LOS ANGELES — Accepting the Golden Globe best actress award in 2012 for "The Iron Lady," Meryl Streep took a moment to thank the almighty — "God, Harvey Weinstein."
For decades, Weinstein has held a lofty position in Hollywood as one of the industry's most powerful figures — an old-school, larger-than-life movie mogul who was never shy about throwing his weight around. "The Punisher. Old Testament, I guess," Streep added that night to laughter and applause.
But Weinstein's name — such a regular refrain on countless Oscar nights — on Thursday rang out in a different way. In a bombshell expose, The New York Times reported that Weinstein had reached at least eight legal settlements with women over alleged harassment. With allegations levied by actresses including Ashley Judd and former employees at both the Weinstein Co. and Weinstein's former company, Miramax, the report detailed decades of abuse.
The 65-year-old Weinstein, in a lengthy written statement, said he would take a leave of absence from his company. But many in Hollywood are wondering if Weinstein's leave might be permanent. Is this, like the accusations that felled Bill Cosby and Roger Ailes, the end for the sharp-elbowed independent film pioneer whose editing-room meddling earned him the nickname "Harvey Scissorhands" and whose unprecedented run of Oscar glory made him a Hollywood deity?
"Harvey Weinstein's career in Hollywood is likely over," declared industry trade Variety.
Others were less sure if this was indeed the downfall of Weinstein, who has weathered downturns and bankruptcy before. Weinstein was contrite in his statement, acknowledging "the way I've behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain." He added: "I want a second chance in the community but I know I've got work to do to earn it."
Representatives for The Weinstein Co. didn't respond to questions about the mogul's status on Thursday. The company's Board of Directors was to meet to discuss Weinstein's future. If Weinstein were to be ousted or step down, leadership could potentially be transferred to Weinstein's brother Bob, who serves as co-chairman, and David Glasser, the president and chief operating officer.
"I don't know if he's done because Harvey is the kind of person who has the ability to rise again, which he has done so many times from a business perspective," said Sharon Waxman, CEO and founder of trade website The Wrap, and author of "Rebels on the Backlot."
"If he can make amends, if he can apologize then I think a lot of things are possible," said Waxman. "Hollywood is not public office, you are not required to have a morality clause necessarily. It's business. And ultimately he has to run his business which has also survived near death experiences many, many times, and has also been sold for $600 million. I would say it's up to him as to whether he survives in Hollywood."
Weinstein's attorneys signaled a fight is still to come. Weinstein's attorney Charles J. Harder, who recently waged a successful suit for Hulk Hogan against Gawker, said in a statement that the Times story is "saturated with false and defamatory statements about Harvey Weinstein." In an interview with the New York Post, Weinstein alleged the Times has "a vendetta" against him, and said "the next time I see (New York Times Executive Editor) Dean Baquet it will be across a courtroom."
A spokesperson for The New York Times responded: "We are confident in the accuracy of our reporting."