She Said – Exposing A Serial Sexual Predator

Earning a Pulitzer Prize for public service that resulted in New York Times investigative reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey’s best-selling book, She Said details the journey of reporters and editors engaged in the unrelenting pursuit of the truth when Kantor and Twohey broke a page-one story that shook the entertainment industry and reverberated throughout the country: “Harvey Weinstein Paid Off Sexual Harassment Accusers for Decades.”

Months after Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey’s investigation broke in the New York Times, in April 2018, producers Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner from Plan B Entertainment and executive producers Megan Ellison and Sue Naegle from Annapurna Pictures secured the film rights to the story.

“Jodi and Megan’s investigation was such a watershed moment, not just for the film industry but for the entire culture, that it felt like a story that demanded to be told on film,” says Dede Gardner. “It felt like a once-in-a-generation moment of reckoning on an issue that has affected, and continues to affect, the lives of millions of women and men, and we were honored that Jodi and Megan trusted us to tell this story on screen.”

 It was also a story with resonance beyond just the facts of the investigation. “So many of the women in this story, including Jodi and Megan, are mothers,” Gardner says. “Jodi and Megan’s primary job, of course, was to tell the truth and to get it right, but underneath that ethical, journalistic drive is a deeper emotional element. For both them and the survivors and witnesses who spoke with them, the hope was to seek justice. While we are still a far cry from insuring against this type of behavior in the future, it felt essential to try and include Jodi and Megan’s journalism in the canon we are all trying to leave for our children.”

For the journalists, placing their trust in the filmmakers represented a leap of faith. Both Twohey and Kantor were encouraged by the fact that Plan B had a proven history adapting stories based on real people and events, including 12 Years a Slave, Selma and The Big Short.  Still, they sought assurances that the story of the investigation would be told truthfully and respectfully.

“From the first moment we spoke to Dede and Jeremy, we were just blown away,” Twohey says. “We were impressed not only with their track record in making high-quality, meaningful films, but also with their commitment to wanting to tell this story as accurately and with as much integrity as possible. As journalists, those things were hugely important to us.” Adds Kantor: “We really believe that the story belongs to people all over the world, especially women all over the world.”

Gardner and Kleiner, from their conversations with Twohey and Kantor, had a bold and somewhat counter-intuitive idea for the ending of the film—that it should end with a sudden and dramatic climax, rather than with a denouement. “Everyone knows what happened after Jodi and Megan’s first story ran,” Gardner says. “What everyone doesn’t know, and what this film is about, is what it took, from everyone involved, for that first story to run. The ending was a gamble, but we stayed true to that vision from the beginning. The ending, we think, speaks to the power of the moment.”

Pulitzer Prize-winning reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey and actors Zoe Kazan and Carey Mulligan who star as Twohey and Kantor in She Said.

With the film rights secured, the producers began their search for a screenwriter to adapt the story for the screen

“Above all, we wanted this story to be told with integrity and honesty,” Jeremy Kleiner says. “Dede and I knew that we wanted to keep the focus of the story on the investigation and the survivors and witnesses, and we wanted a screenwriter who could somehow marry a fiercely emotional and thematic point of view, with a deeply technical and forensic prowess.”

The search led them to lauded British playwright and screenwriter Rebecca Lenkiewicz, whose work in the theater and on films such as Ida and Disobedience felt like the right match. “Rebecca is able to take situations in which deep themes are at play and make them extremely personal and visceral,” Kleiner says. “We wanted to be inside of this investigation and the feelings of the investigation. We believed that Rebecca could do that, and do it with some unexpected structural touches, which is a feature of her work.”

Rebecca Lenkiewicz

Lenkiewicz was honored to write it. “This was seismic story,” Lenkiewicz says. “I felt the importance of the investigation and its outcome on both a deeply personal and on a global scale. I admired the courage and resilience of the survivors keenly and the strength and determination of the journalists. I felt this story could be both empowering and inspiring despite its dark subject.”   

Kantor and Twohey were working on their book when Lenkiewicz first met with them in preparation for the screenplay.

“I started writing the script on the basis of our conversations and very soon they sent me chapters and drafts of the book,” Lenkiewicz says. “I started to weave the book’s detail and their perspective into the screenplay. I included some verbatim dialogue. The bravery and resilience of the survivors was key to the script as was the journalists’ absolute respect for them and their determination to get this story out. It had been silenced for decades. Aside from the book, I added snippets of the journalists’ personal lives…to see how people are in their own homes versus how they present at work or in ‘public.’”

