On Feb. 23 — mere days before it was the big winner on Oscar night, taking home eight awards, including Best Picture for The Artist — The Weinstein Company suffered a major setback when it lost an appeal to have the MPAA rating of the documentary Bully changed from R to PG-13. Directed by Lee Hirsch, the film (out March 30) focuses on the troubling rise of adolescent bullying in the United States. And the R rating — given for ”some language” — makes it difficult for the movie to reach its intended audience of middle and high school students.
While acknowledging that ”bullying is a serious issue,” the MPAA said in a statement that it has a responsibility to ”parents throughout the country who want to be informed about content in movies.” Following the decision, TWC co-chairman Harvey Weinstein said that his company may take a leave of absence from the MPAA. When EW caught up with the überproducer at the Oscars Feb. 26, he said, ”It’s really an injustice to a bunch of kids who’ve suffered too much at the hands of a society that allows it. I think [the MPAA] has made a giant mistake. And we all know me, I’ll just lay down and accept it,” he deadpanned. ”Not.” (See page 28 for our complete Oscar coverage.)
Of course, other filmmakers are Team Weinstein. ”They should make an exception,” says documentarian Michael Moore, who’s clashed with the MPAA on all his films. ”Anything that might help end the problem of bullying can’t be seen as a negative. And I’m sure kids have heard all the profanity [before].” As for Weinstein’s threat to leave the MPAA — would it be career suicide? ”Nothing could ruin that career, not even Harvey,” says Moore. ”Well, maybe Harvey.”
(Additional reporting by Carrie Bell and Laura Hertzfeld)