AMC CEO Gerry Lopez, Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp Latest to Protest 'Bully's' R Rating

Bully Devon Still - H 2012
Lee Hirsch/The Weinstein Company

Bully Devon Still - H 2012

Tommy Hilfiger will design an exclusive T-shirt inspired by the movie's poster; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees also opposes the rating.

In an unusual turn of events, AMC Entertainment CEO Gerry Lopez has joined the rallying cry to overturn the R rating for language that was assigned to Lee Hirsch's documentary Bully.

Hollywood support also is growing. Meryl Streep and her daughter Mamie Gummer will co-host a screening of the film in New York City, and Johnny Depp has offered his help. The Weinstein Co. releases Bully, about the bullying epidemic in the U.S. schools, in theaters March 30.

Lopez's stand is noteworthy because exhibitors generally are on the side of the ratings system, which is administered both by the Motion Picture Association of America and the National Association of Theatre Owners.

Lopez criticized hard-and-fast rules that limit the use of the F-word. It can only be used once in a movie that's rated PG-13. Violence and sex are more subjective. Hirsch did not want to cut his film, noting the language reflects reality.

"To automatically default Bully is a mistake. Automatic default to a rating … is a mistake," Lopez said. "The message, the movie and its social relevance defy that kind of formulaic, conventional thinking. AMC will show this movie, and we invite our guests to engage in the dialogue its relevant message will inevitably provoke."

Bully has galvanized a national movement, since the very audience it was made for will be restricted in seeing it.

Michigan high school student Katy Butler, a victim of bullying, started a petition that has been signed by 300,000 people -- including one of Lopez's sons.

On Capitol Hill, more than 20 lawmakers have signed a bipartisan letter to the MPAA urging that the rating be overturned. And on Tuesday, Sen. Kirstin Gillibrand, D-N.Y., tweeted that she too supports lowering the rating to PG-13. As with Lopez, it's unusual to have lawmakers asking that a rating be lowered.

Other notable names joining the cause include Justin Bieber, who recently tweeted that he'll help the Weinstein Co. in any way he can, and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees. A T-shirt being designed by Tommy Hilfiger based on the Bully poster will be sold in Hilfiger stores, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting Facing History and Ourselves.