Aishwarya Rai's former manager talks shutting down 'pig' Harvey Weinstein: 'His threats didn't bother me at all'

Suzy Byrne
Editor, Yahoo Entertainment & Lifestyle

In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein sexual misconduct scandal, there have been a dizzying number of insiders claiming that they knew nothing about the disgraced producer’s predatory reputation with women in the film industry. Simone Sheffield isn’t one of them.

Sheffield was the talent manager for Aishwarya Rai — one of India’s best-known actresses, who held the Miss World title and was once dubbed the “the most beautiful woman in the world.” And a day after the second New York Times piece came out, with Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie also claiming that they had been sexually harassed by Weinstein, and the brutal New Yorker exposé, Sheffield posted about her experience with the “big bully pig” in the comments section of a Variety story about Cara Delevingne coming forward as an accuser. In an industry where a lot of people feared Weinstein, Sheffield clearly didn’t, as her kiss-my-you-know-what retort makes clear.

Actress Aishwarya Rai was protected from Harvey Weinstein, according to her former talent manager, Simone Sheffield. Photo ops at events — like this one at Time magazine’s 2005 Time 100 celebration in NYC — were OK, but one-on-one meetings were not. (Photo: Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images)

Here’s what she wrote, in part: “I use to manage Indian actress Aishwarya Rai. While dealing with Harvey I found it comical how hard he tried to get Aishwarya alone. But he was a pig… looked and acted like a ‘big bully pig’…. He asked me to leave the meeting numerous times and I politely declined. When we were leaving his office he cornered me and said, ‘What do I have to do to get her alone?’ I told him to ‘kiss my black ass.’ When Ash and I returned to our hotel, I sent Harvey a steel pig trough filled with DIET COKE as a thank you gift for the meeting. Yes, we did do business and yes, he eventually threatened me. Told me I’d never work in this business, blah blah blah….what I said to him I can’t print. But you can be sure, I never gave him the opportunity to even breathe on my client.”

In verifying that she was the one who posted the comment on Variety, Yahoo Lifestyle spoke with Sheffield, the president of Canyon Entertainment, who was reeling over the newer developments in the saga, including the numerous sexual assault allegations from Rose McGowan and others.

“If I had known rape was involved, that would change the whole story,” Sheffield says. “No one [I worked with] would have even met Harvey. Creeps are creeps. Creeps never fazed me. They are everywhere. But to sit with one? Rape [allegations] changed the whole thing for me.”

With so many people pleading ignorance when it came to Weinstein’s reputation, we were curious how she had his number early on. “I think most folks in town heard stories,” Sheffield tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Most folks who ever dealt with him had a story. Men were verbally abused. Women got it worse. But his money, power, excellent choice in marvelous material kept folks coming back. I can’t be the only manager in town that either accompanied their client, or at least informed their client about his reported history. … I wish someone let these women know not to go to his hotel room. Make his fat ass go down to the lobby.”

Because she was clued in, she was present during any interaction Rai had with Weinstein — and the meeting she referenced took place in his New York office, not a hotel room. “She would have been a sitting duck,” Sheffield says of Rai, who’s a movie megastar in her homeland and who appeared in 2004’s Bride & Prejudice, a Bollywood-style adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice, which was distributed by Weinstein’s Miramax. “I was on him like white on rice. Not on my watch.”

While Sheffield got the last laugh with her special delivery — the Diet Coke in a trough to not-so-subtly call out Weinstein for his “pig”-like behavior —  she says that, amazingly, Weinstein missed the implication. “I actually  got a thank-you call from his office saying he loved the Diet Coke,” she says with a laugh. “They didn’t get it.”

 

Aishwarya Rai stands next to Harvey Weinstein while being watched like a hawk by her manager, Simone Sheffield, at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival. Rai’s opting not to wear a dress designed by Weinstein’s then-girlfriend, Georgina Chapman, during the festival led to a nasty exchange of words between a “ballistic” Weinstein and Sheffield. (Photo: J. Vespa/WireImage)

As for what Sheffield says that Weinstein later threatened her over during another unpleasant exchange, well, it turns out it was a Marchesa dress.

“Aishwarya did not wear his [then future wife Georgina Chapman’s] dress in Cannes,” she recalls. “After we received the gown in our room and it was not used, I called him to let him know. He went ballistic. First begging. Then threatening. Told me he’ll destroy me. ‘I’ll get you fired. … You’ll never work in this business again.’”

Their call ended with Sheffield giving it right back. “I cussed him out and called him a name that stopped him in his tracks, and he hung up,” Sheffield says. So what did she say that actually silenced the unsilenceable Weinstein? “The two words … [that] are simply too offensive for print. Worse than any locker-room chatter. Words Harvey Weinstein will never forget, trust that. I found him funny. A character from one of his own films. His threats didn’t bother me at all. But, again, we all have a Harvey story.”

She later clarified, “When I say ‘funny,’ I don’t mean funny as entertaining, but funny as in desperate to get his way. The more he tried, the more I shook my head and laughed.”

Sheffield says that while there are a handful of photos of Rai with Weinstein, they don’t show the full picture — which was that Sheffield was always just out of the shot. “I’m never more than a foot away, and his arm never even went around her waist. He stood stiff as a board.” She added, “That went for all men who approached her — unless she had a friendship with them. In subsequent photos of them together, you’ll find Ash’s husband, Abhishek Bachchan, with her and Harvey’s poor wife — and I can guarantee that no one will cross the line with Abhishek present.”

Aishwarya Rai’s actor husband, Abhishek Bachchan, and Rai pose with Georgina Chapman and Harvey Weinstein at amfAR’s gala during the Cannes Film Festival in 2014. (Photo: Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/amfAR14/WireImage)

Sheffield — who no longer manages talent (save for her longtime client Lee Daniels, the director) and focuses now on her career as a musical coordinator (for Empire) and film producer (including Lee Daniels’ The Butler) — hopes that the blowing up of this scandal helps bring an end to such stories. “Girls, if you see something, say something. Keep records,” she says. “We have to protect one another.”

Rai’s current reps did not respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment on this story. Weinstein has apologized for “the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past,” which has “caused a lot of pain,” but denied “any allegations of nonconsensual sex.” There are now more than 40 accusers.

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