Portman calls for action at Hollywood women’s luncheon

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) — Natalie Portman took a flamethrower to the patriarchy. George Clooney admonished what he called the Trump administration’s culture of fear. Emma Gonzalez implored people to vote. And host Jenifer Lewis spared no one, from Melania Trump and Kanye West to Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh.

Nothing was off the table at Variety magazine’s Power of Women luncheon held in Beverly Hills on Friday, almost exactly a year since The New York Times and The New Yorker published accounts from dozens of women alleging sexual misconduct by the once-powerful movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.

Weinstein, who has denied any wrongdoing, was quickly ostracized by the entertainment industry, which helped gain momentum for the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements.

In a commanding 15-minute speech, Portman addressed the underrepresentation of women in all industries and laid out guidelines to incite change, such as donating to Time’s Up, opting against depicting violence against women in films and hiring women for positions they’re not typically considered for. She was being recognized for her humanitarian efforts in co-founding Time’s Up, a legal defense fund that was created following the rise of the #MeToo movement to address and combat inequality in the workplace.

The Oscar-winning actress was being recognized for her humanitarian efforts in co-founding Time’s Up.

“Be embarrassed if everyone in your workplace looks like you,” Portman said.

Portman said Weinstein is “still free” because “our culture protects the perpetrators of sexual violence, not its victims.” She added that the Time’s Up defense fund has served more than 3,500 people from “workers at McDonald’s to prison guards to military personnel to women in our own industry who have faced gender-based harassment, coercion and assault.”

“Recently our lawyers helped Melanie Kohler triumph against Brett Ratner and his lawyer Marty Singer...who tried to use Brett’s enormous financial advantage over her to try to bully her into silence,” Portman said. “Because of our lawyers ... he dropped his case of defamation.”

Regina King, an honoree supporting the I Have a Dream Foundation, followed Portman saying “Man, Natalie Portman 2020.”

Portman was not the only person to get a standing ovation Friday. Eighteen-year-old Emma Gonzalez, who became a nationally recognized advocate for gun control after surviving the February 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, also brought the well-heeled Hollywood crowd to their feet.

Advocating for March for Our Lives, Gonazelz, wiping away tears, said to the women in the vast ballroom at the Beverly Wilshire hotel, “You know that you are forces to be reckoned with. You can and have inspired peace and understanding and most importantly right now, you can inspire your audience to vote. Now more than ever, women need to continue to rise up.”

Gonzalez was introduced by George Clooney who announced himself as “Amal’s husband.” The audience, in turn, cheered. Clooney struck a more serious tone in discussing a time where fear is capitalized on — “fear of Muslims, fear of immigrants, fear of minorities, fear of strong women.”

“Are we really scared of all the things that actually make America great? And if the answer is yes, then we’ll have history to answer to,” Clooney said. “After all the jokes, and insults, and reality show frenzy, what will be remembered, what will stand the test of time is holding responsible these wolves in wolves’ clothing.”

Everyone who took the stage got a word in for a cause they were passionate about. Honoree Lena Waithe, there for The Trevor Project, said Time’s Up has had a huge impact on her life in the past year.

“I’ve befriended so many women I probably would have never even met or had a reason to speak to, and I can’t remember a time in this industry when women have huddled together. We’ve all gotten on the same page,” Waithe said. “I wish it didn’t take something so tragic to bring us together. I wish trauma in the workplace and sometimes at home wasn’t the thing we had in common. Luckily we have refused to be victims. Luckily we’ve refused to be silent. Luckily we’ve decided to rise up and scream at the top of our lungs and become a force of rebels who won’t be treated like second class citizens.”

The event, presented by Lifetime, with sponsors such as Audi, Morocco Oil and The Venetian Resort, also honored Tiffany Haddish, who spoke about the non-profit The Unusual Suspects Theatre Company and Participant Media CEO David Linde for helping to make female-focused films from “Roma” to “RBG.”


Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr