Hollywood producer Jill Messick, who committed suicide earlier this week, became “collateral damage” in a public row between Harvey Weinstein and accuser Rose McGowan, her family have said.
Messick, who worked on a string of Hollywood hits including Mean Girls and She’s All That, died on Wednesday at the age of 50. She had two children.
In a statement, Messick’s family described how her long-term battle with depression was exacerbated by “slanderous statements” McGowan made regarding Messick, who was the actor’s manager at the time she claims to have been raped by the disgraced producer.
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McGowan has repeatedly said that managers, agents and publicists were complicit in the 1997 assault, which took place during a meeting organised by Messick, says the Los Angeles Times.
However, the producer’s family say that, at the time, McGowan only told Messick that Weinstein had pushed her to remove her clothes in a hot tub with him, and did not mention any unwanted contact. Messick apparently referred this incident to her superiors.
An email from Messick released by Weinstein’s lawyers in January supported this version of events, but the unauthorised publication exacerbated Messick’s deteriorating mental state, her family said.
“Seeing her name in headlines again and again, as part of one person’s attempt to gain more attention for her personal cause, along with Harvey’s desperate attempt to vindicate himself, was devastating for her,” they said.
As a supporter of the #MeToo movement, Messick “chose to remain silent in the face of Rose’s slanderous statements against her for fear of undermining the many individuals who came forward in truth”
The statement also took aim at a wider culture of “unlimited information sharing and a willingness to accept statement as fact”.
The news of Messick’s passing prompted an outpouring of tributes and condolences within the film industry. Mean Girls writer Tina Fey told Deadline that Messick was “instrumental” in bringing the script to the big screen, describing her as “a fiercely dedicated producer and a kind person”.
Daniel Franzese, who played Damian in the 2004 high school comedy, said he was “sad and horrified” to hear of her death.
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