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Emma Thompson won’t work with Hollywood men accused of misconduct

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Hannah-Rose Yee
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The actress sent a letter outlining why when she quit a movie helmed by John Lasseter, the disgraced former Pixar chief 

When Emma Thompson resigned from Luck, the forthcoming movie from Skydance Animation, she sent a powerful message to Hollywood.

This was because Thompson quit the project because of the studio’s decision to hire John Lasseter, the disgraced former chief of Pixar, who was ousted from the film company in 2018 after articles from Vanity Fair and The Hollywood Reporter detailed unwanted touching, kissing and hugs from Lasseter to female employees. 

In the wake of the allegations, women began speaking out about a culture of sexism at the animation company responsible for Toy Story, Inside Out and Coco. “Just be warned, he likes to hug the pretty girls,” a female staffer reported she was told. “He might try to kiss you on the mouth.” 

John Lasseter

In January 2019 Lasseter landed his plum new job as the head of Skydance Animation. When the news was announced to employees, the studio informed female staff members that they were able to recuse themselves from working with Lasseter if they so chose. Skydance’s chief David Ellison also detailed that Lasseter’s contract stipulated that he must behave “professionally” at work. 

Luck, which explores the hidden good and bad luck forces that impact our lives, Inside Out-style, is one of Skydance Animation’s first projects. Thompson was supposed to voice the head of the good luck team. She signed on before Lasseter was hired in January, and had even begun recording dialogue for the film.

But when news of Lasseter’s hiring reached Thompson she quit Luck, officially resigning on 20 January. Three days later, she sent a letter detailing her concerns to Skydance executives, which has been published in full by The Los Angeles Times.

“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,” the letter began.

Emma Thompson

She continued: “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’?” 

“If a man has made women at his companies feel undervalued and disrespected for decades, why should the women at his new company think that any respect he shows them is anything other than an act that he’s required to perform by his coach, his therapist and his employment agreement? The message seems to be, ‘I am learning to feel respect for women so please be patient while I work on it. It’s not easy.’” 

Thompson also touched on the idea of giving Lasseter a second chance. “He is presumably being paid millions of dollars to receive that second chance. How much money are the employees at Skydance being paid to GIVE him that second chance?” she wrote. 

As Thompson wrote, Skydance is putting its employees in an uncomfortable, untenable position. “Any Skydance employees who don’t want to give him a second chance have to stay and be uncomfortable or lose their jobs,” she wrote. “Shouldn’t it be John Lasseter who has to lose HIS job if the employees don’t want to give him a second chance?” 

Emma Thompson has spoken out about John Lasseter’s hiring

According to Thompson, Skydance stressed that no female employee at Pixar or Disney received a settlement as a result of being harassed by John Lasseter.

“But given all the abuse that’s been heaped on women who have come forward to make accusations against powerful men, do we really think that no settlements means that there was no harassment or no hostile work environment?” Thompson wrote. “Are we supposed to feel comforted that women who feel that their careers were derailed by working for Lasseter DIDN’T receive money?” 

She concluded: “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.”

Thompson with her husband Greg Wise and their two children

This isn’t the first time that Thompson has used her voice and power against men accused of misconduct or abuse.

Sources have recalled a showdown between Thompson and Harvey Weinstein on the set of Brideshead Revisited after the film producer called Thompson’s co-star Hayley Atwell “a fat pig”. 

“You look like a fat pig on screen,” Weinstein is reported to have told Atwell over lunch. “Stop eating so much.”

Emma Thompson and Hayley Atwell

A source from the set said that “Emma called Harvey out for being a misogynist and a bully and really gave him a hard time.” 

That Thompson might have also called Lasseter out, and indeed, the studio executives at Skydance who hired him, is no surprise.

Back in January, Skydance CEO David Ellison defended the decision to offer Lasseter the top job at their studio. According to Ellison, the company was “confident” that Lasseter had “learned valuable lessons” about his behaviour. 

Emma Thompson

“While we would never minimise anyone’s subjective views on behaviour, we are confident after many substantive conversations with John, and as the investigation has affirmed, that his mistakes have been recognised,” Ellison said. “We are certain that John has learned valuable lessons and is ready to prove his capabilities as a leader and a colleague. And he has given his assurance that he will comport himself in a wholly professional manner that is the expectation of every Skydance colleague and partner.” 

The Time’s Up organisation pointed out the error in this line of thinking in their statement about Lasseter’s appointment.

“Hiring decisions have consequences,” the statement read. “And offering a high-profile position to an abuser who has yet to do any of those things is condoning abuse.” 

And Emma Thompson, for one, isn’t going to stand for it. 

Images: Getty

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Hannah-Rose Yee

Hannah-Rose Yee is a writer, podcaster and recent Australian transplant in London. You can find her on the internet talking about pop culture, food and travel.

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