Long before the wave of sexual misconduct allegations that would oust him from Hollywood, Harvey Weinstein was notorious for his habit of going after the Motion Picture Association of America. The producer would regularly challenge the ratings board, fighting back against its decisions. Weinstein was far from alone in this; the M.P.A.A. has aggravated plenty of filmmakers and producers over the years thanks to its ratings decisions. But Weinstein did reign as the greatest thorn in the organizations side, generating headlines by often publicly bashing the M.P.A.A. in order to get the ratings he wanted for his films—and, inevitably, generating free publicity for the films he was promoting.
Now, after years of butting heads with the disgraced producer, outgoing M.P.A.A. head Joan Graves is taking one last shot at Weinstein just a few months before she heads for retirement. In an interview with The New York Times, Graves didnt mince words when asked to name her greatest challenge while serving as the head of the M.P.A.A. for the last 30 years.
“Harvey Weinstein was a great frustration,” she responded. “The last run-in I had with him was on a movie about a transgender character. He floated out to the news media that we gave it an R because of the transgender story line. That was not at all the case. It was an R for ubiquitous language—the f-word throughout.”
She was referring to the 2015 film 3 Generations, the R-rated drama that starred Elle Fanning as a trans teen. Weinstein pushed back against the M.P.A.A.s decision at the time, writing in a column for Deadline that he thought the movie had an important social element and should thus be given a more accessible rating. “I have been accused of being a heat-seeking publicity missile when it comes to the M.P.A.A. Thats fine; I plead guilty, but with an explanation,” he wrote. “We dont protest unless the recommended rating will impact the accessibility of a socially important film.”
Weinstein eventually lost that battle, though his public feud with the M.P.A.A. raised the films profile. Graves spoke to that point as well, saying Weinstein “routinely preyed on our policy of treating each film like an attorney would a client: we give the rating and the descriptor and do not publicly discuss our internal deliberations. He would use that to his advantage to create controversy and get attention for his product.”
Theres no doubt that Weinsteins ratings battles were canny publicity generators. However, things have quieted now that Weinstein has become a pariah in the industry, accused of sexual misconduct by dozens of women (he has denied all allegations of nonconsensual acts) and currently facing down a series of lawsuits, the most prominent of which is a suit brought on by Manhattans district attorney. The latest update in the ongoing case is that Weinstein will not be charged with financial crimes alongside the sex-crime charges he faces. “The fact that the District Attorneys office has officially closed their investigation does not surprise me in the least,” Ben Brafman, Weinsteins lawyer, said in a statement provided to Deadline. “I have been explaining to them for almost a year that this inquiry was a mindless voyage as Mr. Weinstein never defrauded any company or person and always paid his own bills, or after the fact, by agreement, reimbursed the company for any personal expense. Had they listened to me early on, it would have saved the district attorney a lot of time and money.”
Graves, meanwhile, is handing the reins of the M.P.A.A. over to Kelly McMahon, a lawyer for the organization.
“I decided it was time, if only because it doesnt look good to have a granny in charge,” Graves said. “I can tell you honestly, though, I still love movies. That has never gone away.”
More Great Stories from Vanity Fair
— Go deep inside the Academys popular-Oscar mess
— Comedy M.V.P. Jason Mantzoukas is taking center stage
— Patricia Arquettes getting the best roles of her life
— Fantastic Beasts: Examining the puzzle of Dumbledores sexual orientation
— Its O.K.—you can like Netflixs new artfully made Dogs series
Looking for more? Sign up for our daily Hollywood newsletter and never miss a story.
Get Vanity Fairs HWD NewsletterSign up for essential industry and award news from Hollywood.Full ScreenPhotos:9 Perfect Sports Movies That Arent About Men
Million Dollar Baby
Clint Eastwoods 2004 drama about an underdog boxer (played by Hillary Swank) and her trainer (Morgan Freeman) is the rare prestige sports film that managed to floor Academy voters. It picked up four Oscars that year, including one for Swank, one for Freeman, one for Eastwood, and the most coveted statuette of all: best picture.Photo: From Warner Brothers/Everett Collection.
Bend It Like Beckham
A tomboy classic if there ever was one. Parminder Nagra plays Jess, a young British Indian girl who idolizes David Beckham, but must tone down her soccer obsession around her traditional parents. Bonus points for featuring a delightful cast that includes Archie Panjabi, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, and Keira Knightley.Photo: From Everett Collection.
Love and Basketball
Gina Prince-Bythewoods 2000 romance was both a tribute to ambitious female athletes and an ode to childhood sweethearts. Sanaa Lathan plays the ambitious Monica, a basketball-obsessed hothead who slowly falls in love with Quincy (Omar Epps), her cocky next-door neighbor.Photo: From New Line Cinema/Everett Collection.
Drew Barrymores directorial debut was predictably idiosyncratic, and became a deeply underappreciated cult hit. The dramedy about a fearsome roller-derby league stars Ellen Page as a soft-spoken Texan who gets taken in by a cadre of ruthless women.Photo: From Moviestore Collection Ltd/Alamy Stock Photo.
Bring It On
This isnt a democracy, its a cheerocracy. Kirsten Dunst and Gabrielle Union play warring captains in this cheerleader comedy, which has since spawned a million terrible sequels.Photo: From Everett Collection.
No one casts a vicious glare quite like Michelle Rodriguez in Girlfight. In 2000, the future Fast and Furious star played a wayward teen who turns to boxing, fine-tuning her character and knocking out sexist perception in this perfectly titled Karyn Kusama drama.Photo: From Everett Collection.
A League of Their Own
Ah, the movie that taught us theres no crying in baseball—though there is a magical quality to bringing stars like Rosie ODonnell, Geena Davis, Madonna, and Tom Hanks together for a Penny Marshall flick about a World War II-era womens baseball league.Photo: From Columbia Pictures/Everett Collection.PreviousNext
Yohana DestaYohana Desta is a Hollywood writer for VanityFair.com.