Behind John Boyega’s Abrupt Exit From Netflix’s ‘Rebel Ridge’

The streamer cited "family reasons" for its star's departure from the $25 million production with shooting underway, but sources say he simply walked away.

In early June, John Boyega abruptly exited the Netflix production of Rebel Ridge “for family reasons,” according to a statement released by the streamer at the time. But other sources say that in fact, Boyega simply walked away from the production with filming underway — which, according to one person with knowledge of the situation, the filmmakers only discovered when they looked for him at his hotel and found that he had checked out.

According to sources, there seemed to be no one incident that prompted Boyega to leave in the midst of shooting. Several insiders, however, say the star had myriad issues ranging from the script to his accommodations.

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Top Netflix executives, including head of global films Scott Stuber and co-CEO Ted Sarandos, tried to persuade the star to return to the set without success.

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Dozens of crewmembers on the project were let go after Boyega’s departure as the production disbanded. The shutdown may be temporary, however. Sources say the new plan is to resume shooting with a new lead early next year.

Industry veterans say they cannot remember an instance in which a star walked away from a movie when filming was underway. “I know actors who wanted to back out of a movie, but nobody actually bails,” says one top executive who is not involved with the movie. “Not once they started shooting.”

Boyega’s London-based agent, Femi Oguns, denied in an email that Boyega had unceremoniously exited the project. “I can categorically say that these rumours are completely untrue,” he wrote. “People will form their opinions often rooted from boredom. As stated John unfortunately left due to family reasons which in truth is none of anyone’s business except his own. John and Netflix have a wonderful relation which will continue to grow for years to come whether that be through his acting or through [Boyega’s production company] UpperRoom.”

Through his representatives, Rebel Ridge director Jeremy Saulnier (Hold the Dark, Green Room) declined to comment.

In the wake of Boyega’s departure, Netflix was unable to find a quick replacement. The production has disbanded for now, with plans to resume with a new lead early next year. The film, which Netflix has described as “a thriller that explores systemic American injustice,” had already been delayed for more than a year because of COVID-19. The budget is said to be in the $25 million range.

Last year Netflix made a deal with Boyega to develop films “based on stories, cast, characters, crew, literary properties, mythology, screenplays and/or other elements in or around African countries, with a focus on West and East Africa.” After the actor left Rebel Ridge, the streamer said in a statement: “We look forward to continuing our partnership with John Boyega’s UpperRoom Productions.”

Boyega’s decision to exit the film would seem to preclude an insurance claim for money lost due to the shutdown of the production. Industry insiders say Netflix would not sue, though it would appear that an actor could face liability for leaving a project of his own volition while shooting was underway.

Asked for a reaction to the incident, an executive who has worked with Boyega in the past expressed surprise and was “very disappointed to hear it. The guy is so talented.”

Boyega recently wrapped sci-fi mystery caper They Cloned Tyrone with Jamie Foxx for Netflix. His next release is Naked Singularity, about a public defender whose life starts to unravel following a loss in court. THR’s review gave the film a mixed review but called Boyega “a compelling lead.”