Johnny Depp's personal decisions are continuing to affect his career. Andrew Levitas, the director of Depp's latest film Minamata, recently wrote a letter to MGM and the film's backers The Eugene Smith Foundation and the Minamata Foundation.where he claimed that MGM was burying the film due to Depp's current legal woes. Minamata highlights the 1950s exposé of gross neglect by the Chisso Corporation that led to the locals of a Japanese coastal city getting serious mercury poisoning from chemicals dumped into the waters by a factory, which spread to the local population by eating fish. Depp plays Eugene Smith, the photojournalist who exposed the corruption. The film also stars Bill Nighy, Minami, Hiroyuki Sanada, Jun Kunimura, Ryo Kase, Tadanobu Asano, and Akiko Iwase.
According to Deadline, the film was acquired by MGM after it relaunched as American International Pictures, and the plan was a theatrical/VOD release for the film in February. However, that was at the height of Depp's libel case with The Sun, which Depp lost, and while he was still very publicly attacking his ex-wife Amber Heard in the press. The film was subsequently never released. Levitas writes in the letter that he was told by acquisitions head Sam Wollman, who bought Minamata, that it would not be promoted and that "MGM had decided to 'bury the film' (acquisitions head Mr. Sam Wollman's words)."
Levitas explained that "MGM was intent on bringing to light the suffering of the thousands of victims of one of the most heinous industrial pollution incidents the world has ever seen," and that he was disappointed at the change of heart. "In a stark reminder of The Chisso Corporation's actions in Minamata and far too many other large corporations' unethical tactics, MGM stated that it would live up to its 'legal obligation' and nothing more," he wrote. "In doing so, MGM is making a conscious decision to hurt these innocents yet again, callously trampling on their lives, their legacy, their dead loved ones, and their bravery."
"We hope you take a moment to reflect on the impact the decisions large corporations like MGM have on others and recognize your opportunity to make a substantive difference in the lives of those who continue to suffer in unfathomable ways," Levitas continued. "People all over the world are victimized by corporations who do not value them or consider them as real, and you have the power to help by simply living up to your moral commitment to support this film."
"We remain steadfast that MGM will land on the right side of these issues and as such the filmmakers, the victims, their families, various NGOs and GOs, and more – all eagerly await the opportunity to work together," he concluded.