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Emma Thompson Quits Film After Studio Hires Executive Accused Of Harassment

Emma Thompson, shown here at a film premiere last year, has pulled out of the animated film <em>Luck</em>.
Tim P. Whitby
Getty Images
Emma Thompson, shown here at a film premiere last year, has pulled out of the animated film Luck.

Emma Thompson has pulled out of the animated film Luck over concerns that the studio has hired John Lasseter. Lasseter recently departed Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, where he was chief creative officer, after allegations of sexual harassment.

Thompson's letter to the management of Skydance Media, first published in the Los Angeles Times, blasts the company for hiring Lasseter.

"It feels very odd to me that you and your company would consider hiring someone with Mr. Lasseter's pattern of misconduct given the present climate in which people with the kind of power that you have can reasonably be expected to step up to the plate," Thompson writes.

The Hollywood Reporter published a series of allegations against Lassetter in Nov. 2017, as the #MeToo movement was gaining momentum. As one Pixar employee stated in that article, Lasseter was known for "grabbing, kissing, making comments about physical attributes." Lasseter quickly announced that he would take a sabbatical – and last June Disney said he would have just a consulting role at the company before leaving permanently at the end of the year.

Lasseter then quickly landed a job at Skydance Media as the head of its animation division. That news was announced on Jan. 9.

"John is a singular creative and executive talent whose impact on the animation industry cannot be overstated," Skydance Media CEO David Ellison said in a statement. "And yet we did not enter into this decision lightly. John has acknowledged and apologized for his mistakes and, during the past year away from the workplace, has endeavored to address and reform them."

Thompson wasn't convinced.

"If a man has been touching women inappropriately for decades, why would a woman want to work for him if the only reason he's not touching them inappropriately now is that it says in his contract that he must behave 'professionally'?" she writes.

The two-time Oscar winner says she regrets stepping away from the project because of her high regard for the director, Alessandro Carloni. But she says this is what feels right "during these difficult times of transition and collective consciousness raising." She continues:

"I am well aware that centuries of entitlement to women's bodies whether they like it or not is not going to change overnight. Or in a year. But I am also aware that if people who have spoken out — like me — do not take this sort of a stand then things are very unlikely to change at anything like the pace required to protect my daughter's generation."

The news about her departure from the project emerged last week in The Hollywood Reporter, which said she had already started recording her voice role. Skydance did not comment to NPR about Thompson's letter, which was published Tuesday. Thompson's representative confirmed that she did write the letter published in the Los Angeles Times.

When he was hired in January, Lasseter said he had "spent the last year away from the industry in deep reflection, learning how my actions unintentionally made colleagues uncomfortable, which I deeply regret and apologize for."

Lasseter was known in the industry for his penchant for hugging – for example, The Wall Street Journal said that its journalists counted 48 hugs during a single day with him in 2011, and published a photo essay.

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, numerous powerful men in many different fields have lost their jobs and reputations, as women and some men have come forward to detail allegations of harassment and assault. NPR is among those organizations that have fired or suspended male executives accused of harassment.

In recent months, some of the men who were accused of misconduct have found new jobs in their industries, like Lasseter, or even received hefty financial payouts. The New York Times reported in October that "more than 10 percent of the ousted men have tried to make a comeback, or voiced a desire to, and many never lost financial power."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Merrit Kennedy
Merrit Kennedy is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers a broad range of issues, from the latest developments out of the Middle East to science research news.