Here’s something that doesn’t happen very often: a major financier and distributor has parted ways with a movie just days before production was set to begin.
Megan Ellison‘s Annapurna Pictures has bailed on an untitled Fox News movie that centers on the late Roger Ailes and the multiple sexual harassment scandals at the network, and there are only two weeks left until filming was scheduled to start. The film has an all-star cast in place, including Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, John Lithgow, Margot Robbie, and Malcolm McDowell, and with Annapurna out as a financier, producer, and distributor, other companies are now jostling to take over the project.
The Hollywood Reporter has the news about the surprising split, which is even more surprising considering that everything seemed on track: in fact, Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange) was only added to the cast within the last 24 hours.
There are conflicting reports about why Annapurna dropped the movie, with one source telling THR that budget issues were the cause while another claimed the film was currently under its $35 million budget. Variety’s source close to the production said the budget “kept growing bigger by the day,” so perhaps there’s something to those claims after all.
Bron Studios, the company behind Denzel Washington’s Fences and Jason Reitman’s Tully, is now co-financing the production, and THR says “Focus Features, Amblin, and Participant Media are in the mix to acquire.”
Jay Roach (Game Change, Recount, Austin Powers, Meet the Parents) is in the director’s chair, and Charles Randolph (The Big Short) wrote the screenplay. Theron plays anchor Megyn Kelly, Kidman plays reporter Gretchen Carlson, Robbie is on board as a fictional associate producer, John Lithgow is playing Ailes, and McDowell is on board as Fox owner Rupert Murdoch.
The film tells the true story of the culture of sexual harassment at the news network, following Carlson’s 2016 suit against Ailes. That suit started a domino effect of other women coming forward, which ultimately led to Ailes being ousted from his position as the chief of the network – a position where he clearly thought he was untouchable and could get away with anything.
We still expect casting announcements for “characters” like anchor Greta Van Susteren and the humiliated windbag Bill O’Reilly – assuming this film stays on track. It’s possible that Annapurna’s departure could result in a delayed start, but it remains to be seen if another company will be able to swoop in quickly enough to make sure everything runs smoothly.
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