Watch: She Said director Maria Schrader explains how Ashley Judd ended up playing herself
One of the most powerful moments in Maria Schrader’s She Said — the story of the New York Times’ investigation into accusations of sexual abuse by Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, in cinemas this week — is when Ashley Judd appears on screen as herself.
And, as the director has revealed, it was 'an easy decision' for the actor to make.
One of the group of women who opened up to New York Times journalists Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor about their personal experiences, Judd had rejected the producer’s sexual advances and subsequently found her acting career had ground to a halt.
In the film, she’s seen making the agonising decision not just to go public with her story, but also agreeing to be named. Yet, as Schrader told Yahoo, her decision to be in the movie was made over a simple cup of coffee.
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“While I was preparing this movie and meeting everyone on Zoom because I couldn’t leave my country because of COVID, she happened to be in Berlin and we had coffee,” recalled Schrader.
“She wanted to meet the person who was about to direct the film and it was an incredible meeting. She’s just a very impressive person and, at the end, after having that coffee, she said ‘So, we’re going to do this together, right?’ And I said ‘I’d be so honoured.’”
Out of all the survivors portrayed in the movie, Judd is the only one who plays herself, something that excited and moved Schrader.
“Here is Ashley Judd playing Ashley Judd and I told her this was her stage. She, of course, was in charge of how to play Ashley Judd.”
Schrader also described the actor’s reception at the film’s New York Film Festival world premiere last month.
“The audience gave her a standing ovation for that bravery, that bravery to allow these journalists to use her name and to really go on the record and then contribute to this film.
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"She became an activist, as we know, and she said yes. It was an easy decision for her and she felt validated and she’s proud.”
Based on the Pulitzer Prize winner of the same name by Twohey and Kantor, She Said traces their investigation into the allegations against Weinstein, one that exposed how payments and non disclosure agreements (NDAs) kept under wraps the rumours which had circulated in Hollywood for years.
Doors were slammed in their faces, phone conversations ended abruptly and it was only when a handful of women, including Judd, decided to go public that the treatment of women in Hollywood found itself in the spotlight.
The article in the New York Times that opened the floodgates appeared in October 2017 and their book was published two years later.
Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison in New York in 2020 in connection with convictions of rape in the third degree and forcibly performing oral sex.
He is now facing seven charges in a Los Angeles case: two charges of rape and five counts of sexual assault. On these counts, he faces 60 years, if convicted. Weinstein denies the charges.
The film, which is already being seen as an awards contender, stars Carey Mulligan as Twohey and Zoe Kazan as Kantor, alongside an ensemble cast that includes Patricia Clarkson, Andre Braugher, Jennifer Ehle and Samantha Morton.
The film sees Schrader directing in the English language for the first time. Her previous movie, German comedy I’m Your Man, was nominated for the Golden Bear at last year’s Berlin Film Festival.
She Said is released in cinemas on 25 November. Watch a clip below.