LOS ANGELES – Filmmaker Woody Allen sued Amazon Studios, claiming breach of contract for refusing to distribute his most recent movie, “A Rainy Day in New York,” and terminating a four-picture production and distribution deal without cause.
In a suit filed Thursday in federal court in the Southern District of New York seeking more than $68 million in damages, Allen said Amazon backed out of his deal last June after an old accusation that the director and actor had molested his adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow, in 1992 resurfaced as the #MeToo movement was gathering steam.
“Amazon has tried to excuse its action by referencing a 25-year-old baseless allegation against Allen, but that allegation was already well-known to Amazon (and the public) before Amazon entered into four separate deals with Allen – and in any event, it does not provide a basis for Amazon to terminate the contract,” the suit said.
In recent years, Farrow has become more vocal about her accusation against Allen and in a 2014 New York Times piece criticized those who have worked with him.
Since her column and a 2018 television interview with Farrow on “CBS This Morning” detailing the allegation, some actors and actresses have publicly expressed remorse about appearing in Allen’s movies.
Allen has continued to deny the accusation by Farrow and her mother, Mia Farrow, who was his longtime partner. Allen was investigated by the Connecticut State Attorney but wasn’t charged.
Allen’s suit alleges that cracks in his relationship with Amazon started to appear in late 2017 after Roy Price resigned as president of Amazon Studios in the wake of harassment allegations made against him by a producer on an Amazon show. Price was also under fire for his business ties to movie producer Harvey Weinstein, who has been accused of sexual harassment and assault. Both Price and Weinstein have disputed those allegations.
In the suit, Allen said Amazon executives reached out to his representatives in December 2017 “and discussed the negative publicity and reputation harm Amazon Studios had received because of allegations” made against Price and its association with Weinstein. An agreement was reached to push the release of “A Rainy Day in New York” to 2019 from 2018.
However, last June, Amazon Studios Associate General Counsel Ajay Patel emailed Allen’s representatives a termination notice. Amazon, the suit said, didn’t provide any “legal or factual basis” for the termination.
“I don’t know whether you’d call this hubris or just shortsightedness on Amazon’s part – but this is clearly not an acceptable way to behave in the business world,” said Allen’s attorney, John Quinn of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan.
Pressed by Allen’s camp as to why the deal was terminated, Amazon’s Patel said it had become “untenable” because of “supervening events, including renewed allegations against Allen, his own controversial comments, and the increasing refusal of top talent to work with or be associated with him in any way, all of which have frustrated the purpose of the agreement,” according to the suit.
Amazon, the suit said, didn’t respond to Allen’s request to explain what it was referring to by “renewed allegations,” “controversial comments” and “top talent.”
An Amazon Studios spokeswoman declined to comment. Amazon Studios is a unit of Amazon.com.
A winner of multiple Oscars, Allen has been in professional limbo since Amazon ended his deal, and he is looking for a new distributor of his films.
The relationship between Amazon Studios and Allen dates back to 2014 when he reached a deal with the retail giant’s then-fledgling streaming service to distribute the limited series “Crisis in Six Scenes.”
In 2016, Amazon made its first movie deal with Allen and his production company Gravier Productions, a distribution partnership for his movie “Cafe Society.” That was followed by another distribution deal for his film “Wonder Wheel.”
In August 2017, Amazon signed a multi-picture agreement with Allen, and Price said at the time that the auteur was “one of the most dynamic and compelling filmmakers of our time.”
Under the terms of the deal outlined in the suit, Amazon agreed to pay Allen’s Gravier Productions a minimum guarantee of $9 million a movie as well as distribute them in major-market theaters in the US for 90 days and a minimum of 500 screens.
Amazon also said it would pay Gravier a minimum guarantee equal to the gross budget of each of Allen’s films between $25 million and $27.5 million.