Oscar-winning director Peter Jackson on Friday accused Harvey Weinstein of orchestrating a smear campaign decades ago against actresses who have since come forward to accuse the disgraced producer of sexual harassment.
Jackson worked with Weinstein and his brother Bob early in the development of "The Lord of the Rings," saying the pair acted like "second-rate Mafia bullies."
The New Zealand director said he had no direct knowledge of sexual misconduct allegations against Weinstein but the producer pressured him not to hire Ashley Judd or Mira Sorvino.
Both actresses were among the first to publicly accuse Weinstein of sexual misconduct.
The number speaking out against the fallen mogul has swelled to more than 100, with allegations ranging from harassment to rape.
Jackson said in the late 1990s Judd and Sorvino were in the running for roles in his Tolkien blockbuster before Weinstein's Miramax Films stepped in.
"I recall Miramax telling us they were a nightmare to work with and we should avoid them at all costs. This was probably in 1998," he told Fairfax New Zealand.
"At the time, we had no reason to question what these guys were telling us -- but in hindsight, I realize that this was very likely the Miramax smear campaign in full swing.
"I now suspect we were fed false information about both of these talented women -- and as a direct result their names were removed from our casting list."
In an emotional tweet Sorvino said "just seeing this after I awoke, I burst out crying."
"There it is, confirmation that Harvey Weinstein derailed my career, something I suspected but was unsure," she said. "Thank you Peter Jackson for being honest. I'm just heartsick."
Judd also reacted to the news, tweeting simply: "I remember this well."
- 'Utmost respect' -
Miramax pulled out of "Lord of the Rings," which was taken over by New Line and released as a trilogy that went on to be a critical and commercial success, winning multiple Academy Awards.
"My experience, when Miramax controlled the 'Lord of the Rings', was of Weinstein and his brother behaving like second-rate Mafia bullies," said Jackson.
"They weren't the type of guys I wanted to work with -- so I haven't. Movie-making is much more fun when you work with nice people."
Weinstein's spokesman said in a statement the producer had "nothing but the utmost respect" for Jackson but added that he had no input into casting, which was overseen by New Line when they came on board.
Weinstein cast Judd in two subsequent films -- "Frida" (2002) and "Crossing Over" (2009) -- and Sorvino was also considered for other films, the spokesman added.
"There was no indication that Mira Sorvino had any issues until Mr. Weinstein read about the complaints in the news," the statement read.
It added that Sorvino called Weinstein "as recently as this year" asking if her husband could be part of a television series he was producing. After giving him a role Weinstein then let Christopher Backus "amicably break" his contract for another opportunity, according to the statement.
While Weinstein has denied allegations of non-consensual sex, the scandal has rocked Hollywood and led to accusations against numerous other powerful figures in the media and entertainment industries.
In the latest allegations to surface Friday, actress JuJu Chan told Variety magazine Weinstein's Asia associate Bey Logan had made unwanted sexual advances ahead of the production of The Weinstein Co.'s 2016 film "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny."
Chan told Variety that Logan, a consulting producer with TWC, "forcefully kissed" her after a party and later complained during shooting of "Sword of Destiny" that she refused to be his girlfriend.
Logan, a consulting producer with The Weinstein Company and a friend of Weinstein, denies the allegations.