Johnny Depp doesn’t appear to be getting any breaks any time soon. Along with being replaced and/or his characters killed off in the big movie franchises he’s helped to build, Depp’s newest movie is reportedly being buried under the weight of a major film studio.
Yesterday, Inside Imaging posted a story about Australian photojournalist Stephen Dupont speaking out against MGM’s alleged burying of the new Johnny Depp film Minamata, calling it “censorship.”
If you’re asking yourself, “What is Minamata?”, you’re not alone and that’s apparently by design. In July, per Deadline, the director Andrew Levitas wrote a complaint letter to MGM after supposedly being told by the studio’s acquisitions head, Sam Wollman, that the studio planned to bury the film. In other words, they wouldn’t promote it and they wouldn’t release it in the United States. The reason, of course, is the same reason Johnny Depp won’t be appearing in next year’s Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore — because of the negative public image resulting from Depp’s ongoing legal conflicts with his ex-wife Amber Heard.
As Levitas says in his letter to MGM, there is more at stake in the release of Minamata than the reputation of Johnny Depp. The drama tells the story of Eugene Smith (Depp), a real-life photojournalist who traveled to Minamata, Japan in the ’70s to chronicle how the people there were dying because of the horrific neglect of the Chisso chemical company. Smith and his wife meant to be in Minamata for three months, but wound up living there for three years.
With Minamata, Levitas hoped to tell the story of what he calls “the long marginalized community,” and told MGM in his letter that by burying the film, they were victimizing the people of Minamata all over again. He included some of the photographs taken by the real life counterpart to Johnny Depp’s character, showing — among other things — Minamata’s sick and dying.
Dupont says he knew Eugene Smith and that he was influenced by the older photographer’s work. He praised Johnny Depp’s portrayal of the late photojournalist and said that whether or not Heard’s allegations are true doesn’t matter, and that the world has become “far too critical” of celebrities.
Johnny Depp has expressed his frustration with the non-release of Minamata as well, telling the Sunday Times (via Deadline) in August that he and the filmmakers had “looked these people in the eyeballs and promised we would not be exploitative.” He lamented that the Minamata community would be punished because of what he called “the Hollywood boycott” of him.
As far as critics who have been lucky enough to see the film — either at its premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival last year or somewhere outside North America — most have come away with positive reviews. Minamata currently enjoys a 73% score on Rotten Tomatoes with Johnny Depp’s performance praised as one of his best. Depp is joined in the film by Bill Nighy (Davy Jones in the Pirates of the Caribbean films), Katherine Jenkins (Dream Horse), Minami (Battle Royale), Hiroyuki Sanada (The Twilight Samurai), Tadanobu Asano (Battleship), and more.
Will we ever get to see Johnny Depp in Minamata stateside? Time will tell. Officially, MGM told Deadline Minamata is still in their list of upcoming releases, with the release date being “TBA.”