Harvey Weinstein’s Italian Friend Is Now in the Eye of a Media Storm


“That’s absolutely not true. I completely deny it. It’s false,” Mr. Lombardo said in another interview in his lawyer’s office in Rome, a city where he said he had done great work bringing movies and a lot of money to Miramax.

He said he was “shocked” by the allegations against Mr. Weinstein, though he reserved judgment on the validity of the accusations.

“This is something that nobody knows, except the people in the place where it happened,” he said. “A man wouldn’t tell this story. So how do I know? You see what I mean? I don’t think anybody knows except the people in the room.”

At the height of Mr. Weinstein’s power, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, unease about Mr. Lombardo’s role in the company was so great that Mr. Weinstein attempted to allay concerns, according to Elizabeth Dreyer, a senior executive who was in charge of international acquisitions at the time.

But Ms. Dreyer said Mr. Weinstein’s denial to his senior international staff at a meeting she attended did not entirely dispel suspicions inside the company.

Years earlier, Ms. Dreyer had worked in Miramax’s New York office and was responsible for reserving hotel rooms for the Cannes Film Festival. She recalled requesting a room at the Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc for Mr. Lombardo, and being told that he was barred because the owner said he “brings too many girls.”

“That was kind of an ‘ah-ha’ moment for me,” she said, recalling thinking, “I get what Fabrizio is about now. I get the relationship.”

Mr. Lombardo said that neither he nor Mr. Weinstein was ever barred from the hotel. (The hotel manager at the time would not comment.) Mr. Lombardo attributed the criticisms to people within the company who were “envious” of his relationship with Mr. Weinstein.

“They have to find a reason for their failure” he said, adding that it was not his fault what took place behind closed hotel room doors. “You can’t hold responsible the person who from the lobby shows the room.”

But some of the women are eager to take Mr. Weinstein, and his alleged facilitators, to task.

One of Mr. Weinstein’s accusers, Asia Argento, an Italian actress, received what she considered threatening messages on her telephone from Mr. Lombardo, whom she said she hadn’t heard from in years.

“I’m scared to death,” Ms. Argento told a reporter by phone the morning after receiving the image on Oct. 3 of an anonymous couple passed out on a bed with the words, “Have You Ever Been This Drunk.” “Why is he sending me this?” she said.

Mr. Lombardo acknowledged he had sent what he called the “funny videos,” but argued he sent them to her — on two separate days — as part of a mass forwarding by “mistake.” He expressed regret that Ms. Argento felt threatened and he conceded that “the timing was terrible.”

Ms. Argento subsequently went public in The New Yorker with her account of sexual harassment by Mr. Weinstein, and she has since named Mr. Lombardo as the person who brought her to Mr. Weinstein’s room in 1997 under the false pretense of attending a party.

Another woman, Zoë Brock, has accused Mr. Lombardo of accompanying her into Mr. Weinstein’s Cannes hotel room in 1998 under the pretense that friends would be joining them to continue a party.

Ms. Brock, a former model, said in a phone interview that Mr. Lombardo had excused himself to leave her alone with Mr. Weinstein, who, behind closed doors, stripped naked and chased her around the room.

Photo

The Italian actress Asia Argento in Cannes, France, in May. She named Mr. Lombardo on Twitter as the person who brought her to Mr. Weinstein’s room.

Credit
Alberto Pizzoli/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“It was a total set up. He knew,” Ms. Brock said, referring to Mr. Lombardo.

Mr. Lombardo denied both accounts. Mr. Weinstein’s spokeswoman, Sallie Hofmeister, said Mr. Weinstein denied all the allegations against Mr. Lombardo.

“As the executive in charge of Rome and parts of Europe, Mr. Lombardo made contributions that generated hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues for the company,” she said.

Before Mr. Lombardo befriended actors and dated movie stars, he was the son of engineers in the northern Italian town of Novara.

He learned English in London and French in Paris, where he first put his early passion for real estate into practice and entered the orbit of Jean-Luc Brunel, a powerful modeling agent in the 1980s.

“He was one of the boys hanging around Jean-Luc,” said Renée Toft Simonsen, a top model at the time, who considered Mr. Lombardo “part of the system” of young men who hang around models and connect them with powerful people.

Mr. Brunel, who surfaced in news reports several years ago for his connection to Jeffrey Epstein, a Florida billionaire convicted of soliciting prostitution from a minor, declined to comment.

Mr. Lombardo ended up as part of the moveable feast. Former models and Miramax executives recalled him as a handsome wingman of Italian soccer stars like his real-estate business partner Nicola Berti.

Mr. Lombardo said he first met Mr. Weinstein and his family in St. Barts. Ms. Hofmeister, speaking for Mr. Weinstein, said the two met during the making of the film “Pulp Fiction,” when Mr. Lombardo was dating the actress Uma Thurman.

Mr. Weinstein and his first wife dined at Mr. Lombardo’s West Village townhouse, and Mr. Lombardo said Mr. Weinstein’s office subsequently called him to help interpret during a meeting with the Italian director Giuseppe Tornatore.

But he said they mostly saw each other in Cannes and St. Barts, where, during a Weinstein family Christmas vacation, the mogul fell deathly ill with septicemia.

Mr. Lombardo arranged for a private plane to medevac Mr. Weinstein out and flew with him to New York, where Mr. Weinstein’s brother, Bob, waited with an ambulance.

“If he had waited another day in St. Barts he wouldn’t have survived,” Mr. Lombardo said.

His big break came, he said, when he brought Mr. Tornatore’s project, “Malèna,” to Mr. Weinstein, who in 1999, despite the objections of some Miramax executives, asked Mr. Lombardo to lead Miramax Italy.

Ms. Dreyer, then overseeing Miramax’s Italy operations, said she received a call from her superiors urging her to use Mr. Lombardo in everything she did.

“I thought this was a way to legitimize his involvement in the company,” she said, adding that his responsibilities amounted to setting up meetings and translating.

In 2003, Mr. Weinstein served as the best man to Mr. Lombardo when he married Chiara Geronzi, the daughter of Cesare Geronzi, then chairman of the Capitalia bank.

But soon after, Miramax closed its Italian branch but the company was upset that Mr. Lombardo kept receiving payments, which he said protective Italian labor laws required.

An article in The New York Times in 2004 aired the company’s grievance, and Mr. Lombardo felt unfairly maligned and insufficiently defended by Mr. Weinstein.

“We had a little falling out,” he said.

Mr. Lombardo subsequently kept a lower profile, playing golf, raising a family and occasionally showing up for movie premieres with his wife.

Several years ago, Mr. Lombardo bumped into Mr. Weinstein on the ski slopes in Gstaad, Switzerland, prompting a reconciliation.

Earlier this year, Mr. Lombardo accompanied Mr. Weinstein to a private screening in Rome of the film “Perfect Strangers,” leading the Weinstein Company to buy the rights.

“I made it happen,” Mr. Lombardo said, adding that instead of a payment, he sought only an executive producer credit to demonstrate to his daughters that their father was once somebody in the film business.

The movie tells the tale of old friends who think they know each other, but they don’t.

“This film,” Mr. Weinstein told Variety in February, is about “what can happen when our addiction to phones and social media reveals our deepest secrets rather than letting people hide behind the public profiles they so skillfully create for themselves.”

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