Weinstein’s former assistant breaks NDA after 20 years of silence
Rowena Chiu is finally stepping into the light. She wanted to before but couldn't and she's still taking a chance. What happened that made you decide it's okay to talk Well, I think it was a very very long journey to speak today. It's another breaking of my NDA which is still technically illegal. So it is still frightening but I think as well as the legal repercussions the personal repercussions to me were very powerful as a
silencer. This is a woman with the story of a time that broke her life. Daughter of Chinese immigrants. Graduate of Oxford University who fresh out of school landed a dream job in the 90s at Miramax as an
Weinstein. It was supposed to be the great beginning. You have a dream. That's right. And you get this huge job. You must have been thrilled? Yes, absolutely I was thrilled. I appreciated the opportunity to travel. Some of the work would focus around traveling with Harvey to various European film festivals. So overall it was an exciting position to kind of -- I felt like at a young age we would have a say. We would you know be influencing the next films that Miramax funded. Now, working for Harvey specifically it was rumored to be very difficult. We knew that he had a legendary temper. We knew that he was a difficult person to deal with. I certainly didn't go into the job thinking he's a serial rapist. Were there any concrete tips though about how to sort of physically protect yourself from him. Well there...
had been rumors of course about you know -- To wear more clothes around Harvey
Weinstein. I wore two pairs of tights as a response to those kind of jokes. And I thought well it won't do any harm if I've got extra layers of clothing on. And if something terrible were to happen it may buy me some time. That according to Chiu was a sadly wise call. 1998, the Venice Film Festival. Chiu is assigned the night shifts with
Weinstein. The more senior
assistantZelda Perkins takes the early shifts. Perkins had warned Chiu about
Weinsteinbut both women thought all would be okay. She tells us it wasn't okay. Typically the evening shifts were pretty difficult because I would be alone with Harvey. Zelda would not be in the room and so there would definitely be requests for inappropriate sexual contact during that time. You know there is very much a sense that he would combine work that we were doing on the scripts with more personal questions and inappropriate requests really. So you know one minute he'd be asking me my view on a certain film script and whether or not I thought it was a great story and how strong the characterization was and then the next minute he'd be asking for a massage and so on. Is there relevance to your ethnicity and your background in your interactions with Harvey? Did he make that an issue? He mentioned how he liked Chinese girls because they were discreet and he would say that in public. But then in private you know that would be twisted...
around to be -- He d had never had a Chinese girl and that he wanted to try and this kind of thing. Because the subtext is really I like your discretion because you're not going to complain about me. Whatever I do to you. That's a threat. It's a dangerous subtext I think . Can I ask you and again you don't have to tell me but can I ask you what what happened on what is arguably the night? We talked a bit about scripts. We spent some time discussing you know he engaged in some flattery about how I graduated with a degree in English literature from Oxford which he very much like to allude to also. He asked me a bit about my boyfriend. He asked me how long we'd been together and whether he was my first boyfriend and so on. And so I guess the conversation segued into the personal very quickly. He asked me for a massage. He had taken his clothes off so he was naked. So he requested a massage from me which I was reluctant to give him. He asked me to take off some of my layers of clothing. Saying that it was warm in the hotel room or that I'd feel more comfortable. If I took off more clothes and so in that way it was almost an assiduous you know gradual path towards asking for more and more overt sexual favors. And so it from there it led to him pinning me against the bed and asking for just one thrust and saying just one thrust and it will all be over. Oh my god, your head must have been swimming. It was a pretty terrifying experience. She says it was a lot...
to handle. At the first chance she describes having a quiet urgent word with Zelda Perkins to tell her what happened. In fact I think we both cried. Zelda went to confront Harvey right away which I think was an incredibly brave thing to do. I mean I don't think many people in her position at 25 and as Harvey's
assistantwould have the courage to go down and to speak to him right away when he's at lunch with such high-profile people. The women had a plan. Back in London they would sound the alarm with the company hoping
Weinsteinwould be rebuked. Forced to undergo counseling. Maybe rules would be put in place for working with women. But they say the lawyers were just interested in something different. Compensation for
silence. The non-disclosure agreement they signed haunts them still. How would you characterize the
silencethey were seeking? How sweeping was it? Absolute, absolute. We were told that this period of our lives would have to be considered a black hole. We could in the lightest possible terms refer to the fact that we had worked for Harvey
Weinsteinbut we weren't to go into any detail about the nature of that work or what happens subsequent to that work or the fact that there was an NDA or the fact that there was any settlement money. None of that was to be referred to. In fact it felt so onerous that Zelda and I implicitly made a pact that we wouldn't speak to one another and we didn't after the journey in the taxi away from the law firm...
once we'd signed the NDA. The next time I heard from Zelda was October 2017. And we'd signed that agreement in October 1998. So it's almost 20
years. Yeah, 19
yearsto the month that we had not spoken to one another. Did you know when you parted in that taxi that you wouldn't talk? I think there was a clear sense that we wouldn't remain in each other's lives because we talked about how difficult it was not to refer to this period of our lives. But what's it like to lose the one person who stood beside you the whole time? I think it was incredibly difficult. But not just that I had lost the only colleague that I could talk to about it but an inability to speak to anyone in my personal life about really quite a traumatic event meant really it wasn't possible to process it. I'm wondering how much a secret like this weighs. Clearly a great deal because I found it an impossible burden to bear really. And it came to a point where I tried to kill myself a couple of times. And I really felt I was never gonna get away from the secret . You are calm, almost matter-of-fact about what happened and where does that calm come from? I think being British and being Chinese it means that I'm not necessarily too transparent but I think that sounding calm doesn't necessarily mean it wasn't a very frightening experience. So was the screaming inside your head? There is screaming inside my head from -- At the time of the assaults, absolutely. I still...
feel powerless. Zelda and I are now in our mid 40s and yet there's still no remedy in the legal world or that doesn't appear to be a remedy available to us in the legal world. Who knows what will happen with the criminal trial but you know telling a story in the media publicly isn't necessarily an easy fix to everything that has taken place. Time. The effort of journalists to find them the launch of the Me Too movement. All of this collided to bring the two women back together again. I'd like to say that Zelda and Rowena are here tonight and speaking in active violation of this NDA and this settlement. They found the voices both choosing to break their NDAs. It all might intimidate some back into the shadow. But not Rowena Chiu, not anymore. How did Harvey
Weinsteinrespond to you telling your story? His lawyer issued a statement saying that Harvey
Weinsteinand I had engaged in a six-month physical consensual relationship and the Harvey was looking for ways to take legal action against me for breaking my NDA. Is it worth it for you? We'll see, I'm on a long journey. I am encouraged by the voices that lift me up from other victims but also from people who are silent even to this day. And they feel like I in some way speak for them. I won't know the long-term repercussions of speaking out for a long time to come. But I so far have no regrets. And it's wonderful to meet you Rowena. Lovely to meet you too. Thank you very very much. We appreciate...
that. we asked