She said he wanted someone with more international appeal.
“Time and again, I’ve lost roles because someone with the ability to green-light a film couldn’t see black women beyond a very limited purview he or she thought ‘fit’ audience expectations,” Henson wrote in her memoir. “It was a meaty gig. I would have loved it.”
In a recent interview with The Guardian, Henson spills that the mysterious executive who gave away her role was none other than Harvey Weinstein, and when asked if she believed he made his decision because she was black, she said yes. “Basically, I don’t think he saw my box-office appeal. What I heard—I didn’t sit down with the man—is that he wanted someone who was known internationally, so they got Naomi Watts.”
When asked about Weinstein’s ongoing sexual misconduct scandal that led to dozens of women in the industry stepping forward and accusing him of various forms of assault, Henson was coy. “Well, you know, I just sit here and I sip my tea,” she said as she literally sipped tea. “I never wished anything bad on the man. I was just, like, ‘O.K., he’ll see. That’s another person who’ll have to eat crow. How would you like yours? Fried? Toasted?’”
Melfi would later go on to work with Henson on the blockbuster film Hidden Figures, so obvious Weinstein couldn’t stop her shine. Vanity Fair contacted Weinstein to get a response to the allegations, and his representative told them, “Once again, simply because someone says something does not make it true, and the continuous drumbeat of any Hollywood star who believes that he or she can gain greater reverence by invoking Weinstein’s name is just getting tiresome.”
They continued, “The fact here is that Ms. Henson is a terrific actor and that is why she starred in five films connected to Weinstein. To make this about anything other than that is shameful. When Maya Angelou could not find anyone to back her film Down in the Delta, Weinstein backed it and produced it. From actors like Idris Elba, Forest Whitaker, Denzel Washington, and Taraji Henson, and films such as Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Lee Daniels’ The Butler, and The Great Debaters, to name a few, Harvey Weinstein has a long record of finding the best talent for some of the most respected film projects.”