Emma Thompson’s sharp, searching, and deeply personal resignation letter to Skydance Media is making the rounds in Hollywood. The letter points out how the industry’s systemic sexism continues to function, even in the era of #MeToo.
Earlier this year, the Oscar-winning actor and writer unexpectedly pulled out of Luck, an animated film produced by Skydance Media, the film company founded by David Ellison, son of Oracle founder Larry Ellison. The reason for Thompson’s exit? Skydance’s recent hiring of John Lasseter, the ex-Pixar chief who left the animation company last year after multiple allegations of sexual misconduct.
In a January memo to Skydance employees, Ellison noted that Lasseter had “given his assurance that he will comport himself in a wholly professional manner.” That point raised some questions for Thompson, who had already recorded some of her voice work for Luck when she withdrew. In a letter written to the company in late January—and published Tuesday in The Los Angeles Times—Thompson outlined her concerns about working with Lasseter, writing that Skydance hasn’t adequately tended to the concerns of its female employees.
“I can only do what feels right during these difficult times of transition and collective consciousness raising,” Thompson wrote, pressing Skydance management on several points about Lasseter’s workplace presence, including:
- “If a man has been touching women inappropriately for decades, why would a woman want to work for him if the only reason he’s not touching them inappropriately now is that it says in his contract that he must behave ‘professionally’?”
- “Much has been said about giving John Lasseter a ‘second chance.’ But he is presumably being paid millions of dollars to receive that second chance. How much money are the employees at Skydance being paid to give him that second chance?”
- “[Any] Skydance employees who don’t want to give him a second chance have to stay and be uncomfortable or lose their jobs. Shouldn’t it be John Lasseter who has to lose his job if the employees don’t want to give him a second chance?”
While acknowledging that a major shift in workplace culture “is not going to change overnight,” Thompson notes that “if people who have spoken out—like me—do not take this sort of a stand then things are very unlikely to change at anything like the pace required to protect my daughter’s generation.”
It’s rare for a high-profile actor like Thompson—who won an Academy Award for Best Actress for 1992’s Howards End—to leave a film project while it’s still in production. Skydance has yet to announce who will be filling the newly vacated role, though her decision likely won’t change company execs’ mind about Lasseter: According to Box Office Mojo, the movies he helped produce during his Pixar regime grossed nearly $4 billion worldwide.