Stars Carey Mulligan and Patricia Clarkson arrived at the TCL Chinese Theater red carpet for the high-energy AFI Fest premiere of She Said on Friday evening.
The film, which also stars Zoe Kazan, is adapted from the ground-breaking best-selling novel by journalists Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor and chronicles the months of investigative reporting that exposed decades of sexual abuse by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.
After its debut at the New York Film Festival in October, director Maria Schrader introduced the film to an electrified Los Angeles audience that gave Schrader an immediate standing ovation.
“We all remember what happened after [Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor] broke their story,” Schrader began. “We remember the weeks, the months, and the years until today. We witnessed how investigative journalism is able to help change the world.”
She Said details the great personal risk the survivors faced in coming forward and sharing their stories publicly. The result of the generation-defining story propelled the #Metoo movement and dismantled the decades of silence and intimidation in Hollywood, altering culture across the world.
The film is an extraordinary composition of dedicated and unwavering reporting and intimately examines the reporter’s personal lives and how these two women endeavored to stop the predatory culture protecting Weinstein as they raised their young families.
In the post-screening conversation moderated by Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Dean Baquet, director Maria Schrader, reporters Megan Towhey and Jodi Kantor, cast members Carey Mulligan and Patricia Clarkson, writer Rebecca Lenkiewicz and producer Dede Gardner, discussed the societal impact of the investigation along with the personal hardships that ran parallel with the report.
“The book was our moment to say this is where we work, who we work with, and how we work,” shared Kantor. “Even though describing that accurately requires some vulnerability, I’m still in disbelief that a film was made that not only takes the reporting but the way we experience journalism and explains it beautifully to other people.”
Screenwriter Rebecca Lenkiewicz joined the project at the request of producers Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner and endeavored to explore Twohey and Kantor as reporters with personal stakes. The film is extraordinary in its honest portrayal of postpartum depression and diving head-first into a ground-breaking investigation while trying to be present within the family.
“When they invited me to adapt this incredible book, I talked to Jodi and Megan extensively and heard about their lives. We all felt it was incredibly important to show women in their fullness,” explained Lenkiewicz.
She Said also features the involvement of several Weinstein survivors, whose on-screen presence elicited cheers and applause from the audience during the screening. In one particular scene, actress Ashley Judd determined to share her story in the article at the risk of further victimization and judgment, and the audience hollered at her bravery.
“What we learned through this story is that this incredibly small group of sources, people who helped us like Ashley Judd, Laura Madden, and Zelda Perkins, despite the fact that their numbers would fit in a small conference room, was that the impact of telling these personal stories was so great,” noted Kantor.
Both Mulligan and Schrader pointed to the shift in on-set vigilance and the reverberating impact of the bombshell report as evidence that the culture has changed since the Times broke the story. “There is a sense of responsibility on everyone to be mindful and to hold crew and cast to the standards that have now been set,” shares Mulligan. “I certainly feel much more vigilant that I would be looking for things that maybe I wouldn’t have paid as much attention to in the past for people that are starting.”
Schrader added, “I heard rumors about Harvey all the way in the filmmaking world of Germany. I was shocked when I read the article, and then I was also not shocked. It didn’t take long to feel the impact and see the incredible reactions and what we now call a shift in the culture.”
She Said also doesn’t shy away from underscoring the need for reporters to gain accurate information and a wide range of sources to corroborate aspects of Weinstein’s pay-offs and intimidation. The universal aspect of the story reaches a crescendo as one survivor, Laura Madden, who was undergoing breast cancer treatment, determined to share her story so her daughters would know to stand up to abuse rather than stay silent.
“As the reporters and editors, you’ve had a front-row seat to the story,” Twohey said. “It’s been coming into focus, and you’re outraged, and you think that the world needs to know this. But to predict the way the world is going to react, it can be really hard to know what’s going to capture the public attention and concern.”
Mulligan surmised the bravery of Twohey and Kantor simply. “What I learned by spending time with Jodi and Megan is that reporting isn’t really your job; it’s your vocation. This deep-rooted belief that their role is to unearth things, injustice, untruths and present them to the world, and I found that completely fascinating.”
She Said is scheduled for theatrical release in the United States on November 18, 2022.