Director Brad Bird has said that ex-Pixar boss John Lasseter should not be lumped in with the likes of Harvey Weinstein, after he was accused of multiple cases of sexually inappropriate behaviour.
Lasseter, director of movies like Toy Story and Cars, as well as being an executive producer on a host of other Pixar movies, took an extended leave of absence last year following the accusations.
But he hit headlines once again last week after it was announced he had landed a new job as the head of Skydance Animation.
Many industry commentators criticised the move, saying that it disregarded long-standing concerns from women he had worked with in the wake of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements which are working for change in the movie business.
But Brad Bird, who has worked with Lasseter extensively over the years, and has made movies like The Incredibles, The Incredibles 2 and Ratatouille for Pixar, has said that there are ‘shades of grey’ in Lasseter’s case.
In an interview with The Daily Beast, he said: “These times are not good for nuance. You’re either 100 percent for something or you’re 100 against something.
“I don’t at all put John in a category with Weinstein. You’re navigating a world where men have acted a certain way for thousands of years. Way too late, but all of a sudden, they’re expected to change that on a dime and it’s necessary and it’s right.
“But it’s a little bit a grey area. It’s not as hard of a cut as people want to make it. I’m an old friend of John’s and I don’t see him in black and white.
“I see him as a person like anyone else. He was a person who was very protective of us at a time when we needed it. So my feelings are a little bit more complicated.”
He went on to explain that Lasseter persuaded Pixar to let him make The Incredibles, even though he’d suffered a box office bomb with his previous movie, The Iron Giant.
“John kind of flung his body between us and the executives and said ‘I think these guys are onto something and let’s give them a little more time to develop it’,” Bird added.
“By the time we finished our story reels, that guy was gone and the reels spoke for themselves. He stuck his neck out in a way that few in Hollywood are willing to.”
Skydance held was was described as a ‘heavy’ town hall meeting with staff last week, during which Lasseter was grilled over his past conduct.
Before announcing his extended leave from Pixar, he admitted to ‘missteps’ in his behaviour, which was said to involved unwanted advances and heavy drinking at company events.
He said in a memo to Pixar staff: “I especially want to apologise to anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of an unwanted hug or any other gesture they felt crossed the line in any way, shape or form.
“No matter how benign my intent, everyone has the right to set their own boundaries and have them respected.”