Dame Emma Thompson recently exited Skydance Animation feature Luck following the studio’s hiring of John Lasseter, officially pulling out of the project on Jan. 20. Lasseter, the former head of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation, has been accused of “grabbing, kissing [and] making comments about physical attributes” at work, as THR reports, admitting to these “missteps” in a memo to Pixar staff. This didn’t matter to Skydance, apparently.
Thankfully, though, Thompson’s decision puts the words of the #MeToo movement into much-needed concrete action. (And, hey, maybe more people involved in a movie rhyming with Shmohemian Shmapsody should’ve thought about doing the same.) Working with abusers condones their behavior. Consistent condemnation from those in positions of power is necessary to stop Lasseter and his ilk from evading consequences.
Now, the L.A. Times has published the late-January letter Thompson sent to Skydance management addressing her reasons for pulling out.
While she regretted missing the chance to work with director Alessandro Carloni (How to Train Your Dragon) on Luck, Thompson wrote that ”[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.”
The Oscar winner emphasizes how Lasseter’s hiring put his comfort and safety above those already working at Skydance. She wrote that the company is forcing their employees to either “stay and be uncomfortable or lose their jobs.”
Thompson also highlighted the power dynamics at play, which enabled Lasseter’s misconduct for so long. She noted that the lack of settlements to women from his former employers doesn’t cement his innocence: “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?”
The screenwriter added, “Are we supposed to feel comforted that women who feel that their careers were derailed by working for Lasseter DIDN’T receive money?”
Read the Dame’s letter in full below.
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,