Over the next three years, Gardner and Kleiner worked with Lenkiewicz, Kantor and Twohey to establish the framework, the intention and the guidelines for how this story would be told. Harvey Weinstein himself would not be shown on screen. No assaults against women would be depicted in the film and the description of any assaults would come from the survivors’ own voices and/or language.

“Working with Rebecca and Jodi and Megan, the screenplay went through multiple drafts, and we were constantly honing for accuracy and depth,” Gardner says. The producers also established contacts and relationships with survivors and witnesses themselves. “It was vitally important to us to make sure that the real people in this story were a part of the process,” Gardner says. “It could and would only ever make the story more accurate, authentic and richer on every level.”

The film chronicles not only Kantor and Twohey’s painstaking research and reporting, but information about their private lives, including Twohey’s battle with postpartum depression after the birth of her daughter. For these two veteran journalists, to suddenly be the subjects of a story was a little disorienting at first.

“We have such an unusual relationship to this production,” Kantor says. “For this to be made into a movie, we had to relinquish some control of the material. That’s not necessarily so easy when the material is so delicate. We are depicted on screen, and the film is adapted from a book that we wrote, so we have this dual presence in the project, yet it is not a film that we made. This is not produced by The New York Times. We’re both used to having control of every comma and semicolon in every article we write. Watching another writer take on that voice was very new for us.”        

After Lenkiewicz completed her initial draft, she, Gardner and Kleiner met with Twohey and Kantor inside a New York Times conference room to go through the screenplay in detail. The meeting took place on the eve of the pandemic, in February 2020, just before Harvey Weinstein was convicted by a New York grand jury. As it turned out, She Said would be the first feature film of this scale ever to be shot on location inside the New York Times newsroom. “One of the rare silver linings of the pandemic was that the Times delayed their return to work,” Gardner says. “We saw an opening to possibly shoot in the actual building and we made it a top priority to make that happen.”

The reporters wanted the film to honestly portray the inner workings of the Times and the important roles played by editors including Rebecca Corbett, who shepherded the Weinstein reporting, and Dean Baquet, who also offered invaluable support and guidance to the journalists.

“There just aren’t a lot of accurate representations of what it’s like to work at The New York Times in popular culture,” Kantor says. “Also, we’re working in a time when journalists are harassed, criticized, attacked, not trusted, branded with labels like ‘fake news.’ The New York Times is not perfect. The journalists here are not perfect. But we do believe in the sincerity and professionalism of the place and the sacred pursuit of truth, and we wanted any film to represent our workplace as we see it and our colleagues as we see them.” Adds Twohey: “It wasn’t just a matter of wanting to make sure that the journalists from the New York Times were depicted with accuracy and integrity, but that our sources were as well, these women, these survivors and other people who were brave enough to participate in the investigation.”

By the beginning of 2021, Lenkiewicz’s screenplay was largely complete, and the search began for a director. One clear candidate stood out from the crowd: Maria Schrader. Both an actor and a filmmaker, Schrader was drawn to the expansiveness and specificity of Lenkiewicz’s script and the depth of the story’s emotional layers.

Maria Schrader

“I was blown away by the script—its complexity, intelligence, its bold choices in terms of truthfully sticking to the detailed process of investigative journalism, and by the sheer number of characters who appear and contribute to the story,” Schrader says. “Rebecca’s script made clear that this film wasn’t primarily about Weinstein but about the journalists and all the women who stood up to tell their stories. This was about something larger than Hollywood.”

Filmmaker Maria Schrader faced a series of unique challenges in bringing She Said to the screen. To begin, she needed to faithfully represent the lived experiences of the two journalists, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, at the center of the narrative and the complexities of their investigation. “This is a story about how important investigative journalism can be,” Schrader says. “Depicting what it takes—the level of dedication, the research, the perseverance—as well as the impact it can have, was an important end in itself. I wanted to bring an audience into the experience of the reporters investigating this complex story, with all the twists and turns, successes and setbacks—as well as the personal stakes—that Jodi and Megan went through.”

That meant finding a way to dramatize the actual newsgathering—a labor-intensive process involving making phone calls, sending emails, securing and reviewing documents, sitting through intensive meetings with editors—in a way that felt both truthful and entertaining. To do that, she and the film’s producers referred back to certain conventions established by outstanding investigative thrillers that had come before, principally 1976’s Best Picture nominee All the President’s Men and 2015’s Best Picture winner, Spotlight.

