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Zoe Brock (screengrab: 60 Minutes/Channel 9 Australia); Harvey Weinstein (photo: Ian Gavan/Getty Images)
Zoe Brock (screengrab: 60 Minutes/Channel 9 Australia); Harvey Weinstein (photo: Ian Gavan/Getty Images)

SocietyDecember 17, 2017

‘He’s the Al Capone of sexual abuse’: NZ model Zoë Brock on why she is suing Harvey Weinstein

Zoe Brock (screengrab: 60 Minutes/Channel 9 Australia); Harvey Weinstein (photo: Ian Gavan/Getty Images)
Zoe Brock (screengrab: 60 Minutes/Channel 9 Australia); Harvey Weinstein (photo: Ian Gavan/Getty Images)

Zoë Brock is one of six women who have launched legal action against Harvey Weinstein, arguing that the sexual misconduct by the mogul – who has repeatedly denied any illegality – is akin to organised crime. The New Zealander now speaks for the first time since the class-action lawsuit was filed last week: about her predator’s tears in a hotel room, conspiracies to silence victims, and why Pamela Anderson is part of the problem.

The baby has just gone to sleep. Zoë Brock is not getting much of it herself these days. She has fought a long and hard custody battle all year for her 10-month-old daughter and is currently staying with her family in Melbourne; she’s not sure whether to return to New Zealand or her new home, California. If that’s not enough, on Wednesday last week – the day that Time magazine announced the #MeToo ‘silence breakers’ as its Person of the Year – the 43-year-old writer, web designer and model took legal action against Harvey Weinstein, 65, and his cohorts. It is the first non-anonymous class action suit against the Hollywood mogul, as well as a RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations) claim against the ‘Weinstein Sexual Enterprise’, including The Weinstein Company and Miramax.

Anke Richter: How scary is it taking on Hollywood’s top players?

Zoë Brock: It’s scary but I’m just so fed up with bullies. I’ve had enough of them, for all our sakes, and especially for my daughter’s sake. So when the law firm called me – I was walking along the water in Auckland – I said I’m in. Add my name. And then, after I made that decision, I felt immediately sick for days. Nauseous and a bit trembly. None of us took the decision lightly. We assume the worst. I am waiting for every boyfriend I ever had, every drug I ever took at Burning Man, every mistake I’ve ever made to be brought up and used against me. I joke that my custody battle was my training wheels for Harvey. I’m ready.

The claim puts Weinstein and his cronies on par with the mafia.

Salma Hayek’s shocking story that just came out in the New York Times is proof that his sadism and hatred of women surpasses his love of movies and creativity. We don’t know if he got into the film business because he wanted to garner as much power as possible to use in his sadistic vendetta against women.

How did he do it?

He structured his business and daily life to help him find his prey. He even started a fashion TV show to get close to models. Hundreds of people over decades took home a wage for helping Weinstein get his weird rocks off, and kept it secret. Assistants. Lawyers. CEOs. If that isn’t organised and criminal, I don’t know what is. Harvey Weinstein is the Al Capone of sexual abuse and assault.

…who even hired ex-Mossad agents to intimidate victims.

I wasn’t anxious in the beginning, because I was just one of hundreds. Harvey would not remember me. But we are dealing with someone who is unscrupulous. We all have families and people we care about and are going up against billions and billions of wealth. So anything is possible. I hate conspiracy theories – and now I feel I am living in one.

In what way?

We ‘Harvey’s girls’ don’t know if the person who just befriended us on Twitter or sent us an email asking for help is telling the truth. I was contacted by a German actress a few weeks ago – and I believe there are more victims in Germany – but she doesn’t want to go public because her family doesn’t know. Too much shame. On Twitter the other day, a woman said that Harvey raped her in the 80s in Italy and then asked if his brother wanted a go. But she didn’t even have a profile online. I don’t like being suspicious, but it’s easy to get paranoid. If the court dismisses our case after all the evidence that has already been uncovered, you know something crazy is up.

You are not a wealthy celebrity, so it’s easy to accuse you of being in it for the financial gain.

