Last summer, the former Disney-Pixar leader, John Lasseter, found himself in a significantly reduced role within the company, he requested a meeting at the WME agency.
Lasseter, accused of sexual misconduct, was not a client. He simply wanted to speak to people skilled at rehabilitating some of Hollywood's biggest stars while he was contemplating his return, according to two people present at the meeting who requested anonymity because they were not there. not allowed to talk about it publicly.
This ambition is at the origin of one of the biggest controversies in Hollywood since the early chapters of the #MeToo era. Just a week after Disney broke ties with him last month, Lasseter landed a feature job with Hollywood financier-producer Skydance Media, sparking industry criticism.
On Tuesday, controversy resumed with the letter from actress Emma Thompson, who sharply criticized Lasseter and the company that had hired her. Thompson dropped a movie called "Luck" shortly after hiring Lasseter. The letter to Skydance General Manager David Ellison clearly explained why she was leaving the project.
"It seems very odd to me to think that you and your company are considering hiring someone who exhibits the type of improper behavior of Mr. Lasseter, given the current climate," Thompson wrote in the letter published in the Los Angeles Times. "If a man has been touching women inappropriately for decades, why would a woman want to work for him if the only reason he does not touch them improperly now is that his contract stipulates that he must to behave in a "professional" way? "
"If a man makes women in his society feel underrated and neglected for decades, why should the women of his new society think that the respect he is showing them is something other than that?" an act that his trainer must perform, his therapist and his contract of employment? "
Neither a representative of Skydance nor Lasseter would comment on this story. The Thompson publicist told The Post that the star had no other comments.
Lasseter's appointment is central to the question of what happens when the alleged #MeToo perpetrators attempt to return to the market where they were apparently exiled.
And at the heart of Thompson's comments is what happens when a woman who has the power to stop this return decides to handle it.
As the #MeToo movement gained momentum in the fall of 2017, many colleagues accused Lasseter of making undesirable physical contact with them over the years. Lasseter acknowledged receipt of unspecified "missteps".
At the time, a number of #MeToo Hollywood violators were quickly removed from office. But Lasseter, Pixar's long-time leader and later of Disney's animated studio, was responsible for billions of dollars in revenue for a major media company, smash hits such as "Frozen," "Toy Story," " Up "and" Moana "All came under his direction; even recent hits like "Incredibles 2" have been widely developed on his watch.
In a meticulous movement, Disney granted him six months' leave. In June, at the end of this period, the company announced that it would act as a consultant until the end of the year, when it would leave the company. Lasseter said, "The last six months have been an opportunity to reflect on my life, career and personal priorities. Although I remain dedicated to the art of animation and inspired by the creative talent of Pixar and Disney, I decided that the end of this year would be the right time to start focusing on new creative challenges. "
But Lasseter was anxious to return to the animation sector and, even during his consultations, he met regularly with directors and animators, according to two people close to these discussions who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.
Skydance, for its part, wanted to have an impact. The company is doing well with some very big budget movies such as those of the "Star Trek" and "Mission: Impossible" franchises, but it was new to the world of clubby animation and no one. founded the qu division in 2017.
Ellison hired an officer he would normally not be landing on, thus making a calculated bet that his employees could neglect Lasseter's important baggage.
"Let's be clear: we did not make that decision lightly," Ellison writes in a staff note. "Although we would never downplay the subjective opinions of the behavior on anyone, we are confident, after many deep conversations with John, and, as confirmed by the investigation, that his mistakes have been acknowledged. We are confident that John has learned valuable lessons and is ready to prove his abilities as a leader and colleague. "
And he added, "And he assured that he would behave quite professionally, as all Skydance colleagues and partners expect."
But winning the manpower turned out that it was not the only riding Ellison had to worry about. More than other industries, Hollywood does not only prosper in terms of relationships but also on optics. And that's where the movement crashed.
The announcement immediately provoked a backlash from an important player. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Mireille Soria, head of Paramount's new animation division, was "furious".
Soria's words carry weight: Skydance has a business partnership with Paramount, and Soria gave notes on "Luck". The executive, a longtime deputy of animation pioneer Jeffrey Katzenberg, told employees that she would no longer make any obligation to do so either.
Some in Hollywood were quietly wondering how talent could now be attracted to Skydance if a respected leader with whom he had a business relationship was already expressing his public discomfort. Soria did not immediately respond to a request for comment on this story.
It was the first shot. The second shot landed on Tuesday.
Activists greeted Thompson's news with a note of celebration. "The minute I read it, I thought it changed the game," said Melissa Silverstein, director of the influential feminist entertainment organization Women and Hollywood.
"It's someone who says things that everyone is afraid to say," she said. "She fell like a bomb. And this bomb exploded around the world. "
The shrapnel had not yet reached the makers of "Luck" or other Skydance projects, none of them having been publicly abandoned due to the Arrival of Lasseter. But thanks to Thompson's voice response, it could soon happen.
A longtime animation industry executive, The Post, said on Wednesday, on condition of anonymity because of the subject's sensitivity, that if actors such as Thompson, who would likely have little real interaction with Lasseter, would not want to work at Skydance, How fortunate was society to attract executives and filmmakers who would meet him regularly? The person stated that she did not see how Skydance could continue to use Lasseter.
The scandal also raised a larger issue. When will other accused defendants attempt to return – and what will happen when others respond in response? Louis C.K recently sought to return to the stand-up circuit, with a set that has been heavily criticized in many media quarters. Others are sure to follow.
Silverstein said that if anyone tried to return home, she would have to do much more than Lasseter. "You have to acknowledge what you did, you have to be contrite, you have to make a restitution, and that's just the base," she said.
But she also said that she thought the discussion could be about the wrong topic.
"It should not be a question of whether John Lasseter would have a second chance, but of all the people whose career he derailed," she said. "It concerns all the people who went to work every day and had to walk in the opposite direction when they saw him coming because he had created a dangerous work area."
This feeling also infused Thompson's letter.
"We talked a lot about giving John Lasseter a" second chance, "she wrote. "But he's probably paid millions of dollars to get that second chance. How much money are Skydance employees paid to give him that second chance? "