Annapurna Pictures will no longer produce its high-profile film tracing the downfall of former Fox News head Roger Ailes, The Hollywood Reporter said on Wednesday. The news came days before the film was to go into production and a day after Malcom Gladwell had been cast as media baron Rupert Murdoch, who had co-founded Fox News with Ailes.
The production company also dropped the Jennifer Lopez-starrer The Hustlers at Scores, based on a New Yorker story of the same name, Variety reported. That film has now been picked up STX, Deadline said.
The Roger Ailes film, directed by Jay Roach, is now looking to be acquired by another studio. The names in contention are Focus Features, Participant Media and Amblin, The Hollywood Reporter said.
Ailes, who led Fox News for two decades, left the conservative news channel in 2016 after he was accused of sexual harassment by at least 20 women, including former hosts Gretchen Carlson and Megyn Kelly. He denied the allegations. Ailes died aged 77 on May 18, 2017. The film reportedly centres on the women’s efforts to bring Ailes to justice. The high-profile cast includes John Lithgow as Ailes, Nicole Kidman as Carlson, Charlize Theron as Kelly and Margot Robbie as a fictional Fox News associate producer. Academy award-winner Charles Randolph has scripted the film.
Annapurna’s film division president Chelsea Barnard, who had been overseeing both films, quit the company after the announcements. There is speculation that Annapurna dropped the films due to budget issues, but according to a report in The Wrap, founder Megan Ellison is “reevaluating” the studio’s film division because of a financial crisis, and will be more involved in its everyday functioning. “The studio has produced or co-produced many prestige projects that have won accolades — from Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master” to Kathryn Bigelow’s “Zero Dark Thirty” to David O. Russell’s “American Hustle” — but insiders say that Ellison has overspent on many of them,” The Wrap said. “The challenges have been exacerbated by Annapurna’s decision to launch its own distribution division last year instead of working with the majors as co-producers and distribution partners and spreading the risk.”
However, a spokesperson for Annapurna told The Wrap that these were “unfounded rumours” and everything was “business as usual”.