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Weinstein: from Hollywood 'God' to potential perp walk

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New York (AFP)

For decades he was the Hollywood kingmaker capable of building or breaking careers. Meryl Streep famously called him "God" but now Harvey Weinstein, his name mud and his career over, faces arrest for sexual assault.

The Oscar-winning movie mogul saw his career go down in flames last October following bombshell articles in The New York Times and New Yorker magazine that accused him of decades of sexual harassment, assault and rape.

More than 100 women have since accused the 66-year-old of impropriety going back 40 years, sparking a sexual harassment watershed that ended the careers of a litany of powerful men, and spawned the #MeToo and Time's Up movements.

He was expelled by the Oscar-awarding Academy's board of governors and sacked by his own studio, The Weinstein Company, which has since filed for bankruptcy.

His British fashion designer wife left him, his homes are being sold and police opened criminal investigations in London, Los Angeles and New York.

The one-time Democratic Party donor who hobnobbed with the likes of Hillary Clinton and with a personal wealth once estimated at around $150 million has been hit by an avalanche of civil lawsuits.

He is now reportedly expected to surrender to New York authorities on Friday to face charges stemming from at least one woman's accusations -- that he forced aspiring actress Lucia Evans into oral sex in 2004.

Through it all, Weinstein denies any non-consensual sex and has reportedly been in treatment for sex addiction, in an ultra-expensive Arizona clinic.

- 'Never' suspicious -

"I came of age in the '60s and '70s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different," he said in a bizarre statement back in October that variously apologized, yet appeared in part to justify his behavior.

"That was the culture then," said Weinstein. But within days, he went underground, surfacing occasionally in paparazzi photographs looking glum, his name toxic and his reputation destroyed.

It was a dramatic fall for the one-time Hollywood legend who had earned his status over decades of producing box-office and critically claimed hits alike.

Since the scandal's outbreak, more than two dozen actresses including Mira Sorvino, Rosanna Arquette, Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie have come forward saying they were sexually harassed by the producer.

His alleged victims report a range of misconduct, including enforced massages, watching him naked and promises to advance their careers in exchange for sexual favors.

"There was a part of me that was terribly naive -- clearly, so naive," Georgina Chapman, his estranged wife and the mother of two of his five children, told Vogue magazine recently as she seeks to rehabilitate her own career.

"I had what I thought was a very happy marriage. I loved my life," she said. Asked if she had ever been suspicious, she replied: "Absolutely not. Never," grieving for her young children.

"What are their lives going to be?" she cried.

Born in Queens, New York on March 19, 1952 the son of a diamond cutter, he studied at Buffalo University and initially produced rock concerts until he and his younger brother, Bob, struck out into the movie business.

They co-founded Miramax Films, a small distribution company named after his mother Miriam and father Max, in 1979.

- 'The punisher' -

Miramax hits include 1998's "Shakespeare in Love," for which Weinstein shared a best picture Oscar. But the company was sold to Disney in 1993 and the brothers left in 2005 to start up their own studio, The Weinstein Company.

In February, New York's attorney general, who has since resigned in his own cloud of abuse allegations, sued the brothers and studio for failing to protect employees from alleged sexual misconduct despite multiple complaints.

Over the years, Weinstein's films received more than 300 Oscar nominations and 81 statuettes. The films he steered to Academy Awards glory include "The Artist," "The King's Speech," and "The Iron Lady" -- which won best actress for Streep as former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

Over his three-decade career he has produced more than 300 projects, including the Cannes-winning "Pulp Fiction" (1994), "Pret a Porter" in 1994, "The English Patient" (1996), and "Gangs of New York" in 2002.

Through it all the burly executive was famous for his ability to orchestrate Oscars campaigns and reputedly worked cast and crew hard.

Streep -- who is famously protective of her family life -- was apparently made to earn every penny of her fee on the promotion circuit for "The Iron Lady."

"I just want to thank my agent and God -- Harvey Weinstein," she retorted at the 2012 Golden Globes. "The punisher. Old Testament, I guess," she added.

The triple Oscar winner has since said she was "appalled" by the "disgraceful" news and had no idea about the allegations.

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