Johnny Depp has come on board to star as war photographer W. Eugene Smith in the independent drama “Minamata.”
The film will center on Smith’s work as a photographer for Life magazine in exposing the poisoning of the people of Minamata, Japan. Andrew Levitas will direct the film, which is based on the book by Aileen Mioko Smith and W. Eugene Smith and adapted by David K. Kessler.
The story will start with Smith as a recluse, with the glory days of World War II far behind him. But an old friend and a commission from Life Magazine editor Ralph Graves convince him to journey back to Japan to expose a big story: the devastating annihilation of a coastal community through mercury poisoning. “Minamata” will start principal production in Japan followed by Serbia in January.
HanWay Films will handle international sales and distribution and will commence sales at the American Film Market, which opens on Oct. 31 in Santa Monica, Calif. CAA Media Finance will handle US rights. “Minamata” has been developed by Depp’s production entity Infinitum Nihil and is produced by Sam Sarkar, Bill Johnson and Andrew Levitas. Jason Forman and Stephen Deuters will executive produce.
“Working with Johnny to give voice to those who have been silently suffering is a responsibility we do not take lightly,” Levitas said. “Much like Eugene Smith in 1971, we could not feel more privileged or humbled to be tasked with the mission of bringing this incredible story to the world.”
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HanWay Films’ Gabrielle Stewart added, “Eugene Smith’s personal redemptive story arc is really human and touching as he opens up and connects to the people in front of his camera. His story is extremely relevant as it explores how a powerful image can spur the world into action.”
Depp and producer Andrea Iervolino announced Monday that they have formed a partnership to develop and produce film and digital content. The pact is starting with the drama “Waiting for the Barbarians,” starring Depp, Mark Rylance, and Robert Pattinson. Production begins later this month in Morocco.
Depp and Levitas are both represented by CAA. Kessler is managed by Amy Schiffman at Echo Lake Entertainment.