She’s long been a hero of ours but English actress Emma Thompson is elevated to new heights in this #MeToo era.
A vocal critic of sexism and mistreatment Emma is, perhaps unsurprisingly, also walking the walk. It was recently revealed that she had left forthcoming animation, Luck, when former Pixar executive John Lasseter was announced as the studio’s new head. Lasseter left Pixar and Disney in 2018 amidst allegations of inappropriate behaviour and has admitted to certain “missteps”.
News broke that Emma had left the Skydance project following the announcement of his appointment. While she has declined to speak publicly about the situation she has now made the letter she wrote to Skydance public via the Los Angeles Times. (You can read the letter in full below)
In it she expressed regret at leaving the project but said,
“It feels very odd to me that you and your company would consider hiring someone with Mr. Lasseter’s pattern of misconduct.”
She outlined a number of queries, in the hope of indicating how uncomfortable Lasseter's appointment made her, and concluded:
"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."
In 2017 a BBC Newsnight interview with Emma, in which she spoke in strong terms about sexual harassment and abuses of power, went viral. It will come as little surprise to many that she is staying true to her beliefs now and is taking a stand. Hopefully others will follow her lead.
Emma’s Letter to Skydance, as released to The Los Angeles Times
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,