Why I can’t work for John Lasseter?
Emma Thompson pulled out of a project at Skydance Animation after the studio hired John Lasseter. Lasseter had admitted to inappropriate hugging and “other missteps.”
When Skydance Media Chief Executive David Ellison announced this year that he was hiring John Lasseter to head Skydance Animation, many in and outside the company were shocked and deeply unhappy. Only months earlier, Lasseter had ended his relationship with Pixar — where he had worked since the early ’80s — and parent company Disney after multiple allegations of inappropriate behavior and the creation of a frat house-like work environment. Lasseter had admitted to inappropriate hugging and “other missteps.”
After announcing the hire, Ellison sent a long email to staff, noting that Lasseter was contractually obligated to behave professionally, and convened a series of town halls in which Lasseter apologized for past behavior and asked to be given the chance to prove himself to his new staff. Meanwhile, Mireille Soria, president of Paramount Animation, with which Skydance has a distribution deal, took the highly unusual step of meeting with female employees to tell them that they could decline to work with Lasseter.
But it was Emma Thompson, the politically outspoken newly anointed dame commander of the British Empire who made the first real definitive statement on Lasseter, and one of the most significant decisions in post-#MeToo Hollywood.
In mid-February, it was reported that the two-time Oscar winner had pulled out of Skydance’s highly touted animation feature “Luck,” citing her concerns about Lasseter’s hiring. According to her representatives, from the moment the hire was announced, Thompson began conversations about extricating herself from the project; she officially withdrew Jan. 20.
In a letter she sent to Skydance management three days later, she acknowledged the complications caused by a star withdrawing from a project, including the effect her decision would have on the director, the rest of the cast and the crew. But in the end, she wrote, the questions raised by the Lasseter hire made it impossible for her to remain in the film.
Thompson declined to comment on her decision, but she made the letter available to The Times. (When contacted, Skydance representatives had no comment.)
Here it is, in full:
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:
Published By: Los Angeles Times (Mary McNamara), Bellaland.
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