Filmmaker Woody Allen is suing Amazon Studios. The filmmaker behind Annie Hall and Manhattan is claiming that the company, which signed a four-picture distribution deal with him in 2017, is in breach of its contract for refusing to release his latest film, A Rainy Day in New York. The news was first reported in the Wall Street Journal.
According to the suit, which was filed on Thursday in federal court in the Southern District of New York and is seeking more than $68 million in damages, Amazon backed out of the deal last June as the #MeToo movement was gaining momentum and the accusations resurfaced alleging that the filmmaker had molested his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow in 1992.
Ms. Farrow wrote about her experience in a 2014 New York Times op-ed, and in 2018 she spoke to CBS This Morning in detail about the allegation. Ms. Farrow also penned an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times last year asking why the #MeToo moment had “spared” Mr. Allen. Since then, several actors, including Colin Firth, Rachel Brosnahan, and Timothée Chalamet, have said they would never work with the filmmaker again.
According to the suit, “Amazon has tried to excuse its action by referencing a 25-year-old baseless allegation against Mr. Allen, but that allegation was already well-known to Amazon (and the public) before Amazon entered into four separate deals with Mr. Allen–and in any event, it does not provide a basis for Amazon to terminate the contract.”
Mr. Allen has denied the charges. An investigation by the Connecticut State Attorney resulted in no charges.
Amazon did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
According to the lawsuit, the problems with Amazon began in late 2017 after Amazon Studios head Roy Price resigned in the wake of his own sexual harassment allegations. At that time, Amazon executives contacted Mr. Allen’s representatives and “discussed the negative publicity and reputation harm Amazon Studios had received because of allegations” made against Mr. Price and his association with Harvey Weinstein, who has been the biggest target of #MeToo so far. That discussion led to the decision to push A Rainy Day in New York from 2018 to 2019.
But then in June 2018, Amazon told Mr. Allen they were terminating the deal. The suit says there was no “legal or factual basis” for the termination.
Mr. Allen was one of the first high-profile deals that Amazon made when it entered into the original TV business, but the product of that relationship–Mr. Allen’s first-ever TV series Crisis in Six Scenes–was considered a bit of a crisis itself. He then made distribution deals for the films Cafe Society and Wonder Wheel. Neither came close to matching the acclaim or success of some of Mr. Allen’s earlier films: Wonder Wheel was a dud, and Cafe Society received mixed reviews but grossed a respectable $43 million.
In the 2017 movie deal with Mr. Allen, Mr. Price described Allen as “one of the most dynamic and compelling filmmakers of our time.”
Since Price stepped down, former NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke has taken the reins at Amazon, where she has vowed to rebuild the culture, and is placing an emphasis on female storytellers and diversity. The actions detailed in the lawsuit predate Salke’s arrival at Amazon.