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Ashley Judd sues Harvey Weinstein, alleging he sabotaged her acting career

Ashley Judd is taking Harvey Weinstein to court, claiming he tried to destroy her acting career after she refused his sexual advances.

The actress, one of the first women to publicly accuse the disgraced film mogul of sexual misconduct, filed a lawsuit Monday in Los Angeles that includes claims of defamation, sexual harassment and an effort to damage her career, according to a statement from Gibson Dunn, the law firm representing her.

The lawsuit focuses on Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson’s comments to the New Zealand publication Stuff, in which he recalled Weinstein dissuading him from casting Judd or Mira Sorvino in Rings in the late 1990s. In the report, Jackson says he was “fed false information” about the professionalism of Judd, whom he had met with in 1998 to discuss a role.

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The lawsuit says Weinstein’s action, which it describes as blacklisting, prevented her from working in an Oscar-winning film franchise and hurt her career going forward.

It states that Judd learned only late last year “that something unseen was holding her back from obtaining the work she wanted, and had been doing so for decades. The headwind limiting her career was Harvey Weinstein, and specifically, the false and malicious statements he made regarding Ms. Judd’s professionalism as an actor” to Jackson and his producing partner, Fran Walsh.

When Jackson and Walsh told Weinstein’s company, which owned the rights to the Lord of the Rings films, that they wanted to cast Judd, “Weinstein torpedoed Ms. Judd’s incredible professional opportunity when he told (them) that the studio had had a ‘bad experience’ with Ms. Judd, and that Ms. Judd was a ‘nightmare’ to work with and should be avoided ‘at all costs,’ “ the suit says.

Weinstein spokesman Juda Engelmayer issued a statement to USA TODAY rejecting the lawsuit’s claims:

“The most basic investigation of the facts will reveal that Mr. Weinstein neither defamed Ms. Judd nor ever interfered with Ms. Judd’s career, and instead not only championed her work but also repeatedly approved her casting for two of his movies over the next decade. The actual facts will show that Mr. Weinstein was widely known for having fought for Ms. Judd as his first choice for the lead role in Good Will Hunting and, in fact, arranged for Ms. Judd to fly to New York to be considered for the role. Thereafter, Ms. Judd was hired for not one, but two of Mr. Weinstein’s movies, Frida in 2002 and Crossing Over with Harrison Ford in 2009. We look forward to a vigorous defence of these claims.”

In a statement sent to USA TODAY by Judd’s lawyers announcing the legal action, the actress accuses Weinstein of trying to destroy the careers of many in the entertainment industry.

“Mr. Weinstein’s abusive conduct toward others has caused no end of damage to aspiring actors and others in the film and entertainment industry. As my experience and the experience of others shows, even a few false statements from Mr. Weinstein could destroy potentially career-changing professional opportunities,” she said. “It’s time that Mr. Weinstein be held accountable for that conduct and for the ways in which he’s damaged careers.”

Judd’s lawyer, Theodore J. Boutrous Jr., said in a statement that the goal of the legal action “is to hold Mr. Weinstein accountable for his retaliation against Ms. Judd, defamation of her business reputation, and interference with her career, and to shine a light on the broader economic damages caused when individuals in positions of authority attempt to punish those who have resisted their improper advances.”

The actress said she’ll donate any financial award to a charity that benefits women and fights sexual harassment and discrimination. Boutrous’ law firm will donate any recovery of attorney’s fees to charity as well.