Johnny Depp to Play Real-Life War Photographer in ‘Minamata’

Andrew Levitas will direct

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Johnny Depp will star as a real-life war photographer W. Eugene Smith in “Minamata,” which takes place in Japan in 1971.

Andrew Levitas will direct the film based on the book of the same name by Aileen Mioko Smith and W. Eugene Smith and adapted by David K. Kessler.

“Minamata” will start principal production in Japan and then in Serbia in January 2019.

Per the film’s description, Depp plays W. Eugene Smith, a war photographer from World War II, who in 1971, goes up against a powerful corporation responsible for poisoning the people of Minamata, Japan. With the glory days of World War II far behind him, Smith has become a recluse, disconnected from society and his career. But an old friend and a commission from “Life Magazine” editor Ralph Graves convince him to journey back to Japan to expose a big story: the devastating annihilation of a coastal community, victims of corporate greed and complicit local police and government.

Armed with only his trusted Nikon camera, Smith must find the images that will bring this story to the world. At first, no one wants to help him and his enemies wish him dead, a new threat at every corner. But to finally stop hiding behind the lens and earn this broken community’s trust may prove to be Smith’s greatest challenge.

HanWay Films will handle international sales and distribution and will commence sales at the American Film Market. CAA Media Finance will handle U.S. rights.

“Minamata” is developed by Depp’s production entity Infinitum Nihil and is produced by Sam Sarkar, Bill Johnson and Andrew Levitas. Jason Forman and Stephen Deuters will executive produce. Heads of department include César Award-nominated cinematographer Benoit Delhomme, production designer Tom Foden and Kevan Van Thompson, who line produces and EPs.

“Working with Johnny to give voice to those who have been silently suffering is a responsibility we do not take lightly,” Levitas said in a statement. “Much like Eugene Smith in 1971, we could not feel more privileged or humbled to be tasked with the mission of bringing this incredible story to the world.”

Depp’s Infinitum Nihil banner announced a production partnership with Andrea Iervolino for the film “Waiting for the Barbarians,” in which he will also star.

Depp and Levitas are both represented by CAA.