Depp notably lost a libel case last year against The Sun, which referred to Depp as a “wife beater” while covering his divorce from Amber Heard. Depp exited Warner Bros.’ “Fantastic Beasts” franchise after the verdict and was replaced by Mads Mikkelsen. The actor’s latest film, the Andrew Levitas-directed drama “Minimata,” has not been dated for release. Levitas alleged MGM was “burying” the movie because it “was concerned about the possibility that the personal issues of an actor in the film could reflect negatively upon them.”
“Minamata” was picked up by MGM’s American International Pictures last fall. The film world premiered in February 2020 at the Berlin International Film Festival. Depp stars in the film as photojournalist Eugene Smith, and he also produced the movie. Smith traveled to Minamata, Japan in the 1970s and documented the effects of mercury poisoning on the community due to pollution from the Chisso chemical company.
“We looked these people in the eyeballs and promised we would not be exploitative,” Depp told The Times of the film and its subjects. “That the film would be respectful. I believe that we’ve kept our end of the bargain, but those who came in later should also maintain theirs.”
“Some films touch people,” Depp continued. “And this affects those in Minamata and people who experience similar things. And for anything…For Hollywood’s boycott of, erm, me? One man, one actor in an unpleasant and messy situation, over the last number of years?…But, you know, I’m moving towards where I need to go to make all that…to bring things to light.”
“Minamata” director Andrew Levitas sent a letter to MGM at the end of July condemning the studio for allegedly burying his historical drama because it stars Depp. The film reportedly had a day-and-date theatrical push set for February 2021 but did not get released.
An MGM spokesperson denied the claim, issuing the following response: “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 U.S. release date is TBA.”
Depp was announced last week as the recipient of two upcoming career tribute prizes to be presented at this year’s San Sebastian Film Festival and Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. Spain’s Association of Female Filmmakers and Audiovisual Media spoke out against San Sebastian for honoring Depp, saying the movie “transmits a terrible message to the public: ‘It doesn’t matter if you are an abuser as long as you are a good actor.’” San Sebastian’s festival director José Luis Rebordinos defended honoring Depp and noted the actor “has not been arrested, charged nor convicted of any form of assault or violence against any woman.”
In his interview with The Sunday Times, Depp called his fans his “employers” and not Hollywood studios. “They are all our employers. They buy tickets, merchandise. They made all of those studios rich, but they forgot that a long time ago,” the actor said. “I certainly haven’t. I’m proud of these people, because of what they are trying to say, which is the truth. The truth they’re trying to get out since it doesn’t in more mainstream publications. It’s a long road that sometimes gets clunky. Sometimes just plain stupid. But they stayed on the ride with me and it’s for them I will fight. Always, to the end. Whatever it may be.”