Vietnamese actress joins growing voices against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein

By Vi Vu   October 13, 2017 | 01:34 pm GMT+7
Vietnamese actress joins growing voices against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein
Vu Thu Phuong promotes her design at an opening event in Saigon. Photo by VnExpress/An An

'Everything darkened around me as Mr. Harvey Weinstein stood there smiling at me with just a towel on his hip.'

A Vietnamese actress who appeared briefly in the 2010 thriller "Shanghai" produced by Harvey Weinstein has accused the now notorious Hollywood producer of harassing her while offering to give her a bigger role.

Vu Thu Phuong, an actress and supermodel, shared the story for the first time on her social media page a week after leading U.S. newspapers revealed a history of sexual harassment allegations against Weinstein that prompted the company he co-founded to fire him.

It all happened nine years ago when she was cast for the drama mystery thriller whose release reportedly hit some delays due to problems with the Chinese government.

“I read a report about Mr. Harvey today and memories threw back like it was yesterday. I think I cannot be silent anymore,” the 32-year-old said in her post.

This is her story.

In 2008, she took an audition in Saigon and was originally cast for a supporting role in "Shanghai" as a spy who speaks both Chinese and English and appears alongside the world-famous Li Gong in several scenes.

That was the first time she met Weinstein, and their encounters picked up nicely. He visited her fashion store in Saigon, offering to promote her designs in Hollywood and gifting her design books.

Several days after filming started in Thailand, Weinstein told her that her English was not good enough and that she would be switched to a smaller role, which appeared for just a few seconds in the final production.

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Vu Thu Phuong (left) appears as an extra in "Shanghai".

The production unit explained that many of her scenes had to be removed for political reasons and offered to recruit her for another Hollywood project.

For further discussion, she agreed to meet with Weinstein at his hotel room in Hollywood.

“His assistant asked me to wait for him as he was on a conference call. She sat with me for around five minutes and then she asked to go fetch some documents.

“I was there alone and felt pretty anxious thinking what the new movie would be like.

“I browsed through several books and when I heard someone clearing their throat, I looked up.

“Everything darkened around me as Mr. Harvey Weinstein stood there smiling at me with just a towel on his hip.”

He asked if she was ready to step into Hollywood and play some sex scenes, Phuong claims.

He told her that the new movie would require some sex scenes and he could teach her, asking her to see it as an experience she needed to go through to be stronger and advance her career.

Phuong stumbled with her words as she asked to go back to her room.

“My legs and arms were trembling. I had to press one hand on another to keep them calm. It felt terrible. My head was so strained I thought it could pop out any time.”

He let her leave and she never returned, either to him or Hollywood.

Phuong said that when she arrived back in Vietnam, she was unable to talk about the hotel incident and was forced to listen to numerous media reports calling her a “liar” who had exaggerated her role, reports that left her wanting to die.

She said that after nine years of struggling with many difficult moments, she has almost forgiven Weinstein, and accepted that it is a rule of Hollywood.

But after reports of the investigation, she decided that he should be punished.

“There have been so many victims who have been living with much worse memories than me.

“I think I have a responsibility to speak up,” said Phuong, now married with two daughters.

Weinstein, a 65-year-old New York-born producer, has had a distinguished career in Hollywood. He is best known for "Gangs of New York" (2002), "Pulp Fiction" (1994) and "Shakespeare in Love" (1998), the latter winning him an Academy Award.

But all of that seems to have faded after a New York Times investigation earlier this month chronicled a hidden history of sexual harassment allegations against him and settlements he paid over three decades up to 2015. Many assaults involved former employees.

On October 10, The New Yorker also published a report that included multiple allegations of sexual assault, including forced oral and vaginal sex. Some of them date back to the 1990s.

Oscar winners Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow have joined a long list of actresses who have shared stories of harassment involving the movie mogul.

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U.S. film producer Harvey Weinstein at London Fashion Week in 2014. Photo by Reuters/Olivia Harris

In a video shot outside his daughter's Los Angeles home, his first public statement since the scandal broke, Weinstein said: “Guys, I’m not doing OK but I’m trying. I got to get help. You know what, we all make mistakes."

"A second chance, I hope,” he said, as reported by ABC News on Thursday.

His spokeswoman Sallie Hofmeister earlier said, as cited by the Times, that “Any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein. Mr. Weinstein has further confirmed that there were never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances. He will not be available for further comments as he is taking the time to focus on his family, on getting counseling and rebuilding his life.”

His wife since 2007, Marchesa designer Georgina Chapman, is reportedly looking for lawyers to file a divorce.