Swank staff sacked over Chechen gaffe
Oscar-winning actress condemned for serenading brutal dictator turns on agents who made booking
If you thought Hilary Swank packed an angry punch when she stepped into the ring during Million Dollar Baby, wait till you see how she treats employees who put her in a bad light in newspaper headlines involving Soviet block dictators
Three weeks after she upset human rights organisations by accepting a six-figure fee to attend the 35th birthday party of Chechnya's autocratic president, Ramzan Kadyrov, the Oscar-winning actress has begun handing out redundancy slips to the staff she blames for her damaged image.
The Independent on Sunday understands that Jason Weinberg, Swank's friend and manager of eight years, was unceremoniously fired last week. Amie Yavor and Josh Lieberman, two of Swank's representatives at Hollywood's most powerful talent agency, CAA, and the people who made the Chechen booking, also face being moved off her team.
Swank, a prominent Hollywood liberal, is also upset that a fourth employee, Lauren Hale, who works for CAA and travelled to Grozny, failed to prevent the 5 October PR debacle, which saw her join Jean-Claude Van Damme, violinist Vanessa Mae and the singer Seal in publicly singing Kadyrov's praises.
YouTube footage of the celebration showed her offering warm applause for the Moscow-backed warlord, who is widely accused of torturing dissidents, killing political opponents, and encouraging citizens to abuse women who dress immodestly.
At one point, Swank strode to the microphone and announced how much she had enjoyed visiting the totalitarian state. "I could feel the spirit of the people, and I could see that everyone was so happy," she said. "Happy birthday, Mr President!"
The appearance sparked a storm of criticism, and cast an awkward light on the world of "personal appearances" in which Hollywood stars quietly earn hundreds of thousands of dollars to appear at private parties and corporate events.
Swank later agreed to donate her fee to "various charitable organisations". She also issued a grovelling apology, saying: "I deeply regret attending." But every self-respecting Hollywood star blames career setbacks on their staff. Since Mr Kadyrov's dodgy profile would be evident to anyone who Googled "Chechnya" and "human rights", Swank has begun sacking employees she believes failed to vet the booking.
"Hilary values her liberal credentials and is close to Michelle Obama. She's really upset by what happened," says a source close to the affair. "It's partly her fault. But what can she do? She can hardly fire herself."
Mr Weinberg's role in the saga was particularly unfortunate. Just before the event, the talent manager – whose clients include Madonna, Demi Moore and Lindsay Lohan – wrote an email to the New York-based Human Rights Foundation saying Swank had "no current plans to attend". That was clearly untrue. But a source close to the controversy denied a deliberate effort to mislead. "Jason was never properly told about the Grozny event," the source said. "He's the fall guy in all this."
Swank, 37, who commands up to $8m a film, has decided not to terminate her relationship with CAA: her partner of five years, John Campisi, works for the company.
Swank has expressed remorse. The same is not true of Van Damme or Mae – or Seal, who used Twitter to bizarrely lambast critics: "You sit there under the umbrella of democracy and never once stop to think how it keeps you dry," he said.
- 1 Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?
- 2 Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
- 3 Satellite full of sexually experimental geckos adrift in space, Russia loses control of mission
- 4 Exclusive: Cameron’s Big Society in tatters as charity watchdog launches investigation into claims of Government funding misuse
- 5 Israel has discovered that it's no longer so easy to get away with murder in the age of social media
MH17 crash: Investigators discover more human remains and 'huge section of plane'
Susan Sarandon on David Bowie romance: 'He's worth idolising'
Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Exclusive: Cameron’s Big Society in tatters as charity watchdog launches investigation into claims of Government funding misuse
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: victims’ bodies bundled in black bags and loaded onto trains
John Barrowman praised for Commonwealth Games opening ceremony gay kiss
£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: We require a teacher of Geogr...
£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: An HR Assistant / Human Resources Ass...
£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Talent Community Coordinator is nee...
£150 - £250 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - HR - Halifax - £150 - £250...