Biopic dedicated to photographer Eugene W. Smith, was “Minamata” buried by MGM because of the legal problems of Johnny Depp, its main actor? This is what director Andrew Levitas criticizes the studio in an open letter.
When will we see Johnny Depp again in the cinema? Released on November 14, 2018 in France, Fantastic Beasts 2 is to date the last of his films to have passed through our theaters (if we except his appearance in the recent documentary Crock of Gold), because the following ones went directly to our theaters. by streaming platforms or the box “video”. Like City of Lies, available on DVD since June, after three years spent on the shelf of its distributor.
Presented at the Berlin Film Festival in 2020, will Minamata meet the same fate? Acquired by MGM a few months ago, this biopic dedicated to war photographer Eugene W. Smith, who became an icon of photojournalism following a report on the effects of industrial pollution on the inhabitants of a Japanese city, was due out in last February in the United States, in theaters and on VOD. But it has disappeared from the calendar and no new date has been announced.
For its director Andrew Levitas, this is a studio maneuver: “Less than a year ago, MGM acquired the distribution rights for Minamata on North American soil after seeing it at the Berlinale”, he wrote in a letter relayed by Deadline. “MGM thus intended to shed light on the suffering of thousands of victims of one of the most heinous cases of industrial pollution ever seen in the world.”
“Re-exposing their suffering by telling their story has allowed this long marginalized community to hope for one thing: to bring their story out of the shadows so that other innocent people are not affected as they have been. this association with MGM, this wish they have had for decades was finally going to be realized. “
A “BURIED” FILM?
Now imagine their despondency when they learned last week that despite an already successful global rollout, MGM had decided to ‘bury the film’ (these are the words of the head of acquisitions, Mr Sam Wollman), fearing that an actor’s personal problems could have a negative impact on them, and that the victims and their families were only secondary. “
In addition to behavior pointed out on several shoots (Pirates of the Caribbean 5 and City of Lies in particular), Johnny Depp is indeed at the heart of a trial with his ex-wife Amber Heard, for mutual domestic violence. And the actor lost his fight with the tabloid The Sun, which he attacked for defamation for having relayed the accusations of the actress.
At the end of this lost trial, in November 2020, it was declared that Johnny Depp was guilty of domestic violence, and the Warner had chosen to fire him from the filming of Fantastic Beasts 3 and replace him with Mads Mikkelsen in the role of Gellert Grindelwald. According to Andrew Levitas, the unclear situation of Minamata would also be the consequence. And the film has not given any sign of life since its trailer was posted online last October.
While Amazon has just bought MGM, can we expect the feature to be released directly on the platform? Or will it, like City of Lies, sit on a shelf for a few years before sneaking out on video?