Johnny Depp Film ‘Minamata’ Lands US Release From ILBE and Samuel Goldwyn Films

Andrew Levitas directed the film that premiered at Berlin in 2020 and was previously set to be released by MGM

Minamata Johnny Depp
Larry Horricks / HanWay Films/ Courtesy of Berlin Film Festival

“Minamata,” a drama that stars Johnny Depp as a famed war photographer, is finally getting a U.S. release.

Ierlovino and Lady Bacardi Entertainment (ILBE) and Samuel Goldwyn Films have acquired the film’s North American rights and plan to release it in theaters this December 15 with an extended release across the U.S. and Canada into 2022.

“Minamata” premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in February 2020 and was acquired by MGM that fall, but the film never saw the light of day domestically in the wake of Depp’s off-screen problems and lawsuits, despite a release abroad.

MGM did not immediately respond to a request for comment as to the cause of the film shifting hands.

Andrew Levitas directed “Minamata,” which is based on a true story and stars Depp as war photographer W. Eugene Smith, who in the 1970s traveled back to Japan in order to document the effect of mercury poisoning on coastal communities in the area.

“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,” Levitas said in a statement to TheWrap. “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.” 

In an interview discussing the film (which ran in the U.K. Times back in August), Depp said that Hollywood was boycotting him as a result of his own failed libel lawsuit in which a judge ruled that the British tabloid The Sun’s claim he was a “wife-beater” was “substantially true.” Following that, Depp was also dropped from the Harry Potter spinoff “Fantastic Beasts” franchise and claimed at the San Sebastian Film Festival that cancel culture had gotten “so far out of hand.”

“Minamata” also stars Bill Nighy, Minami, Hiroyuki Sanada, Jun Kunimura, Ryo Kase, Asano Tadanobu and Akiko Iwase. The film’s script was written by Levitas, David K. Kessler, Stephen Deuters and Jason Forman.

Depp is also a producer on the film for Infinitum Nihil along with Levitas for his Metalwork Pictures, as well as Sam Sarkar, Bill Johnson, and Kevan Van Thompson. “Minamata” comes from Hanway Films.

“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,” Andrea Ierlovino said in a statement.

ILBE and Samuel Goldwyn previously teamed to release another Depp film from last year, “Waiting for the Barbarians.”

The distribution partnership was brokered by Andrea Iervolino for ILBE and Peter Goldwyn for Samuel Goldwyn Films.

Deadline first reported the news.