(from left) Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan), Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan), Dean Baquet (Andre Braugher), and Rebecca Corbett (Patricia Clarkson) in SHE SAID, directed by Maria Schrader.

“Our film certainly serves the genre aspects—the stakes, the paranoia, the endless brick walls,” Schrader says. “It’s a very dramatic story, with strong characters up against steep odds and a powerful antagonist, crisscrossing the globe and jumping back and forth in time. This material was so rich to begin with, the task was teasing out its particulars, not heightening or overdramatizing what was already there.”

As important as it was for the filmmakers to represent the veracity of the story, She Said is not a documentary. Through narrative storytelling, the filmmakers hoped to capture a deeper emotional truth—illuminating, as Schrader says, “the blank spaces between the words—the emotion, the personal stakes, the doubt, the immediate experience, the things left unsaid, the images, faces, body language, behavior.”

Notably, the film does not depict assault on screen and any assault that is described is told using the survivor’s own language. “I am not interested in adding another rape scene to the world,” Schrader says. “We’ve had enough of them.” And Harvey Weinstein himself plays an exceedingly limited role. The film includes only an audio recording featuring his voice, and for the limited scenes in which he appears in the film, he’s shown only from behind. The audience never sees the face of the actor playing him. “Our source material here was the book and the lives of the reporters,” Schrader says. “Their perspectives and experiences and the testimony of those they spoke to were our guides. Weinstein is hardly on screen, but his presence is certainly felt, and his actions are driving much of the film. I imagine that this is how it was for Jodi and Megan as they were reporting. They didn’t have much contact with Weinstein, either.”       

As Schrader and the filmmakers assembled the department heads for the production, they looked for the strongest candidates available, pulling together a majority-female creative team. “Our main goal was to find the best people to make this film,” Schrader says.

“This story is about women standing up, speaking out, and claiming their power, and it felt right to have women lead the effort in bringing it to the screen. That being said, I am eager for the day to come when a female-led team will be unremarkable.”

A testament to the incalculable importance of investigative journalism

She Said highlights the courage of survivors and witnesses who chose to come forward to stop an accused serial predator from committing further harm.

Directed by Emmy winner Maria Schrader (I’m Your Man, Unorthodox limited series) from a screenplay by Rebecca Lenkiewicz (screenwriter of the Oscar-winning film Ida ,She Said is based on the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey.

At its heart, it tells an inspiring true story about people, many of them women, many of them mothers, who summoned the courage to speak out and seek justice, not just for themselves but for those in the future, both in the U.S. and around the globe. The film is a compelling, moving reminder of the power of individual people, armed with determination and grit, to, together, change the world.

An Investigation Ignites a Movement

Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein had long reigned as one of the movie industry’s most powerful figures. The winner of six best picture Oscars® and the producer of such films as Sex, Lies and Videotape, Pulp Fiction and Good Will Hunting, Weinstein was a man whose tremendous clout could easily make or break careers, and for years, Kantor and Twohey reported, he allegedly used that clout to harass and coerce women into sexual encounters.

On Oct. 8, 2017, just three days after the initial New York Times story by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey had run, the Weinstein Co. announced that Harvey Weinstein had been fired effective immediately. On May 31, 2018, a New York grand jury indicted Weinstein on charges of rape and a criminal sexual act. On Feb. 24, 2020, he was found guilty of a criminal sexual act in the first degree and third-degree rape; on March 11, 2020, the then-67-year-old was sentenced to 23 years in prison.

In 3,321 carefully researched words, the journalists detailed previously undisclosed allegations of wrongdoing stretching back three decades. Their reporting was thoroughly documented through interviews with Weinstein’s current and former employees and film industry workers, as well as legal records, emails and internal documents from the businesses that the larger-than-life executive had run, Miramax and the Weinstein Company, both long-dominant brands in Hollywood. Their findings were unimpeachable. Through dogged perseverance and the cooperation of many courageous survivors and other brave sources, they had at last revealed the truth.

