The Millionaire'

September 30, 2008 | 12:26 pm

Harveynew Apparently Harvey Weinstein hasn't quite figured out that we live in a new media age where every behind-the-scenes feud, threat and back-stabbing knife twist will quickly surface on the Web. Weinstein apparently became enraged by a Nikki Finke blog post yesterday that, in classic Finke-ese, derisively called him "The Big Loser" and accused him of "disgusting behavior" in his efforts to bulldoze Stephen Daldry into releasing "The Reader" in time for a 2008 Oscar campaign. Noting that two of the film's original producers, Anthony Minghella and Sydney Pollack, had both died before the film was completed, Finke quoted from an e-mail she said was from "Reader" producer Scott Rudin, which accused Weinstein of going "to Minghella's widow and tried to insist the film be released this year [and] harassed Pollack on his deathbed until the family asked him to stop."

Having been covering the infighting between Weinstein and Rudin myself, it seemed believable to me that the Rudin e-mail was genuine, since he is a skilled media tactician and perfectly capable of making his case with reporters by offering incriminating evidence against his rivals. The Finke item was especially embarrassing because, fearing that they were harming "The Reader" by engaging in such a public spat, Rudin and Weinstein had kissed and made up on Sunday, saying they had agreed on a Dec. 12 release date for the film and insisting they'd put all the bad blood behind them.

Instead of ignoring the Finke post, Weinstein went to the New York Post's Page Six column, trying to undermine her charges. The Post ran an item today where Weinstein disputed Finke's reporting and Rudin denied sending the incriminating e-mail. Weinstein then added this coup de grace: "If Nikki Finke can produce that e-mail, I'll give $1 million to charity."   

Finke wasn't cowed. She not only posted the e-mail, but said that Rudin had admitted to her that he'd sent it. Finke says Rudin told her that Weinstein's people had pestered him to "protect Harvey and deny the e-mail and lie to Page Six," which he did in hopes of protecting "The Reader" from being tarnished by further controversy. Just to rub Weinstein's nose in it, when Page Six called her, Finke told the reporter to "tell Harvey I'm the charity--he can give the million to me."

That's not gonna happen. But Weinstein has only made things worse for himself. I tried contacting both Weinstein and Rudin, to hear if they have a different side to the story, but haven't heard back. If I do, I'll be happy to give them equal time. But I haven't heard anyone disputing Finke's reporting. The mistake Weinstein made was going public with a grandstanding "million dollar" charity scheme without an absolute assurance that Rudin, in the heat of battle, hadn't leaked incriminating evidence to a well-read industry blogger. Weinstein's charity offer didn't deter Finke; in fact, it only encouraged her to post her evidence. 

Is there a moral here? Barely. This whole mess once again proves that feuding in public is ultimately self-defeating. That goes double for trying to manipulate the press. The next time Harvey decides to bait an indefatigable blogger, he should remember the old adage: "Never wrestle with a pig. You'll get dirty and they'll enjoy it."   

Photo of Harvey Weinstein by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News.

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