Weinstein’s former assistant speaks out about dangers of non-disclosure agreements

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Moya Crockett
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“If you have the power and the money to create agreements that cover up a very serious criminal action, then I dread to imagine what other things are being covered up,” said Zelda Perkins.

Zelda Perkins, a British former assistant to Harvey Weinstein, has given a televised interview in which she repeated her claim that he raped a Miramax staffer 19 years ago, and called for changes to the law surrounding non-disclosure agreements.

Perkins was Weinstein’s assistant in London in the late Nineties. In October, she broke a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) signed in 1998 in order to speak out about Weinstein’s alleged abuse of women, telling the Financial Times that he sexually harassed her when she worked for him and sexually assaulted one of her female colleagues.

Now, in an interview with the BBC’s Newsnight, Perkins has spoken in more detail about her experience of working with Weinstein, her resignation and the NDA that followed.

“We were at the Venice Film Festival and he tried to rape her,” she said of the alleged incident involving her then-colleague. She said that the woman was in shock and didn’t want anyone to find out what had happened.

Perkins said she called Weinstein out of a meeting to confront him about the alleged rape, but he denied everything. “He said nothing at all had happened and he swore on the life of his wife and his children, which was his best get-out-of-jail card that he used quite a lot.” 

Harvey Weinstein with Johnny Depp at the Venice Film Festival in 2004.

When she returned to London, Perkins said she spoke to a senior female colleague at Miramax’s London office about the assault, who advised her to “[get] a lawyer”. As a result, both Perkins and her colleague “resigned from the company, [feeling] constructively dismissed because of his behaviour”, she said.

Perkins said she expected that criminal proceedings would follow but soon realised that it would be almost impossible to pursue a case against Weinstein.

“The lawyers made it very clear that we did not have many options,” she said. “Because we hadn’t gone to the police when we were in Venice, we had no physical evidence, and ultimately it would be two under-25-year-old women’s word against Harvey Weinstein, Miramax and, essentially, the Disney company.”

After her resignation, Perkins was required to sign an NDA and received £125,000 ($168,000) for her silence. She told Newsnight reporter Emily Maitlis that one of the conditions of the agreement was that Weinstein go to therapy, the first session of which she was also required to attend. However, this never actually happened. 

Another term of the NDA was that she herself was not permitted to see a therapist or accountant about the matter without consulting Miramax, Perkins said. 

Perkins also challenged the idea that Weinstein’s alleged victims should have known what they were signing up for if they visited him in a hotel room. (Many of the women who have accused the film executive of harassment and assault report being invited to meet him at a hotel, ostensibly for professional reasons.)

“Everybody now says, ‘Why did everyone go to his hotel room?’ [But] it wasn’t as simple as that,” Perkins said. “Everybody went to his hotel. This is where he did business. It wasn’t in his bedroom; it was in his suite. You had top agents, top movie stars, male and female, coming in hourly for meetings.”

Perkins said Weinstein would become very angry if people refused to take those meetings. “With Harvey there was no such word as ‘no’ and that’s really the crux of the matter,” she said.

She also disputed the idea that Weinstein suffers from sex addiction. The producer reportedly checked himself into a live-in clinic for sex addiction shortly after the first investigations into his abusive behaviour were published, although he is believed to have checked out after just one week.

“I don’t think he’s a sex addict. He’s a power addict,” said Perkins. “Everything that drove him was about dominance with men and women. He put an enormous amount of energy into humiliating men and an enormous amount of energy into getting women to submit. That was what drove him: his overarching need for power.”

Kate Beckinsale, Lea Seydoux and Gwyneth Paltrow have all said that Harvey Weinstein sexually harassed them in hotel rooms. 

However, Perkins said that as well as being abusive and unpleasant, Weinstein could also be “exciting”, which made it difficult for people to decide what they really thought about him.

“Harvey, now, everyone sees as this sort of repulsive monster, which he was and is on one hand, but I think what is interesting and what isn’t maybe brought forward is that he was also an extremely exciting, brilliant, stimulating person to be around,” she said.

Ultimately, Perkins said that it was time that the public knew how NDAs were used to silence people.

“The system essentially protected Harvey in this case, but I can guarantee you it protected 100 other people. Because if you have the power and the money to create agreements that cover up a very serious criminal action, then I dread to imagine what other things are being covered up,” she said.

“You cannot have a legal document that protects a criminal.”

Laywers for Mr Weinstein told the BBC he “categorically denies engaging in any non-consensual conduct or alleged threatening behaviour”.

Images: BBC / Rex Features