None of us are. We’ve all had enough and want change. NBC covered up Matt Lauer, the White House covers up Donald Trump. It’s enough. If industries don’t care about victims, they sure care enough about their wallets. It has to become a fiscal risk for them to look after their golden geese when the geese go bad. Because that’s what these guys are, golden geese with enough revenue to sweep women under the table.

The list of women who are accusing Weinstein is growing – 91 so far. What do you all have in common?

We’re all smart, creative, sassy, brave women of all ages. The one good thing I can say about him: at least he had decent taste! But there are so many more women who have not spoken up. I know a dozen. Another reason for this lawsuit is to say, ‘please come forward’ – because we don’t want another Cosby, or Clinton, or Trump.

How awful is it seeing an abuser out there, free?

It’s horrifying – or even see him become president of the goddamn United States of America. For 20 years I watched my abuser win Oscars every year. This is the first year I won’t have to watch the fat prick who shoved his hairy balls in my face make an acceptance speech. Can’t wait.

Brock was 23 years old when she was “Harveyed”. Her modelling agent invited her to a dinner at the Cannes Film Festival where she was seated next to the Miramax boss, not knowing what a titan he was. It turned out they had a friend in common, director Jane Campion. It all felt safe and platonic. Their crew moved on to various parties afterwards. On the way home, Brock was separated from her friends by Weinstein’s assistant Rick Schwartz and a man accused of being Weinstein’s ‘fixer’, Fabrizio Lombardo. She ended up in a suite at the remote Du Cap hotel, assuming there was going to be a party and the others were following. Schwartz and Lombardo left the room with an excuse. Weinstein re-emerged in the room naked and asked her for a massage, then put his hands on her shoulders and tried to give her a massage. Brock was terrified. It was after 1am and she had no cash or a cell phone to get a taxi. She ran into the bathroom while the naked Weinstein chased her and banged on the door. What saved her was that she started scolding him. He promised to leave her alone. When she came out of the bathroom, he was sitting on his bed, crying and whimpering: “You don’t like me because I’m fat.”

The next day, Weinstein sent her red roses with a thank you note for the previous night. Brock told her agent to never ever take her anywhere near this man again. Her agent, going behind her back, tricked her into another meeting where Harvey intimidated her into silence.

Your frank account – which you published as a Medium post in October, hours after the New York Times broke the Weinstein scandal – differs from all the others: you made Harvey Weinstein cry.

I don’t know if his vulnerability was authentic. But that he cried stuck with me. I really hope it’s not the only time I can reduce him to tears. I‘d love a repeat.

What did you say to him that made him stop?

“Put your clothes on, you naughty, naughty boy!” There seems to be a pattern that when many of his victims turned around and got angry, he caved. You have to wonder what the psychology behind it is, the relationship with his mother. It comes up for me when I meet powerful men – I wonder about their motivations for seeking wealth and power.

Do they turn you off?

Powerful rich men make me deeply suspicious. Strangely though, it gave me a really deep compassion for unattractive men. It made me soften and be kinder when I was hit on by them. Harvey’s past created his hatred of women. Of course I didn’t know at that time that Weinstein was a prolific rapist and had a system of enablers around him. I thought he was just a pervey old douche bag, so I always put a humorous twist to my story later: ‘Let me tell you about this one time in Cannes…’. It’s how I coped for 20 years. Because when I asked for help after what had happened, no-one wanted to listen.

What’s Weinstein’s spiel as a predator?

Harvey knows he is ugly, so he sets a trap: he takes on a very safe, secure, mentoring father type personality when he meets a young model or actress. Our dinner conversation that evening was intellectual, nothing icky. Because if he came out creepy from the get-go, only a small percentage of women would sleep with him to get a film role. Those women do exist, but they are by far the minority. With Harvey there is no sexual, emotional, or any other kind of foreplay. You don’t see it coming with this big friendly mentor – and then “boom”, there’s a dick in your face. He seems to be turned on by very afraid femininity.

It’s quite revealing to hear him on a secret recording for the New York Police Department outside his hotel room, hassling Italian model Ambra Battilana.

