Director Peter Jackson has spoken with actor Ashley Judd's legal team and could furnish "powerful" testimony supporting her defamation and sexual harassment suit against film producer Harvey Weinstein, her attorney says.
Judd's civil suit, filed in April, accused Mr Weinstein of discouraging Sir Peter in 1998 from casting her in the Lord of the Rings franchise in retaliation for her refusing Mr Weinstein's sexual advances.
The lawsuit cited an interview with Sir Peter published by Stuff in December 2017 quoting him as saying he had heard from Mr Weinstein's former film company, Miramax, that Judd was a "nightmare to work with."
The New Zealand director, according to the Stuff article, said that assessment of Judd persuaded him not to cast her but he later came to believe she was the victim of a "smear campaign".
A spokeswoman for Sir Peter declined to comment further yesterday.
The article surfaced as a central topic at a hearing in which Mr Weinstein's attorney Phyllis Kupferstein asked US 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 Sir Peter and determined he was correctly quoted in the Stuff article and that it was Mr Weinstein himself who had disparaged Judd to Sir Peter.
Mr Boutrous said after the hearing that Sir Peter had information that could prove to be critical testimony 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," Mr Boutrous told reporters.
Mr Weinstein has also been charged with sexual assault in a separate criminal case in New York. He has denied having non-consensual sex with anyone.
Judd was one of the first women in October 2017 to publicly accuse Mr Weinstein of sexual misconduct, helping give rise to the #MeToo social media movement against sexual misconduct, which contributed to the downfall of several leading figures in the media, entertainment, politics and corporate America.
Her lawsuit could go to trial within a year, Mr Boutrous told reporters.
Judd, who starred in the 1990s thrillers Kiss the Girls and Double Jeopardy, argues in her lawsuit that failing to clinch a role in The Lord of the Rings trilogy undermined her career.
Mr Kupferstein told the judge 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," Mr Kupferstein said.
Neither Judd nor Mr Weinstein attended the court hearing.