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Members of Hollywood establishment speak out against Harvey Weinstein

In this Jan. 6, 2016 file photo, producer Harvey Weinstein participates in the War and Peace panel at the A&E 2016 Winter TCA in Pasadena, Calif.

Richard Shotwell/AP

The Hollywood establishment, slow to react to the initial sexual harassment allegations against Harvey Weinstein, began speaking out against him more forcefully Monday after the powerful studio boss was fired by his own company.

Among those weighing in were his longtime allies and beneficiaries Meryl Streep, Kate Winslet, Kevin Smith and Judi Dench. They spoke up with a combination of disgust over his alleged behaviour and remorse or defensiveness over their own business entanglements with him. Even the actors' labour union SAG-AFTRA joined the chorus in condemning the disgraced movie mogul, calling reports of his alleged conduct "abhorrent and unacceptable."

Director Kevin Smith, whose movies Clerks and Chasing Amy were produced by Weinstein, noted on Twitter that the producer financed the first 14 years of his career.

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"Now I know while I was profiting, others were in terrible pain," Smith wrote. "It makes me feel ashamed."

Weinstein, 65, was fired Sunday by the Weinstein Co., the studio he co-founded, three days after a bombshell New York Times expose alleged decades of crude sexual behaviour on his part toward female employees and actresses, including Ashley Judd. The Times said at least eight settlements had been reached with women.

Streep, who once called Weinstein "God" while accepting the Golden Globe for The Iron Lady, condemned his alleged conduct as "inexcusable" while also saying she did not know about it before.

"The disgraceful news about Harvey Weinstein has appalled those of us whose work he championed, and those whose good and worthy causes he supported," Streep said in a statement.

Stories of his behaviour, she said, were not universally known in Hollywood.

"Harvey supported the work fiercely, was exasperating but respectful with me in our working relationship, and with many others with whom he worked professionally," Streep continued. "If everybody knew, I don't believe that all the investigative reporters in the entertainment and the hard news media would have neglected for decades to write about it."

Similarly, Dench, whose awards and nominations have been inextricably linked for two decades to Weinstein, first at his company Miramax and then at the Weinstein Co., said in a statement that she was "completely unaware" of the "horrifying" offences.

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"I offer my sympathy to those who have suffered and wholehearted support to those who have spoken out," she wrote.

Dench won a best supporting actress Oscar for Shakespeare in Love and a nomination for Philomena.

Not all were completely blindsided, however.

Kate Winslet, who won an Oscar for The Weinstein Co.'s The Reader said in a statement that the alleged behaviour is "without question disgraceful and appalling."

"I had hoped that these kind of stories were just made up rumours, maybe we have all been naive," Winslet wrote.

Glenn Close had also heard the "vague rumours" of his inappropriate behaviour toward.

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"Harvey has always been decent to me, but now that the rumours are being substantiated, I feel angry and darkly sad," Close said in a statement to the New York Times. "I'm angry, not just at him and the conspiracy of silence around his actions, but also that the 'casting couch' phenomenon, so to speak, is still a reality in our business and in the world: the horrible pressure, the awful expectation put on a woman when a powerful, egotistical, entitled bully expects sexual favours in exchange for a job."

Close called on everyone to unite on both an institutional and personal level to create a new culture of, "respect, equality and empowerment."

In ousting him from the company, the Weinstein board of directors said it was reacting to "new information about misconduct by Harvey Weinstein that has emerged in the past few days." It did not elaborate.

A studio insider who was not authorized to discuss the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity told The Associated Press that the Weinstein Co. plans to change its name.

Also, Weinstein's name will be stripped from the TV series Waco and Yellowstone, among other projects.

Actress Lena Dunham tweeted Sunday night, "Easy to think Weinstein company took swift action but this has actually been the slowest action because they always always knew."

Under Weinstein's leadership, the Weinstein Co. has been a dominant force at the Oscars. It accomplished the rare feat of winning back-to-back best picture Academy Awards with The King's Speech and The Artist.

In recent years, however, Weinstein's status has diminished because of money shortages, disappointing box-office returns and executive departures.

His other movie credits over the years include Pulp Fiction and The English Patient.

Since the Times article, more accounts of predatory behaviour have followed.

In a HuffPost report, TV anchor Lauren Sivan detailed an alleged 2007 encounter with Weinstein. Sivan, then working at a New York cable channel, said Weinstein cornered her in the hallway of a New York City restaurant closed to the public and masturbated in front of her.

Sivan said she had rejected an attempt by Weinstein to kiss her, and he responded: "Well, can you just stand there and shut up?"

The swift fall of one of Hollywood's most powerful figures has turned up the pressure on many in the industry to speak out.

"What Harvey Weinstein did was abhorrent. He admits he did it. Why should anyone be silent in their disgust and support for his victims?" director Judd Apatow said on Twitter.

SAG-AFTRA said in its statement Monday said that everyone has the right to work in an environment free of discrimination and harassment. It provided the number for their safety hotline too.

"There is more to be done by all of us to ensure the safety of women in the industry," the organization said.

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