Jessica Chastain Says Awards Season Has Been Better Without Harvey Weinstein

For those who remain intensely cynical about awards season in the movie industry, I get it. For far too many years, one lone gatekeeper wielded almost total power over the kinds of films that were allowed to enter the conversation in the first place — Harvey Weinstein, the monstrous super-producer who finally lost control of the mini-empire he'd built once he was arrested on charges of rape and sexual abuse four years ago. Until then, however, he continued to extend influence over Hollywood at large through The Weinstein Company, singlehandedly dictating which movies were given the marketing muscle and budget to sway Academy voters (unsurprisingly, usually those produced through his own studio). Weinstein's pettiness infamously manifested as personal grudges against various talent who found themselves on his bad side, either by maliciously cutting films to pieces in the editing bay, messing with their theatrical window and ensuring that nobody would ever actually get to watch it, or, most tragically, taking full advantage of power imbalances and repeatedly bullying or assaulting women.

Thankfully, those days are now behind us (although, obviously, the industry still suffers from overall systemic abuse). One person who came into the business at a time when Weinstein was still at the height of his powers and has personally witnessed his long overdue professional demise is actor Jessica Chastain, who was recently nominated for Best Actress for her turn in "The Eyes of Tammy Faye" for the first time since her performance in 2013's "Zero Dark Thirty." You may remember that director Kathryn Bigelow boldly turned down the interfering producer from getting his hands on "Zero Dark Thirty," leading to yet another enormously pathetic act of sabotage on his part. Chastain vividly remembers such incidents over the years and, for her part, expresses gratitude towards the much more civil awards discourse that has sprouted up since his downfall. Don't we all!

"We have now moved to a much happier place."

Harvey Weinstein may no longer exert the debilitating power over Hollywood that he used to, but that doesn't mean the scars left in his wake are no longer visible. Now that Weinstein's fully transformed into persona non grata in the public eye, figures like Jessica Chastain are free to celebrate the much healthier and, in her words, "much happier" environment. In an appearance on Variety's Awards Circuit Podcast, the actor opened up about how far the industry has come in the years since. As she puts it without even calling him out by name:

"Listen, he-who-shall-not-be-named really changed awards season. I don't see it nowadays like I saw it when I first came onto the scene. If a film had a lot of attention, there'd be all these negative articles about it, all of a sudden. I believe he-who-shall-not-be-named is the instigator of that kind of campaigning. Thank goodness our industry is moving to a more healthy environment, and we're now more celebratory of everyone. We're not trying to knock someone down because they're competition. We have now moved to a much happier place."

Having first arrived on the scene with 2008's "Jolene" (a film that, ironically enough, centers on a young woman hounded and taken advantage of by powerful men in her life), Chastain has been able to witness several awards season cycles with Weinstein pulling the strings versus the recent years without his presence whatsoever. Younger movie fans may be shocked to hear some of the more unbelievable stories from decades past, but the toxic culture really did allow someone like Weinstein (and those who enabled him) to get away with it for as long as he did. As testy and divisive as this year's Academy Awards may be (and it's not like there isn't reason for that, either!), at least we can all agree that a Weinstein-less awards season is a better awards season.

The Academy Awards will air on ABC on March 27, 2022.