Peter Jackson has spoken with Ashley Judd's legal team and could contribute a "powerful" testimony in support of her defamation and sexual harassment lawsuit against Harvey Weinstein, Judd's lawyer has said.
Judd's civil suit, filed in April, accused the disgraced Hollywood producer of discouraging Jackson in 1998 from casting her in his blockbuster franchise Lord of the Rings, as a form of retaliation for her refusing Weinstein's sexual advances.
The lawsuit cited an interview with Jackson published by the New Zealand website Stuff in December 2017, quoting him as saying he had heard from Weinstein's former production company, Miramax, that Judd was a "nightmare to work with".
Jackson said in the article that this persuaded him not to cast her, but that he later became convinced she was the victim of a "smear campaign". Judd has argued her failure to land the role undermined her career.
The director's quotes became a central topic at a hearing on Tuesday, in which Weinstein's attorney Phyllis Kupferstein asked U.S. District Judge Philip Gutierrez in Los Angeles to dismiss Judd's lawsuit. The judge has not ruled on the request.
Judd's attorney, Theodore Boutrous, said in court her legal team had spoken with Jackson and determined he was accurately quoted and that it was Weinstein himself who had made the disparaging comments about Judd.
Boutrous said after the hearing that Jackson had information that could prove critical in supporting Judd's claim.
"We believe he will be a powerful witness and I'll match him up against Harvey Weinstein any day of the week," Boutrous told reporters.
Kupferstein argued that saying someone was a "nightmare" did not necessarily reflect on the person's professional abilities. "I do not believe there are enough facts at this time for her to pursue the defamation allegation against Mr. Weinstein," Kupferstein said.
Weinstein is currently facing criminal rape and sexual misconduct charges in Manhattan over allegations made by three women. The producer will also face charges of violating sex trafficking laws filed by a British actress. He has denied ever having non-consensual sex during his time working as a movie producer.
Judd was one of the first women in October 2017 to publicly accuse Weinstein of sexual misconduct. Boutrous told reporters the lawsuit could go to trial within a year. Neither Judd nor Weinstein attended the court hearing.
Jackson has declined to comment. A representative for Weinstein has been contacted for comment.
Additional reporting by Reuters
Follow Independent Culture on Facebook for all the latest on Film, TV, Music, and more
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies