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Vietnamese Actress Shares Story of Harvey Weinstein's Sexual Misconduct

As the Harvey Weinstein sex scandal continues to unfold, a Vietnamese actress has also spoken out about her experience as a victim of the movie mogul’s casting-couch abuse.

Almost a decade ago, in 2008, actress and model Vu Thu Phuong was announced as part of a Hollywood production, the neo-noir thriller Shanghai, starring John Cusack and Chinese actress Gong Li as the leads.

The Weinstein Company was behind the feature, and as Phuong recently revealed in a candid Facebook post, the now-infamous producer made advances towards her during the course of the movie's production.

“Tonight, I read a newspaper article about Mr. Harvey and [memories about the incident] resurfaced within me as if it was just yesterday,” she wrote in the post in Vietnamese. “I believe that I can’t be silent anymore. It’s time that I liberate myself. It’s time that I can explain about the Shanghai failure and why I shelved my ‘American dream’ as well as the contract with Weinstein’s film company.”

According to Phuong, a Viet Kieu director’s film company connected her with their Hollywood counterpart for the role. She met Weinstein after the first round of casting for the movie when they took a stroll together from Saigon’s Park Hyatt Hotel to the Nguyen Hue Bookstore.

He bought her expensive art books and even paid a visit to her clothing store, where he praised her shop and designs.

“My heart almost jumped out of my chest when I learnt that I was picked [for the movie],” she recalled.

The casting notice stipulated that Phuong would play a supporting role as a trouble-making model and that she would have lines in both English and Chinese with scenes involving martial arts.

However, Phuong’s days on set were a far cry from what Weinstein had promised. Her role in the production was downgraded, a move which he attributed to her inadequate English. She believed him, and he tried to dispel her doubts regarding the movie by inviting her to dinner with Cusack and Li.

The premiere of Shanghai turned into Phuong’s publicity nightmare: she barely appeared on screen long enough for the audience to notice.

“I tried and tried to find myself on the screen, and I cried when I saw myself in a blink [in the movie],” she wrote. “It’s too underwhelming, too disappointing. Why were my scenes omitted so much?”

Vu Thu Phuong's fleeting appearnce in Shanghai. Photo via VnExpress.

The production crew explained that her parts were cut due to China’s sensitive political stance regarding Hong Kong. They told her to prepare for upcoming premieres in New York and London, as well as new film contracts.

Weinstein also requested to meet Phuong urgently later that night to discuss new movie contracts as he had to fly to London for business meetings the next day.

“I sat there waiting [for him] alone with a heavy heart because I didn’t know what the new movie would be like,” Phuong wrote. “Everything suddenly turned dark when I saw Mr. Harvey Weinstein standing before me with only a towel around his waist, smiling.”

He asked her if she was ready to star in a few sex scenes because there would be some in the new movie.

“I can teach you, don’t worry. Many stars have also been through this,” Weinstein reassured Phuong, according to her post. “Just treat this as necessary experiences so that you’ll have a stronger foundation in the future.”

She refused and asked if she could return to her room as “it wouldn’t be a good thing if someone were to find out.”

“I was thinking at the moment that if he were to rape me or kill me, would anybody find out and stop him?” Phuong wrote. “It was an extremely horrifying feeling. My head was tensing up. It felt like my nerves would snap.”

She woke up the next day and immediately requested that Weinstein's assistant find her the next flight back home. Phuong got home and thus began another silent spell amid public criticism for her small cameo in Shanghai.

“Nonetheless, I had a home and my mom to come back to, despite the public backlash over how I overestimated the significance of my role [in the movie],” she wrote. “I decided that I didn’t want to sell myself to enter Hollywood.”

Phuong ended her personal essay on Facebook saying that she’s forgiven Weinstein because she did feel that she was respected and supported for at least a while. However, she added that after reading many allegations against him, she felt the need to speak out because: “there are many people who suffered more than [her] in the last nine years.”

“Weinstein should be punished for disrespecting and devaluing women,” she wrote. “I encourage other females who were abused to tell their story to caution others.”

Vu Thu Phuong left show business a few years ago and is now married with two children.

Earlier this month, The New York Times and The New Yorker reported dozens of sexual allegations similar to Phuong’s against Harvey Weinstein, the legendary co-founder of The Weinstein Company. His studio is behind numerous Oscar-winning classics including Pulp Fiction and Shakespeare in Love.

[Top photo via Zing]


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