New details have emerged regarding actress Emma Thompson’s departure from Skydance Animation’s upcoming feature Luck over concerns about working with John Lasseter, its embattled head of animation.

The news of Thompson quitting the film was first reported in mid-February, just weeks after Skydance CEO David Ellison brought Lasseter on board despite knowledge of extensive allegations of sexual misconduct that had forced Lasseter to exit his post as chief creative officer at Walt Disney and Pixar animation studios.

This morning, Thompson delivered more clarity about her decision and her stance against the abuses of power rampant in the entertainment industry in a letter shared with the Los Angeles Times. The document is addressed to Skydance management and is effectively her letter of resignation from the project. According to her representatives, conversations about exiting began as soon as Lasseter was hired last month. Thompson officially pulled out on January 20.

Three days later she sent the letter where she reiterates her appreciation for Luck’s director Alessandro Carloni (Kung Fu Panda 3), but also makes clear she can’t be part of a film under Lasseter’s supervision knowing about his well-documented behavior and attitudes towards women. Thompson also expressed concern for the issues that Skydance had created for its employees by placing an alleged abuser into a position of power.

Thompson’s decision to step away joins a loud chorus of film and animation industry workers who’ve reacted with strident disbelief and anger to Lasseter’s return into the spotlight.

In what’s been widely viewed as an attempt by the company to divert some of the unflattering media attention it has received over its hiring of Lasseter, Skydance promoted Holly Edwards from her role as head of production to president of Skydance Animation. In this new role, Edwards will act as Lasseter’s right hand.

Here is Emma Thompson’s letter in full:

As you know, I have pulled out of the production of Luck — to be directed by the very wonderful Alessandro Carloni. It feels very odd to me that you and your company would consider hiring someone with Mr. Lasseter’s pattern of misconduct given the present climate in which people with the kind of power that you have can reasonably be expected to step up to the plate.

I realise that the situation — involving as it does many human beings — is complicated. However these are the questions I would like to ask:

  • If a man has been touching women inappropriately for decades, why would a woman want to work for him if the only reason he’s not touching them inappropriately now is that it says in his contract that he must behave “professionally”?
  • If a man has made women at his companies feel undervalued and disrespected for decades, why should the women at his new company think that any respect he shows them is anything other than an act that he’s required to perform by his coach, his therapist and his employment agreement? The message seems to be, “I am learning to feel respect for women so please be patient while I work on it. It’s not easy.”
  • Much has been said about giving John Lasseter a “second chance.” But he is presumably being paid millions of dollars to receive that second chance. How much money are the employees at Skydance being paid to GIVE him that second chance?
  • If John Lasseter started his own company, then every employee would have been given the opportunity to choose whether or not to give him a second chance. But any Skydance employees who don’t want to give him a second chance have to stay and be uncomfortable or lose their jobs. Shouldn’t it be John Lasseter who has to lose HIS job if the employees don’t want to give him a second chance?
  • Skydance has revealed that no women received settlements from Pixar or Disney as a result of being harassed by John Lasseter. But given all the abuse that’s been heaped on women who have come forward to make accusations against powerful men, do we really think that no settlements means that there was no harassment or no hostile work environment? Are we supposed to feel comforted that women who feel that their careers were derailed by working for Lasseter DIDN’T receive money?

I hope these queries make the level of my discomfort understandable. I regret having to step away because I love Alessandro so much and think he is an incredibly creative director. But I can only do what feels right during these difficult times of transition and collective consciousness raising.

I am well aware that centuries of entitlement to women’s bodies whether they like it or not is not going to change overnight. Or in a year. But I am also aware that if people who have spoken out — like me — do not take this sort of a stand then things are very unlikely to change at anything like the pace required to protect my daughter’s generation.

Yours most sincerely,
Emma Thompson

(Thompson photo: Justin Harris under CC BY 2.0 license; Lasseter photo via Shutterstock.com)

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