It was recently announced that actress Emma Thompson had pulled out of Skydance’s upcoming animated film, Luck. It was believed to be connected to Skydance’s hiring of former Disney executive John Lasseter, who left Disney and Pixar amid accusations of sexual harassment. In a thoughtful letter to Skydance management, Thompson has revealed that, yes, he’s the reason she quit.
The Los Angeles Times shared a letter Thompson sent Skydance management, explaining her reason for leaving an undisclosed role in Luck, an animated comedy about the secret organisations that control good and bad luck in our everyday lives.
She said her decision to leave, which happened January 20 but wasn’t announced until last week, was in response to Skydance Media CEO David Ellison’s decision to hire Lasseter to replace Bill Damaschke as the head of Skydance Animation, a newer branch of the media company working on a series of animated projects.
“I have pulled out of the production of Luck — to be directed by the very wonderful Alessandro Carloni,” Thompson wrote. “It feels very odd to me that you and your company would consider hiring someone with Mr. Lasseter’s pattern of misconduct, given the present climate, in which people with the kind of power that you have can reasonably be expected to step up to the plate.”
Ellison’s decision to hire Lasseter came just six months after Lasseter officially retired from Disney and Pixar last year, following reports of alleged misconduct regarding female employees and other women in the industry. Lasseter admitted to “missteps” upon taking a leave of absence from Disney and Pixar in late 2017. He eventually decided to leave the companies entirely at the end of 2018.
In a statement after the hiring, Ellison tried to reassure Skydance employees that Lasseter’s “mistakes have been recognised” and that Skydance is confident that he “will comport himself in a wholly professional manner.”
Thompson’s letter included a series of questions for Skydance management. As she rightfully pointed out, saying Lasseter will (hopefully) abstain from harassing behaviour while at Skydance doesn’t automatically put employees’ minds at ease, especially women, nor does it mean they will be comfortable working with him. Thompson also delved into how the media company didn’t give animation employees a say in who would be leading them—forcing them to simply be ok with it or risk losing their jobs:
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”?
If a man has made women at his companies feel undervalued and disrespected for decades, why should the women at his new company think that any respect he shows them is anything other than an act that he’s required to perform by his coach, his therapist and his employment agreement? The message seems to be, “I am learning to feel respect for women so please be patient while I work on it. It’s not easy.”
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?
Luck was already in a bit of an unlucky spot thanks to Skydance’s actions, even before Thompson’s announcement. About a week after Lasseter’s hiring was announced, Paramount’s animation head Mireille Soria reportedly shared during a town hall that Paramount would no longer be collaborating with Skydance, as a result. Luck was set to be their first informal collaboration, and right now it’s unclear whether that will affect the film.
We’ve reached out to Skydance for comment and will update when we hear back.
As of now, Thompson is the first actor to publicly bow out of a Skydance project following Lasseter’s hiring, and it will be interesting to see if others (in front of or behind the scenes) follow suit. You can read Thompson’s whole letter in the LA Times.