Johnny Depp Movie ‘Minamata’ Is Finally Getting A U.S. Release, But Not With MGM

EXCLUSIVE: Johnny Depp movie Minamata is finally getting a U.S. release, we can reveal, but not from MGM which had previously acquired the film.

Iervolino and Lady Bacardi Entertainment (ILBE) are now teaming up with Samuel Goldwyn Films to give the movie a North American release in theaters beginning December 15. The platformed release is due to extend across U.S. and Canada into 2022 and the team are looking to position it for awards consideration.

This update comes after the film’s director, Andrew Levitas, complained earlier this year that MGM was “burying” Minamata due to Depp’s well publicized off-screen issues. You can read the filmmaker’s impassioned letter to the studio here. Depp also decried the non-release in an interview in August in which he said the film deserved to be seen but was shelved because he was being “boycotted” by Hollywood.

Minamata charts the true story of acclaimed war photographer W. Eugene Smith (played by Depp) who traveled back to Japan in the 1970s to document the devastating effect of mercury poisoning in local communities by a major corporation which dumped chemicals into their waterways.

The film got its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival in 2020 and the filmmakers had expected MGM to release it earlier this year after it was acquired in fall 2020 for the studio’s American International Pictures label. The feature has been released in a host of international markets but MGM stalled on the domestic release, which had initially been set for February 5. Recently, the filmmakers were finally able to renegotiate a deal to make sure it got a domestic audience. We reached out to MGM for clarity on the non-release but the studio declined to comment.

Director-writer-producer Levitas told us today: “I am thrilled that North American audiences will finally be able to learn about what happened and continues to happen in Minamata and around the world. The silencing of marginalized voices and those left behind (as well artists) by large corporate behemoths has to end, and with new like-minded partners this story will finally come to light in North America and hopefully offer some peace to the victims and their families who have been put through far too much.”

ILBE, owned by prolific producing duo Andrea Iervolino and Monika Bacardi, is a public entertainment company listed on the AIM Italia market of the Italian Stock Exchange. The duo previously backed Depp’s 2019 movie Waiting For The Barbarians, which was also released domestically by ILBE and Samuel Goldwyn.

Andrea Iervolino said today: “Anchored by standout performances and stunning direction and craft artistry, Minamata is the kind of purposeful storytelling that sinks in with audiences and a movie they will appreciate seeing. We’re thrilled to be able to orchestrate a release campaign alongside Samuel Goldwyn that will invite audiences into this story.”

Depp has had a turbulent 18 months. In March, the actor lost an attempt to overturn a UK High Court ruling that concluded he assaulted his ex-wife Amber Heard. The actor was dropped by Warner Bros from its Fantastic Beasts franchise following the UK verdict. He remains engaged in a related U.S. legal battle with Heard.

Also starring in Minamata are Bill Nighy, Minami, Hiroyuki Sanada, Jun Kunimura, Ryo Kase, Asano Tadanobu and Akiko Iwase.

Pic was written by David K. Kessler, Stephen Deuters, Levitas and Jason Forman. Producers are Levitas for Metalwork Pictures and Depp for Infinitum Nihil, as well as Sam Sarkar, Bill Johnson, and Kevan Van Thompson.

Samuel Goldwyn Films was behind the U.S. releases for 2021 Oscar winner Another Round and 2021 Oscar nominee The Man Who Sold His Skin.

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