Director accuses MGM of burying film because of Johnny Depp

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Filmmaker Andrew Levitas has accused MGM of burying his film Minamata because of the publicised personal issues of Johnny Depp.

The actor plays photojournalist Eugene Smith in the film, which focuses on the effects of mercury poisoning on the citizens of Minamata, Kumamoto, Japan.

Levitas wrote a letter of complaint to MGM, claiming he was told by head of acquisitions Sam Wollman that the studio had decided to “bury the film” after Johnny Depp lost his libel case against The Sun during ongoing disputes with his ex-wife Amber Heard. 

Minamata was acquired last autumn after premiering at the 2020 Berlin film festival, and was due to be released in the US in February 2021. The US release date is now yet to be confirmed.

Levitas’ letter, obtained by Deadline, reads: “Despite an already successful global roll out, MGM had decided to “bury the film” (acquisitions head Mr. Sam Wollman’s words) because MGM was concerned about the possibility that the personal issues of an actor in the film could reflect negatively upon them and that from MGM’s perspective the victims and their families were secondary to this.”

MGM responded to Levitas in a statement, with a spokesperson telling Deadline: “The film was acquired for release via American International Pictures (AIP), a division of MGM which handles day-and-date releases. Minamata continues to be among future AIP releases and at this time, the film’s US release date is TBA.”

Minamata will be released in the UK on August 13.

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