Russell Simmons Accusers Documentary Acquired by HBO Max after Oprah Pulled out of the Project
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.
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."
"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."
The new streaming service HBO Max will carry a documentary about the women who have accused Russell Simmons of sexual misconduct after its original backers, Oprah Winfrey and Apple TV Plus, dropped the film https://t.co/Ew85ZTfsF8— The New York Times (@nytimes) February 4, 2020
"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."
View this post on Instagram
Dearest OPRAH,you have been a shining light to my family and my community. Contributing so much to my life that I couldn’t list a fraction of it in this blog.Ihave given you the gift of meditation and the groundbreaking book”THE POWER OF NOW “we bonded to say the least. This is why it’s so troubling that you choose me to single out in your recent documentry. I have already admitted to being a playboy more (appropriately titled today “womanizer”) sleeping with and putting myself in more compromising situations than almost any man I know. Not 8 or 14 thousand like Warren Beatty or Wilt Chamberlain, but still an embarrassing number. So many that some could reinterpret or reimagine a different recollection of the same experiences. Please note that ur producers said that this upcoming doc was to focus ONLY on 3 hand chosen women. I have refused to get in the mud with any accusers, but let’s acknowledge what i have shared. I have taken and passed nine 3-hour lie detector tests (taken for my daughters), that these stories have been passed on by CNN, NBC, BUZZFEED, NY POST, NY MAG, AND OTHERS. Now that you have reviewed the facts and you SHOULD have learned what I know; that these stories are UNUSABLE and that “hurt people hurt people”. Today I received a call from an old girlfriend from the early 1980s which means that they are using my words/evidence against me and their COMMITMENT/ (all of the claims are 25 to 40 years old) It is impossible to prove what happened 40 years ago, but in my case proof exists of what didn’t happen, mostly signed letters from their own parents, siblings, roommates, band members, interns, and in the case of 2 of your 3 accusers,their own words in their books. Shocking how many people have misused this important powerful revolution for relevance and money. ... In closing, I am guilty of exploiting, supporting, and making the soundtrack for a grossly unequal society, but i have never been violent or forced myself on anyone. Still I am here to help support a necessary shift in power and consciousness. Let us get to work on uplifting humanity and put this moment and old narrative behind us
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.
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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