For the past year, he and his brother, Bob, have been running the Weinstein Co. after leaving Walt Disney-owned Miramax. This season, one of Weinstein's main pushes will be "Bobby," directed and written by actor Emilio Estevez, a tribute to Robert F. Kennedy that takes place in the hours leading up to his fatal shooting in 1968 at the Ambassador Hotel.
Harvey Weinstein is a close friend of Kennedy's family, including his daughter, Kerry, and widow, Ethel.
Other Weinstein campaigns are expected for such films as "Miss Potter," starring Renée Zellweger; the Dixie Chicks documentary "Shut Up & Sing"; director Anthony Minghella's "Breaking and Entering"; and Algeria's "Days of Glory."
How is it different with awards now that you are back as a small independent?
It allows you to be friends with a lot of people because you're not just allied with one. I can praise other people's movies. People know me as a movie fan. I'm competitive with my own films, but I do appreciate other people's movies.
Did you feel before that you couldn't praise a competitor?
I tried whenever I could, and a lot of times did it privately. Sometimes people would just get the wrong idea and you don't want to embarrass the parent company. Now it's a lot more free.
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So many good movies come out at the end of the year that are worthy of awards, but end up bumping up against each other. Should that change?
It's really tough at the end of the year when everyone has a great movie. But sometimes the production schedules work that way — you start and say, "We're going to get this done before the end of the year" if it's an award-worthy movie. For "Bobby," we just finished the final mix. "Miss Potter" is still mixing.
How important are Oscars to you?
I've always felt movies that deserve recognition should get it. It's about the filmmaker and the movie. People who slave under difficult conditions should get recognition when they take very ambitious chances.
What attracted you to "Bobby"?
Emilio told his dad when he was 6 years old that Bobby had been shot. He had seen it on TV. I had the same experience with my dad, but I was older. My father was a great Bobby Kennedy fan. I was the one who had to wake him up and tell him.
What is this going to do for Emilio Estevez?
It changes his life, and for us we gained a filmmaker who obviously has a political voice.
How do you feel when people say Harvey changed the Oscars with campaigns that turned it into a nuclear arms race?
What we did was democratize the process. It was pretty much the studio club. Every year, the studio would award themselves with Oscars. If you were an independent, it was pretty much hard to get in there. The fix was in. We said we can campaign by sending out videocassettes, by campaigning hard and by working hard.
You cannot influence Oscar voters. There's only one thing you can do by working hard -- get people in front of your film. This is an educated audience. There's no marketing you can do to influence these voters.
How do you see this year shaping up?
I think there have been some terrific movies released this year across the board both from studios and from independents.
"Flags of our Fathers" I thought was a terrific movie. "Catch a Fire" ... "Last King of Scotland" ... "Little Miss Sunshine."
"The Queen" I thought was terrific. You've got some wonderful movies out there. "World Trade Center." "Dreamgirls" coming up.
Last year it was more independent. I think this year it's a combination of the two.
It seems like studios are in the game this year.
I think studios are definitely in the game. You need the studios to make the kind of epic big film.
I think "The Departed" (Martin Scorsese's Warner Bros. release) is a terrific movie. That could be a contender. Marty is so overdue I don't even want to talk about it. There's no one more deserving.
You mentioned you feel you two made the Oscars more democratic. Now that you are independent, are you back to fighting in a guerrilla mode?
No. That was 20 years ago. This is a very good diplomatic time of my life. There's no reason not to get along with folks.
Does it feel a little like the old days? You're on your own now with no corporate parent as you head into the Oscar season?
I feel the freedom of not having somebody saying "don't make the Michael Moore movie" or "don't criticize NBC for not running the Dixie Chicks ad". We're free to make our own way through this world.