And that’s him being nice. He is a relentless negotiator, he doesn’t let you breathe, talking at you so fast. He tried to paint a picture of Ambra as a hooker afterwards. But Ambra is a bad-ass. She went back and faced him again, wearing a wire! That takes huge balls. I wish I’d done it!

Pamela Anderson has stated on a morning show that you and others should have been smarter, knowing what ‘going to Harvey’s room’ meant.

I would like to tell her that she is part of the problem. We were like lambs to the slaughter. Perhaps that’s some PETA-type language Ms Anderson can relate to. To suggest that women who were made to feel safe and manipulated by groups of people, some of them women, into situations that have caused them lifelong pain and suffering is not only dispassionate, it’s ugly. It also suggests that Pam thinks she is smarter than we are. And I beg to differ.

Zoë Brock saw Harvey Weinstein one more time, many years later as a struggling actress in Hollywood, when she was paying her dues by hostessing in a restaurant. They locked eyes for a moment. She froze and turned her back to his group. Not long after that, she left Los Angeles and the film industry, went back to Australia and fell into a two-year clinical depression. She later returned to San Francisco.

When I was 13, I had a dream of one day acting in films and winning an Oscar. But to be successful in Hollywood, you had to deal with that man. He held the reins of Hollywood. I did not want to deal with him.

Was he the reason why you left?

No. Not really. I knew that these men existed in every profession, in modelling, in every bank. I left because I was tired of the douchebags and of auditions to play the same tall/bitchy/drug addict model type character. Tired of learning lines for an audition and sometimes not getting three quarters of the way down a page before they called the next person in. I found the whole experience extremely demoralising. Luckily, acting wasn’t my real passion. Writing was.

Is the impact of Weinstein’s actions worse for born actors?

People need to understand how Harvey has hurt the careers of so many women who struggled for so long to get a foot in the door to act. These women live and breathe and study their craft – not for fame or money, but because their creativity is their soul, their life. And then they finally stand in front of a famous producer who they think can help them, and instead he zips his fly open and threatens them for not giving in. Their entire life, all they have dreamed of, is dashed.

Is it easier to get away with sexual assault in Hollywood than in other professional fields because the ‘casting couch’ is almost legendary?

Because a lot of these victims are actresses, the public has a misconception. But if these women were classical violin players – something that’s ‘classy’ – violists who’ve studied from the age of three and at 18 get in front of an amazing conductor, and he makes them suck his dick, what does the public think then? Or a tennis pro? What if that had happened to Venus Williams when she was 16? Would she have flourished?

Lawyers from Hagens Berman in Seattle are currently serving the complaint to the defendants, which is easy in the case of the corporations but more difficult with individuals because the complaints and summons have to be physically handed to them. Harvey Weinstein, who has so far denied all wrongdoing, but paid settlements to complainants in the past, is in hiding, supposedly in “treatment”. The defendants will have 30 to 60 days to respond to the claim. They are expected to file a motion to dismiss. The court’s decision about whether the case should go to trial might not happen until mid-2018.

It’s still a long road ahead of you. Are you going to be in court in a year or two?

Yes. It’s a fair bet that Harvey is going to drag us through the mud so badly and then we will end up in court – and I will face all of them there. Or he will try to settle, which would probably be smart of him. But settlement doesn’t change anything because these companies can afford it. That’s not enough. We want the system to change.

So what do you want?

I’d personally like a full mea culpa – an admission of everything – and to see him give himself up to the authorities, ask to be prosecuted as a serial rapist, then go to jail and give every single penny he ever made to a charity that helps survivors of sexual assault. Otherwise we’ll see him in court.

Read the proposed class-action lawsuit in full here. A December 6 statement issued by lawyers acting for Harvey Weinstein reads: “Mr Weinstein has never at any time committed an act of sexual assault, and it is wrong and irresponsible to conflate claims of impolitic behavior or consensual sexual contact later regretted, with an untrue claim of criminal conduct. There is a wide canyon between mere allegation and truth, and we are confident that any sober calculation of the facts will prove no legal wrongdoing occurred. Nonetheless, to those offended by Mr Weinstein’s behavior, he remains deeply apologetic.”

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