Weinstein was "obsessed with whether or not we were speaking with [Gwyneth Paltrow]," New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey tell PEOPLE
Two years after publishing the article that helped bring down Harvey Weinstein, New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey have written a book that includes more details of how the women who accused the now-disgraced movie mogul of sexual harassment, including actresses Gwyneth Paltrow and Ashley Judd, decided to come forward with their stories.
In She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement, out Tuesday, the reporters explain how fearful both actresses were about coming forward publicly. And in a tear-filled moment, the Shakespeare in Love star told them she was devastated that Weinstein allegedly used his connection with her as a way to coerce other women.
“She was Harvey’s biggest star. She was the golden girl of Miramax. The whole idea of conceiving of Gwyneth Paltrow as a victim was almost strange to us,” Kantor tells PEOPLE about their initial outreach to Paltrow. “But lo and behold, we got a text that she had a story and that she was willing to speak.”
Though Paltrow was “nervous” at first, she became crucial to their investigation, Kantor and Twohey explain.
“Essentially, her story is about Harvey Weinstein not only sexually harassing her, but threatening her very early in her career,” Kantor says. “If Gwyneth Paltrow is a victim, then who else is? Not only had we not expected to hear that story, but we were also very surprised by how helpful she decided to be. She was very nervous to go on the record, but she wanted to help us recruit other actresses to speak too.”
Paltrow and Judd aren’t the only women who appear in the book. Based on three years of reporting and hundreds of interviews, She Said details the stories of numerous women who came forward about Weinstein. It also outlines how most of their voices were stifled for years by alleged intimidation by Weinstein and people working for him, as well as a legal system that encourages silence to be bought in the form of settlements. The book includes interviews with new sources like Weinstein’s brother, Bob Weinstein, and another alleged victim, Rowena Chiu, who had previously remained silent for 15 years.
While more than 80 women have accused Weinstein of sexual assault, harassment and other misconduct that goes back decades, Ashley Judd was the first actress to accuse Weinstein of sexual harassment on the record.
“I said no, a lot of ways, a lot of times, and he always came back at me with some new ask,” Judd told The Times in October 2017. “It was all this bargaining, this coercive bargaining.”
After Kantor and Twohey’s first article was published, Paltrow was willing to join other actresses on the record. In a story eerily similar to Judd’s, Paltrow told the Times about a business meeting with Weinstein that allegedly turned ugly. He touched her and asked to give her a massage, she claimed.
“I was a kid, I was signed up, I was petrified,” she told the Times in 2017. The incident allegedly happened in the mid-’90s, just after Weinstein gave her the title role in Emma, the film that would jump-start her career.
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Weinstein has denied all allegations of non-consensual sex and retaliation against women for refusing his advances. He is set to go to trial in New York City in January 2020 on charges of rape and predatory sexual assault related to the accusations of two women. (He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.)
Though both Paltrow and Judd eventually decided to speak out, the reporters explain it was a decision that was months in the making. Both actresses wanted to be joined by other voices, according to the book. They were worried about retaliation from Weinstein and backlash from the public.
According to She Said, once Weinstein learned about the investigation he was determined to find out the identities of his accusers.
Before the initial article was published, Weinstein came to the New York Times office and accused Judd and another accuser of “being mentally unstable,” the authors write. Kantor also recalls getting panicked texts from Paltrow after Weinstein arrived to an event at her house. Paltrow hid in the bathroom and texted Kantor.
“Her worry was that he was going to demand an answer about whether or not she was speaking to us,” the reporter recalls. “We learned he was really obsessed with the question of whether or not we were speaking with her.”
But speak she did. The accounts of Paltrow, Judd and dozens of other women caused Weinstein to be ousted from his company and fueled the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment.
For the epilogue of the book, entitled “The Gathering,” Kantor and Twohey organized a group interview with the actresses and other women, including Rachel Crooks, who accused Donald Trump of sexual assault (which he denied), and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who testified against Brett Kavanaugh before he was confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice. Paltrow hosted the gathering in her L.A. home.
“We wanted to end the book with these women coming together to see how, no matter what their status, what their background, that they had all been dramatically transformed in the process of taking the brave step in coming forward,” Twohey says.
During the session, Paltrow discussed a disturbing allegation, according to the book. After her story went public, Paltrow said she spoke to other women “who told her that Weinstein, while harassing or assaulting them, would routinely cite her and her soaring career, falsely implying she had yielded to him,” the authors write.
“That has by far been the hardest part of this, to feel like a tool in coercion of rape,” Paltrow told the group in tears, according to the book. “It almost makes me feel culpable in some way, even though it’s completely illogical.”
Other women in attendance also spoke out about how their lives had changed since going public. Former Miramax employee Zelda Perkins became an activist. Rowena Chiu, who was allegedly harassed by Weinstein, was scared to speak publicly, but decided to go on the record after the meeting.
Judd’s transformation was just as powerful. She’d always wanted to be an activist, and now the world recognized her as one.
“I have to know the hill on which I’m willing to die,” Judd explained to the other women, according to the book. “The equality of the sexes is that hill for me.”
She Said is on sale now.