Harvey Weinstein Proud Of His Sandy Benefit Film

As autumn draws near and awards season looms, movie mogul Harvey Weinstein says he has one thing on his mind: that the Knicks go all the way.

“I’m a die-hard Knicks fan and hoping Jim will let me into the garden,” Weinstein said, referring to James Dolan, who was sitting next to him at the Weinstein Company offices in Toronto on Monday. Dolan is the head of Cablevision and New York’s Madison Square Garden, where the Knicks play.

“Thanks. No pressure,” Dolan jokes.

Photo: The Canadian Press, Galit Rodan/AP
From left, producers Meghan O'Hara and Amir Bar-Lev and executive producers James Dolan, John Sykes and Harvey Weinstein at the 2013 Toronto Int’l Film Festival

While basketball was a hot topic, Weinstein had more pressing business at the Toronto International Film Festival. His company’s newest film, “August: Osage County,” based on the Tony- and Pulitzer Prize-winning play, was having its world premiere in a few hours. Before that, Weinstein sat down with the Associated Press for an exclusive interview.

He was more interested in talking about the Sunday premiere of the Superstorm Sandy benefit film, “12-12-12,” than anything else.

The storm devastated the Northeast last fall, and Weinstein, along with Dolan and Clear Channel president John Sykes, decided to put on a benefit concert at Madison Square Garden. They gathered a superstar lineup that included The Rolling Stones, The Who, Bruce Springsteen, Kanye West, Billy Joel and others for a nearly six-hour show. The event raised $65 million dollars for the Robin Hood Foundation to benefit victims of the storm.

Weinstein says they’re proud of their effort, but he also feels they made a powerful documentary that shows a perspective that fans didn’t get to see.

“That’s the only reason to make it,” he said.

Back in December, Weinstein dressed in street clothes to work behind the scenes of the concert. He speaks of the special moments that he saw and remembers “the coolest one.”

“Having Paul McCartney walk out of his dressing room and singing ‘Hey, Hey we’re the Monkees,’ and doing it for a minute and half,” he said.

Dolan and Sykes agree that the documentary captures something special.

“There was a sense a sense of sarcasm that only New Yorkers can have looking straight in the eye of a tragedy that this movie really reflects,” Sykes says.

He cites Adam Sandler’s poignant parody of the Leonard Cohen song, “Hallelujah,” and Billy Joel rehearsing his own take of “We Are the World,” as “We Are New York,” sung in a whiny, New York accent.

One of the criticisms of the benefit concert was the disparity between music genres. Kanye West was the only hip-hop artist in a primarily classic rock-based lineup.

But Sykes defends that point.

“It was about making money for the victims. We were less concerned making a perfectly balanced show, and more focused on what artists could bring in people with the most money,” Sykes said.

As for a release date of the documentary, Weinstein said they will probably memorialize the day of the storm, Oct. 29, and have a New York premiere.

Weinstein said he relies on Dolan and Sykes for other advice, citing their help with his highly regarded film, “Lee Daniel’s The Butler.”

Photo: AP Photo / Starpix
"12-12-12" (A Concert For Sandy Relief), Madison Square Garden Arena, New York City

It’s been mentioned as an Oscar favorite, but after Monday night, so was his other film, “August: Osage County,” making it an interesting awards season.