Whispers of wrongdoing had circulated around Weinstein for years, but journalists who had attempted to ferret out the truth behind those rumors had been met with reluctance from sources and harsh intimidation tactics from Weinstein. Survivors were often too afraid to come forward or were prevented from doing so by settlements and non-disclosure agreements. Even if they had come forward, there was little historical evidence that it would matter. Throughout much of American (and global) history, women who came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against powerful men were often labeled delusional, jilted, greedy or liars. The men stayed in power. The women were ignored or disgraced. So, despite attempts by established journalists throughout Weinstein’s Hollywood reign, the sanctum of silence around him—and men like him—remained intact. No one had been able to get to the heart of the story.

Twohey and Kantor’s unique combination of wealth of knowledge and experience—and their fierce commitment to bringing misdeeds to light—uniquely positioned them as a team to undertake the months-long investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct levied against Weinstein.

Throughout their careers, Twohey and Kantor had dedicated themselves to holding the powerful to account, and in particular, protecting women and children. In 2016, Twohey’s reporting gave voice to the women who accused Donald J. Trump of groping and other sexual misconduct. She uncovered a dangerous underground network, where parents gave away unwanted adopted children. She had exposed sex-abusing doctors and the systems that allowed them to practice. She was also one of the first journalists to reveal how police and prosecutors were shelving DNA evidence collected after sex crimes, robbing victims of their chance for justice. Her stories have sent predators to prison and ushered in new legal protections for victims. 

          Kantor’s reporting on working mothers and breastfeeding inspired two readers to create free-standing lactation suites for nursing mothers, now available in airports and other locations across the country. Her article about the havoc caused by automated scheduling systems in Starbucks workers’ lives helped spark a national fair-scheduling movement. Her stories on Amazon have had repeated impact: After she and David Streitfeld revealed punishing practices at corporate headquarters in 2015, the company introduced paternity leave. By investigating a Staten Island warehouse in 2021, Kantor, Karen Weise and Grace Ashford found serious problems with the company’s employment systems, including 150 percent yearly turnover and a history of pay mistakes and erroneous terminations, including for workers on parental leave. Employees at the warehouse drew on the information in the course of winning a historic unionization vote.

          Together, Kantor and Twohey’s Weinstein investigation, edited by Rebecca Corbett, led a wave of reporting, including Ronan Farrow’s own investigation published in The New Yorker that same month, about allegations against Weinstein. In the weeks and months that followed, even more women would come forward to share their stories about harrowing encounters with Weinstein and with other men in positions of power. The #MeToo movement, founded by activist Tarana Burke in 2006, became linked with these stories and quickly became a national, and then global, rallying cry, amplifying the voices of the tens of thousands of survivors of harassment and abuse worldwide. It was as if a dam had suddenly broken. After decades in which many credible allegations of mistreatment, and even rape, had fallen on deaf ears, more people had finally begun to listen to, and to believe, women.

Kantor and Twohey’s reporting would go on to earn a Pulitzer Prize for public service and would lead to their 2019 best-selling book about their investigation, She Said.

A testament to the incalculable importance of investigative journalism, She Said details the journey of reporters and editors engaged in the unrelenting pursuit of the truth and highlights the courage of survivors and witnesses who chose to come forward to stop an accused serial predator from committing further harm.

Directed by Emmy winner Maria Schrader (I’m Your Man, Unorthodox limited series) from a screenplay by Rebecca Lenkiewicz (screenwriter of the Oscar-winning film Ida ,She Said is based on the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey.

At its heart, it tells an inspiring true story about people, many of them women, many of them mothers, who summoned the courage to speak out and seek justice, not just for themselves but for those in the future, both in the U.S. and around the globe. The film is a compelling, moving reminder of the power of individual people, armed with determination and grit, to, together, change the world.

For the stars of She Said, the opportunity to be a part of the film mattered beyond their work as actors and storytellers. “The thing that’s most meaningful to me is watching these two women, Jodi and Megan, work so diligently, with such iron-clad standards, to craft a story that is airtight—a story that no one can question—to support these women whom they had asked to come forward,” says Zoe Kazan, who plays Jodi Kantor. “Getting to see that happen, to see how that gets built, bit by bit and with great leaps of faith, to see the bravery of the survivors who are coming forward and what that costs them to come forward and what that gives them to come forward, that was all tremendously meaningful to me. It extends far past Hollywood.”  

Carey Mulligan, who plays Megan Twohey, was moved by the collective courage it required to make this story a reality.  “It’s inspiring to see women being so heroic and putting themselves on the line,” Mulligan says. “This film is full of examples of those heroic moments, which makes it a story worth telling.”