Aishwarya Rai was ‘100% protected’ from Harvey Weinstein, says Hollywood executive
“Kiss my black a**,” is what Simone Sheffield, founder CEO of Canyon Entertainment and the international manager for Bachchan at the time, said to Weinstein.
A Hollywood executive who represented Bollywood star Aishwarya Rai Bachchan internationally in the 2000s has alleged that Harvey Weinstein, the movie mogul battling scores of sexual assault allegations, had once asked her after a meeting, “What do I have to do to get her alone?”
“Kiss my black a**,” is what Simone Sheffield, founder CEO of Canyon Entertainment and the international manager for Bachchan at the time, said to Weinstein, she told Hindustan Times, recounting the exchange clearly etched in her mind from 15 years ago from a meeting that took place in Weinstein’s office in New York City.
Sheffield had made it her mission to not let anyone so much as touch Bachchan — she was to be “untouchable”— and had told everyone who would come in contact with the Bollywood actor that she should not be hugged. “She was to be special, not your smiling girl,” she said.
In Sheffield’s telling, she and Bachchan were leaving, with the star several steps ahead, when Weinstein cornered her and asked how could she get the Indian star who was a former Miss World, alone. He did not say why, but Sheffield, who had resolved to protect the star, felt offended.
Offended enough, she said, that after they returned to their hotel, she sent Weinstein a pig trough filled with Diet Coke — “fat f*** pig that he was” (that’s why Diet Coke) — as a thank-you gift.
Weinstein’s office thanked her for it, she recalled, saying, they had “missed the irony” of the bizarre gift.
Weinstein, a powerful Hollywood figure who has won scores of Oscars and produced such movies as Pulp Fiction and Good Will Hunting, has been at the centre of spiralling allegations of sexually harassing female actors seeking work or already signed up, including some leading stars.
He has since been fired from the Weinstein Company that he co-founded.
Sheffield said she and Bachchan met Weinstein possibly in 2003-4 when the Indian actor had been signed to act in Bride and Prejudice, a film directed and produced by Gurinder Chadha, who also made the iconic movie Bend it like Beckham. Miramax, an American company founded by Weinstein and his brother Bob Weinstein, had acquired the rights to distribute the film in the United States.
Shooting hadn’t started at the time of the meeting, Sheffield recalled.
She had decided not to leave Bachchan alone in the room with Weinstein, and stayed despite what she thought were repeated attempts to get her out, for one reason or another — something to eat, drink or the bathroom.
“She was 100% protected,” Sheffield said of her commitment to stay with Bachchan at all costs, adding, “and I would not let him even breathe in her direction.”
She said she stopped working with Bachchan after latter’s film Devdas, and, she remembered better, when the star who had married Abhishek Bachchan, was pregnant with her first child. Their association had lasted almost a decade. They have not been in touch much since.