Emma Thompson is making great use of her voice and standing in Hollywood to call out a troubling development. Last week, news broke that the Oscar-winning writer and actress had quietly exited her voice role in Skydance Animation’s Luck. She had reportedly already been through a few recording sessions when Skydance Animation hired ousted Disney/Pixar head John Lasseter to run its studio, despite allegations of sexual misconduct from Lasseter’s long tenure at the Mouse House. As a result of Lasseter’s hiring, Thompson opted to leave the project, and now she’s penned a letter to the producers at Skydance explaining her decision.
“It feels very odd to me that you and your company would consider hiring someone with Mr. Lasseter’s pattern of misconduct,” Thompson writes, “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.” Thompson goes on to brilliantly lay out the difficult decision that Lasseter’s hiring has put the employees of Skydance in, adding that “any Skydance employees who don’t want to give him a second chance have to stay and be uncomfortable or lose their jobs.” The onus, she argues, should be on Lasseter: “Shouldn’t it be John Lasseter who has to lose HIS job if the employees don’t want to give him a second chance?”
This is an impeccably well-reasoned and sound letter that eloquently lays bare not only the negative impacts that such a hiring has on the employees of a major company, but also the insane mental gymnastics necessary to advocate giving someone like Lasseter a “second chance” at the expense of those around him who’ve done nothing wrong. It’s an indictment of the whole system, and I can only hope it enacts some genuine change in the way major companies and corporations are acting in the wake of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements.
The full letter, presented below via the Los Angeles Times, is well worth your time.
As you know, I have pulled out of the production of “Luck” — to be directed by the very wonderful Alessandro Carloni. 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.
I realise that the situation — involving as it does many human beings — is complicated. However these are the questions I would like to ask:
- 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.”
- Much has been said about giving John Lasseter a “second chance.” But 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?
- If John Lasseter started his own company, then every employee would have been given the opportunity to choose whether or not to give him a second chance. But any Skydance employees who don’t want to give him a second chance have to stay and be uncomfortable or lose their jobs. Shouldn’t it be John Lasseter who has to lose HIS job if the employees don’t want to give him a second chance?
- Skydance has revealed that no women received settlements from Pixar or Disney 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? Are we supposed to feel comforted that women who feel that their careers were derailed by working for Lasseter DIDN’T receive money?
I hope these queries make the level of my discomfort understandable. I regret having to step away because I love Alessandro so much and think he is an incredibly creative director. But I can only do what feels right during these difficult times of transition and collective consciousness raising.
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.
Yours most sincerely,