Following rape and sexual harassment allegations against producer Harvey Weinstein and the suspension of Amazon Studios head Roy Price after an allegation of harassment, Amazon has scrapped its pricey David O. Russell drama and taken over Matt Weiner's The Romanoffs.
Both shows were being produced by The Weinstein Co., and the retail giant/streaming outlet has now completely cut ties with the company.
"Amazon Studios no longer plans on moving forward with the David O.Russell project. As for The Romanoffs, Amazon intends to move forward without the involvement of The Weinstein Co.," Amazon Studios said Friday night in a statement.
The news comes days after Amazon Studios said it was "reviewing" its options on The Romanoffs — the eight-episode anthology from Mad Men creator Weiner — as well as the untitled Russell drama that was to star Robert De Niro and Julianne Moore.
"We support Amazon’s decision as in light of recent news and out of respect for all those affected we have decided together that it is best to not move forward with this show," De Niro, Moore and Russell said in a joint statement.
In a Tuesday morning meeting presided over by head of television business affairs Dan Scharf, sources say, executives said they believed Amazon should be proactive and move quickly to extricate both shows from The Weinstein Co. without harming the projects or talent relationships. Sources told The Hollywood Reporter at the time that The Weinstein Co. had not put up any money for either of the shows, despite the company having committed to co-finance both.
Production on The Romanoffs, which comes with a $75 million price tag, has been going smoothly. The first four episodes of the individual anthology show have been filmed, drawing a collection of former Mad Men stars including Christina Hendricks and John Slattery. A source said Weiner's reps had conveyed to Amazon that the showrunner expected the Weinstein name to be eliminated from the series.
The Russell project — which was shopped with a $1 million per episode price tag before ending up at Amazon in what is said to be a deal worth $160 million for two seasons — has not gone as smoothly as the Weiner show. Sources say the mystery drama — which was Price's top priority — has already cost Amazon $40 million with only a handful of scripts turned in. Amazon Studios head Price brought The Weinstein Co. into the Russell project to co-finance but from the start, Weinstein was contractually excluded from creative input.
Price on Thursday was placed on an indefinite suspension hours after Isa Hackett, a producer on Amazon's The Man in the High Castle
and Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams
, detailed in an exclusive interview
with The Hollywood Reporter
her "shocking and surreal" experience with the programming chief in July 2015. "You will love my dick," Price said, according to Hackett, who relayed her account to others. The producer says she reported the incident immediately to Amazon executives. An outside investigator, Public Interest Investigations Inc.'s Christine Farrell, was brought in to speak to Hackett as well as Amazon execs. Hackett says she was never told the outcome of that inquiry, but notes that she hasn’t seen Price at any events involving her shows. (Price, through a spokesperson, declined comment.)
In a company-wide memo Friday, Amazon vp business development Jeff Blackburn noted that "Amazon does not tolerate harassment or abuse of our employees or our business partners. If a concern is brought to our attention, we investigate it quickly and thoroughly."
Friday's memo arrived more than a month after the existence of the alleged incident and subsequent investigation were previously reported
by website The Information.
The decision to scrap the Russell drama comes as Amazon is in the process of a strategy pivot. Looking ahead, the streamer will turn its focus to more global event series a la Game of Thrones. In preparation, the company has enlisted Sharon Tal Yguado to lead the push for genre programming and has been busy axing a series of pricey dramas already on its service, including The Last Tycoon and Z: The Beginning of Everything, the latter of which was canceled after a surprise season two renewal.
The Russell drama becomes the latest TV project to be scrapped in the wake of the Weinstein scandal. Apple this week scrapped an Elvis Presley miniseries that was part of a four-show deal with TWC. Other cable networks are erasing the Weinstein name and company card from existing and upcoming series.