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Emma Thompson's Letter To Skydance: Why She Couldn’t Work With John Lasseter

Emma Thompson releases the letter she wrote to Skydance on why she exited the animated film Luck over her concerns about working with John Lasseter. Luck was announced by Skydance Animation in 2017, with Kung Fu Panda 3 co-director Alessandro Carloni on board to helm the production. Little is known about the project, as an official cast list has not been revealed, but Luck would reportedly tell the story of two organizations - those being good luck and bad luck - that battle to secretly affect the daily lives of humans. However, at least one original cast member was made public when it was reported Emma Thompson exited Luck over concerns about working with John Lasseter, the new head of Skydance Animation.

The former chief creative officer of Pixar, Lasseter left Pixar and parent company Disney at the end of 2018 following a leave of absence that began in late 2017. The leave began after the publication of a story that pulled back the curtain on his sexual misconduct and the frat house-like work environment he fostered. The executive was accused of inappropriate behavior that included "kissing, grabbing, making comments about physical attributes." Lasseter took a leave of absence when the story was published, acknowledging unspecified "missteps" on his part, and later left the company entirely. He was hired by Skydance earlier this year, with Thompson departing Luck shortly after.

Related: Was Time’s Up A Success At The 2018 Golden Globes?

The L.A. Times reports Thompson started the process of leaving Luck as soon as Lasseter's hiring was announced, and officially pulled out of the project on Jan. 20. Three days later, Thompson sent a letter to Skydance management detailing her concerns about Lasseter's hiring and raising questions about what it truly means for the company's employees. In the days following Lasseter's hiring, Skydance Media Chief Executive David Ellison sent an email to staff revealing Lasseter's contract prohibited inappropriate, unprofessional behavior and convened town hall meetings within the company to address concerns. The Times published Thompson's letter in full, which can be read below.

Emma Thompson in Saving Mr Banks

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

As Thompson intimates in her letter, she has been a big proponent in the Time's Up Movement that was launched in the wake of the allegations of sexual misconduct against Harvey Weinstein and the trending #MeToo. Thompson was apart of TIME'S UP Now from the start, but has been a vocal advocate for equality in Hollywood for many years. As such, it comes as little surprise that Thompson would exit Luck due to concerns over Lasseter's hiring, and her letter clearly lays out why she felt she needed to depart the project in good conscience.

Of course, it's unclear how much actual change has been made in Hollywood since that first Weinstein story broke. As Thompson points out, change can be slow and it can take certain hard decisions - like exiting a project that affects many people in addition to Lasseter - to enact the kind of real change Time's Up is calling for. However, with advocates like Thompson paving the way for change and using the power they wield to enact that change, Hollywood could potentially become a more equal, safe space for everyone.

Next: Universal Becomes FIRST Studio To Accept Challenge To Hire More Female Directors

Source: The L.A. Times

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