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Russell Simmons Accusers Documentary Acquired by HBO Max after Oprah Pulled out of the Project

Mary Scott
Feb 06, 2020
02:20 P.M.
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HBO Max has picked up "On The Record," the explosive documentary about music mogul Russell Simmons' sexual assault accusers. This comes after Oprah Winfrey shockingly exited her role as an executive producer for the project last month.


"On The Record," which was previously set to air on Apple TV+, has found a new home. Less than two weeks after the documentary premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, HBO's forthcoming streaming counterpart has acquired the rights.

Russell Simmons at the 2017 Make a Wish Gala on Nov. 9, 2017 in California | Photo: Getty Images


In a statement to Shadow and Act, HBO Max's head of original content Sarah Aubrey said:

"The fierce determination of Drew Dixon and all of the women who bravely chose to share their stories in On The Record moved us profoundly. I've been impressed with Amy and Kirby's work over the years covering this complex subject matter, and look forward to this film finding the widest possible audience."

Oprah Winfrey at The Robin Hood Foundation's 2018 benefit in New York City on May 14, 2018 | Photo: Getty Images


"On The Record," directed and produced by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, chronicles the story of music executive Drew Dixon, who claims her former boss Simmons sexually harassed her and raped her at his New York home in 1995.

Winfrey explained in a statement that she decided to step aside because she felt more work needed to be done in the documentary

The film also includes the voices of other Simmons accusers like Sil Lai Abrams, Sheri Hines, Jenny Lumet, Alexia Norton Jones. According to its official description, "On The Record" examines "the ways women of colors' voices are all too often silenced and ignored when reporting these crimes."


"Kirby and I are so proud to be teaming with HBO Max to give this film the outstanding platform it deserves and can't wait for the public to see and hear the voices of these courageous women," Ziering added.

Simmons has vehemently denied all sexual assault claims, and in December, he wrote an open letter to Winfrey. Shared via Instagram, the lengthy message partially reads: "I have never been violent or forced myself on anyone."


According to Vanity Fair, HBO's move to pick up "On The Record" echoes its acquisition of "Leaving Neverland" last year. The documentary, which also premiered at Sundance, detailed pedophilia accusations by two men against the late Michael Jackson.

"Leaving Neverland" sparked intense controversy and saw HBO getting slammed with a $100 million lawsuit by Jackson's estate. Nevertheless, HBO stood by the Dan Reed-produced-and-directed documentary.

Russell Simmons visits the SiriusXM Studios on April 23, 2014 in New York City | Photo: Getty Images


Winfrey announced her exit from the project just last month. "On The Record" was initially produced as part of the media mogul's deal with Apple TV+, and Winfrey had served as executive producer for the documentary.

Per Rolling Stone, Winfrey explained in a statement that she decided to step aside because she felt more work needed to be done in the documentary. "It has become clear that the filmmakers and I are not aligned in that creative vision," she revealed.


Winfrey emphasized, however, that she believes all the women who came forward to accuse Simmons and would continue to support them. She also clarified that her decision was not influenced by Simmons' alleged attempts to pressure her.

"I unequivocally say that I did not pull out because of Russell. This is not a victory lap for him," she stated last month during a TV appearance. "I cannot be silenced by a Russell Simmons after all I've been through."

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