Once upon a time Johnny Depp was one of the biggest movie stars in the world. And while the Jack Sparrow actor still has an incredibly devoted fan base, the actor has been spending more time in court rooms than in front of movie cameras of late. Depp does have a new movie, the drama Minamata, but it has yet to be released in the U.S. despite the movie debuting at the Berlin Film Festival in February 2020. While there were plans for a release in February of this year, the movie has set to be released in any channels, and the director is now accusing MGM of deciding to "bury" the movie.
Deadline obtained a letter which Minamata director Andrew Levitas has apparently sent to MGM, the studio that acquired the North American rights to the film following its debut in Berlin last year. In it he states that he spoke directly with MGM acquisitions head Sam Wollman and was told in no uncertain terms that the studio planned to "bury the film" and not promote it due to the feeling that Johnny Depp's personal matters could reflect poorly on the studio.
We know that Johnny Depp's legal issues have had an impact on him professionally. It was almost immediately following the verdict against him in a UK libel case that it was announced that Warner Bros. had asked Depp to step down from his role as Grindelwald in the Fantastic Beasts franchise. Johnny Depp's currently pending defamation case against ex-wife Amber Heard is predicated on the idea that the actress' Washington Post op-ed directly led to Disney decision to reboot the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise without him.
Minamata tells the story of a small Japanese village whose residents began to fall ill from mercury poisoning in the 1950s. Johnny Depp plays photojournalist Eugene W. Smith who helped trace the mercury to a chemical company that was dumping waste in the water. Andrew Levitas' letter focuses not on Depp's situation but rather the film itself. He clearly feels that this is a story that needs to be told and that holding the film's release essentially means MGM is considering its own image before considering the victims of this tragedy and their families.
MGM released a statement saying simply that Minamata is still a future release planned by the studio and that it simply did not have a release date yet. To be sure, every movie has seen complications when it has come to release in the last year, so the idea that the studio might simply be waiting for the right time isn't outside possibility.
Certainly, at some point Minamata will be released in some format. The The question is now is when will that be, and when it happens, how much promotion will it see?