Emma Thompson won't work with John Lasseter
Posted February 26, 2019 5:06 p.m. EST
CNN — Actress Emma Thompson has made public her reason for dropping out of "Luck," a highly-anticipated animated feature by Skydance Animation.
In a letter to Skydance management about her departure, Thompson expressed "discomfort" working with the company's newly-hired animation chief John Lasseter, who left Pixar last year after he was accused of sexual misconduct.
The Los Angeles Times was first to publish a copy of the letter.
A representative for Thompson confirmed the letter's accuracy to CNN Business.
"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," Thompson began her letter, which she sent to Skydance on January 23, three days after she pulled out of "Luck."
She went on to question Lasseter's hire.
"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'?" Thompson wrote.
The actress added that she regrets "having to step away" from the film, but that she must "do what feels right during these difficult times of transition and collective consciousness raising."
Thompson concluded her letter by saying that she's 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 she felt compelled to speak out nonetheless.
"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," she wrote.
Skydance did not have a comment regarding Thompson's letter.
When the company announced in January that it had hired Lasseter to lead Skydance Animation, CEO David Ellison said he "did not enter into this decision lightly."
"John has acknowledged and apologized for his mistakes and, during the past year away from the workplace, has endeavored to address and reform them," Ellison said at the time.
Lasseter also issued his own statement saying, "I am resolute in my commitment to build an animation studio upon a foundation of quality, safety, trust and mutual respect."
Lasseter, who was one of the biggest names in animation as the chief creative officer of Pixar and Disney Animation, announced last summer that he would leave Disney at the end of 2018.
He took a leave of absence a year before that, saying in an internal memo that it was "brought to my attention that I have made some of you feel disrespected or uncomfortable."
Lasseter's statement was made on the same day that The Hollywood Reporter, who first reported Lasseter's memo, published a story with the headline "John Lasseter's pattern of alleged misconduct detailed by Disney/Pixar insiders."
The report quotes an unnamed Pixar employee as saying Lasseter had a reputation among employees "for grabbing, kissing, making comments about physical attributes."
In the memo, he apologized to "anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of an unwanted hug or any other gesture they felt crossed the line in any way, shape, or form."
"Luck" is one of Skydance Media's first foray into animated features under its Skydance Animation unit. Alessandro Carloni, who worked on the "Kung Fu Panda" movies when he was a DreamWorks, has been tapped to direct the film.
The Hollywood Reporter reported last month that Thompson had "quietly" dropped out of the film, citing sources who said she ditched the project because she had concerns about working with Lasseter.
Read Thompson's full letter 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,