As Woody Allen sues, Amazon will should argue the #MeToo means it have the right to terminate a $68 million deal even though many believe that windy outrage to be "foreseeable."


In late August 2017, Amazon Studios’ then-chief Roy Price negotiated a address Woody Allen to relax the writer-director’s next 4 films, v minimum guarantee payments totaling between $68 million and $73 million. The e-commerce giant was ~ above the verge of becoming a full-fledged Hollywood studio, and also would beginning a film circulation arm three months after cutting the resolve Allen, through his Wonder Wheel together its very first foray. Through Allen’s films in the pipeline and his TV series Crisis in six Scenes on the element platform, Price pronounced the he could compete with traditional studios (and Netflix) for auteurs.

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Just over a month ~ signing the epic deal, the #MeToo tsunami hit Hollywood, sweeping the end Price and also shining a renewed spotlight top top Allen, whose embraced daughter Dylan Farrow proceeds to insurance claim that the Annie Hall helmer, now 83, molested her as soon as she was 7. The stars that his A rainy Day in brand-new York — the an initial film spanned in the 2017 deal — began to publicly distance themselves from Allen, and the film’s challenges seemed insurmountable.

In June 2018, sources say Amazon check to reduced ties and also give Rainy Day — a film around the suddenly tone-deaf relationship in between a well-past-middle-age man (Jude Law) and a young woman (played by Elle Fanning, 19 at the time of production) — back to Allen to execute with what he pleased. In response, on Feb. 7, Allen sue for breach the contract.

Amazon Studios, currently run by Jennifer Salke, find itself at the facility of a case testing exactly how binding a contract is because that those crippled by #MeToo claims. In his suit, Allen contends the Amazon has actually no legit basis to cancel his affluent deal, and Price’s overt indifference to Farrow’s insurance claims at the moment of the deal will be a key factor in this legal drama.


Amazon decreased comment, however experts think it will make the dispute that there room factors beyond its regulate when working through talent branded by the #MeToo movement. And also Amazon is not alone in that predicament. Take the instance of Millennium movies CEO Avi Lerner, that defiantly stood by his decision to rental Bryan Singer to direct Red Sonja (like Allen, Singer has been dogged by allegations of statutory rape). Yet on Feb. 11, Lerner shelved Red Sonja, not due to the fact that he was caving come public press but due to the fact that his service model calls for guaranteed U.S. Distribution in bespeak to do the more essential encounters foreign distributors, and no domestic label would certainly touch the radioactive project (having no U.S. Distributor inside wall up also made it challenging to link Singer). Singer didn’t have a so-called pay-or-play deal, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter, making it less complicated for Millennium to walk.

In his complaint, Allen says Amazon simply can’t walk away from obligations to distribute and pay him for A merganser Day in brand-new York due to the fact that of a “25-year-old, baseless allegation.” however last June, the company’s lawyer Robert Klieger hinted in ~ Amazon’s coming legal dispute in an e-mail to Allen’s team in ~ Quinn Emanuel. Klieger wrote, “Amazon’s power of the Agreement came to be impracticable together a result of supervening events, including renewed allegations versus Mr. Allen, his very own controversial comments and also the enhancing refusal of optimal talent to occupational with or be associated with that in any kind of way, all of which have actually frustrated the purpose of the Agreement and support Amazon’s decision to terminate it.”

Rainy Day’s Rebecca Hall, who also worked v Allen in Vicky Cristina Barcelona, join a farming list of talent saying she remorse working v him. Also if Amazon might take a bath v the Rainy Day release, how could it mountain three much more films v the director offered that only a grasp of actors and actresses are supporting him, especially Alec Baldwin and Diane Keaton.

“Frustration that purpose.” That’s a valid defense often suggested when both political parties of a contract deserve to perform your duties, however as a result of unforeseeable events, one party (here, Allen) can’t offer the other (Amazon) the benefit of what induced the cheap in the an initial place. The unforeseeable event here is the #MeToo movement. “An unseemly underpinning the the defense is the it sounds , ‘We didn’t care before, however we care now since our consumer care,"” states entertainment litigator James Sammataro at Stroock. “Allen’s argument additionally needs to straddle a tightrope, together he successfully needs come argue that public outrage to be ‘foreseeable."”

Allen’s lawyers have actually made subtle selections in anticipating Amazon’s legal response. With nods in the complaint to the “2018 Allen movie Agreement” and also the “2019 Allen film Agreement,” his legitimate team is leaving the impression the these transaction postdate the increase of the #MeToo agreement even if negotiations occurred much earlier.

Amazon wouldn’t it is in the first to argue frustration of purpose. In 2015, Univision backed away from a five-year, $13.5 million deal to transfer the miss out on USA pageant ~ then-owner Donald Trump said he’d be to run for president and also referred to mexico immigrants together “rapists.” ~ Trump filed a $500 million suit, Univision moved for dismissal v word the Trump frustrated the important purpose the the commitment by crassly denigrating its core audience.Trump’s legal solution before the situation was settled? as his lawyers placed it, “Over the course of his career, Mr. Trump has actually been recognized throughout the world as a ‘straight-talker’ — someone that is no afraid come speak his mind.”

Trump’s miss USA situation has part similarity come Allen’s. In the confront of canceled deals, both structure the instance as totally foreseeable without any type of contractual safeguards that would legitimize a termination. Amazon’s agreements with Allen spell the end a many — e.g., his movies would have a 90-day theatrical release, Allen had vast approval rights over marketing, he’d obtain a $50,000 bonus for an Oscar nomination — yet no morals clause. Unlike numerous industry deals, Amazon didn’t negotiate for the explicit ideal to rescind based on something the would bring Allen into public disrepute, contempt, scandal or ridicule.

That doesn’t necessarily doom Amazon, yet expect Allen’s lawyers to hit the point hard the the company’s attorneys, discovering his reputation, elected not come negotiate a morals clause (in fact, Amazon was well aware of Farrow’s allegations, which resurfaced well prior to #MeToo once her brother Ronan Farrow wrote a pillar for THR that excoriated the director on the eve of his Cafe Society bowing at Cannes in 2016). Amazon, in turn, will allude to the #MeToo economic fallout, as evidenced by a film prefer Kevin Spacey’s Billionaire boys Club, which was DOA last year.

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Amazon’s goal will be to guide a judge that contractual frustration quantities to an worry for a jury, so that it may gain to trial v a sympathetic #MeToo story. Amazon may have actually acted late, yet so did many actors and also audiences to allegations rolling Allen end the years. Previewing what Amazon most likely would call a jury, litigator Devin McRae says, “If you are engaged in predatory conduct, perhaps you shouldn’t be rewarded.”

Still, one top executive at an Amazon rival sees the instance as a potential windfall for Allen if (and that’s a big “if”) he wins. “He can take the money and make a couple of movies and also have money for P&A. He have the right to hire a booking and also marketing company for a fee,” claims the exec. “Or sell on the open up market. That knows what agency might be ready to distribute? Especially because nothing has readjusted with that in 25 years.”

A version of this story appeared in the Feb. 13 concern of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To get the magazine,click here to subscribe.