Harvey Weinstein: from Hollywood 'God' to #MeToo outcast

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Harvey Weinstein pictured at the 18th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in 2012 with actress Meryl Streep, who famously called him 'God'

Harvey Weinstein pictured at the 18th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in 2012 with actress Meryl Streep, who famously called him 'God' (AFP Photo/KEVIN WINTER)

New York (AFP) - For decades, he was untouchable, lording it over Hollywood as the powerful producer Meryl Streep famously called "God."

But since October 2017 Harvey Weinstein has been a pariah, a sexual predator in the eyes of a public that will forever associate him with the #MeToo movement.

Weinstein, 67, goes on trial in New York on Monday, over two years after The New York Times and The New Yorker accused him of a litany of sexual harassment, assault and rape.

If convicted on charges of rape and sexual assault, the Oscar-winning movie mogul could be jailed for life. But even if he is cleared, his career is already dead.

Nearly 90 women, including Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek, have come forward alleging 40 years of vile predatory behavior by Weinstein, who has always maintained his sexual encounters were consensual.

The accusations sparked a sexual harassment watershed that ended the careers of several powerful men as tens of thousands of women shared their stories of abuse online under the #MeToo hashtag.

Weinstein apologized yet appeared to justify his behavior as "the culture then" in a bizarre statement soon after the scandal blew up.

"I came of age in the '60s and '70s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different," he said.

Once the darling of film festivals such as Cannes and Sundance, Weinstein was quickly expelled from the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences, the institution that awards the Oscars.

- 81 Oscars -

The one-time Democratic Party donor, who hobnobbed with Hillary Clinton, disappeared from public life, surfacing occasionally from reported sex addiction treatment, his name toxic and his reputation in tatters.

Then on May 25, 2018, he was charged with predatory sexual assault. Images of him handcuffed were beamed around the world.

He has denied charges that he raped a woman in 2013 and forcibly performed oral sex on another in 2006.

Out on $2 million bail and wearing an electronic tag, Weinstein has rarely spoken publicly since his initial response to the scandal.

He sparked an outcry last month however when he expressed no remorse in an interview with The New York Post, complaining to the tabloid that the world had forgotten how he "pioneered" women-led films.

"I made more movies directed by women and about women than any filmmaker and I'm talking about 30 years ago," said the "Pulp Fiction producer.

Twenty-three accusers, including actresses Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan, responded by assuring him he would be remembered "as a sexual predator and an unrepentant abuser."

Born in Queens on March 19, 1952, the son of a diamond cutter, Weinstein studied at Buffalo University and initially produced rock concerts until he and younger brother Bob went into the movie business.

They co-founded Miramax Films, a small distribution company named after his mother Miriam and father Max, in 1979.

Their hits included 1998's "Shakespeare in Love," for which Weinstein shared a best picture Oscar. The company was sold to Disney in 1993 and the brothers left in 2005 to start up The Weinstein Company.

Over the years, Weinstein's films received more than 300 Oscar nominations and 81 statuettes.

The movies he steered to Academy Awards glory include "The Artist," "The King's Speech" and "The Iron Lady" -- which won best actress for Streep as former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

- Walking frame -

Through it all, the burly executive was famous for his hard-nosed approach to work and Oscars campaigns. He was nicknamed "Harvey Scissorhands" for his aggressive editing of movies.

Weinstein once had a personal fortune estimated at $150 million but it has rapidly disappeared following his fall from grace.

The Weinstein Company was declared bankrupt last year under an avalanche of lawsuits related to sexual misconduct claims.

Last month, Weinstein reached a $25 million settlement with more than 30 actresses and former employees who sued him. The bill will be met by insurers and his former company.

Prosecutors say Weinstein has sold five properties totaling $60 million in the last two years to pay legal fees and support his two ex-wives.

The second, English fashion designer Georgina Chapman, divorced him following the scandal.

Weinstein now lives in relative obscurity in a rented home in a New York suburb close to the two young children he has with Chapman.

Leaving the house is a risky business. In October, several women were thrown out of a bar in Manhattan after they spotted Weinstein and confronted him.

Weinstein appeared pale and frail as he shuffled into a pre-trial court hearing using a walking frame last month.

He has since undergone surgery to relieve back pain caused by a car crash in August.