Emma Thompson Takes a Stand Against John Lasseter

When former Pixar boss John Lasseter was hired at Skydance Animation in January, reactions were mostly negative.

Under the continued scrutiny and increased awareness of the #MeToo movement, the hire was generally viewed as a strange one, since Lasseter left Disney under the cloud of harassment allegations in 2017. Skydance CEO David Ellison scrambled to do damage control after the announcement, even holding town-hall style events with employees to discuss their concerns. 

Now Skydance is experiencing its first real repercussions with actor-writer-producer Emma Thompson opting to depart Alessandro Carloni’s Luck, in which she had a voice role. According to the Los Angeles Times, Thompson wrestled with the decision as soon as Lasseter was hired and officially left the project on Jan. 20. She later sent a letter explaining her decision to Skydance executives.

Read Thompson's letter in full below, as published in the Los Angeles Times:

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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,

Emma Thompson

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This is an example of an actor leaving a project over moral convictions rather than mere creative differences. Sometimes creative team members have to make difficult decisions and do what they feel is right for themselves. In Hollywood and elsewhere, this can wreak havoc on a project, which Thompson acknowledges. This letter could easily serve as a model for leaving a production gracefully while also making your concerns known.

What do you think of Thompson's decision?     

Your Comment

7 Comments

Lasseter is no prize, that’s for sure...but I’m troubled by the blacklisting and moralizing by industry people. And I’m certainly not going to look to actors for moral guidance! (Like your s*** doesn’t stink Emma? C’mon now, really?) If Lasseter’s this much of a problem, let’s charge him and put him in a courtroom where he’ll be assessed and the proper penalties can be applied. Otherwise it’s mob rule and that’s never a good thing.

February 26, 2019 at 7:16PM

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Ed Wright
Director, DP, Writer
436

How nice she mentioned the harassment of women as the reason for her pulling out but doesn't mention that Lasseter was widely known for the bullying of men.

Fucking hypocrite.

February 27, 2019 at 12:01AM, Edited February 27, 12:03AM

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DingDong
2184

Way to miss the point.

February 27, 2019 at 9:16AM

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Sketkh Williams
Actor - Storyteller
190

Emma Thompson has always been my favorite actor and is displaying leadership by example. I believe her actions will inspire others to take this stand and as her letter states, that is what will spark change at anything but the glacial pace it's on now.

February 27, 2019 at 7:13AM

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Stephen A van Vuuren
Filmmaker
651

She makes some really good points. What if someone doesn't want to work for Lasseter? Now they either have to do so against their will or they have to quit their job? Neither seems like a great option.

That being said I'm not sure where to draw the line with these famous people who do bad things (Lasseter, Spacey, Affleck, etc). Are they never allowed to work again? Or just not allowed to work in the film industry again? Also what's the statute of limitations on someones bad behaviour. If they did something when they were 9 should we blacklist them 50 years later? How about if they were 18? Or 30? How about allowing for people making bad decisions in the past but evolving and changing as human beings (Kevin Hart, James Gunn, etc.)

I've been thinking about this kind of stuff a lot lately.
I have enormous respect for Emma Thompson in any case.

February 27, 2019 at 8:04AM

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Her reasons are obviously right on the mark for the time we are now living in. With a long history of harassment, why should any current Skydance employee have to have him imposed on them? But may be a solution in her fourth bullet point. If the Skydance CEO wants to give him a second chance and Lasseter is willing to strive to change his behavior, why shouldn't he have an opportunity to do that? So why not set him up and finance a separate entity in which Lasseter could recruit his own staff and in which no current Skydance employees would have to be a part of? He would have his second chance and we could all see how it goes, as well as see the movies he makes going forward?

March 3, 2019 at 6:10PM

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Michael Petryni
Writer
74

I think that presenting what your values are even at taking a financial loss is the smart choice. Your actions speak for you. I am proud that Emma did it so gracefully.

March 5, 2019 at 7:27AM

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Jim Perez
Filmmaker
4