Mystery Surrounds Fate of John Travolta's 'Gotti' Movie

YouTube/Lionsgate Movies

Lionsgate's microrelease label sold back the film just days before its planned Dec. 15 launch, but a producer now says it will get a wider release: “This has nothing to with scandal, sex, anything like that."

John Travolta’s new movie Gotti, which was pulled earlier this week from its scheduled Dec. 15 release, is now caught up in a mystery about what exactly is happening with the long-in-development biopic, in which the actor stars as the titular mobster John Gotti.

Lionsgate Premiere, the studio's label that specializes in releases that debut with limited theatrical runs as they become simultaneously available on VOD, dropped the film from its schedule just 10 days before it was set to open. That immediately triggered speculation online that the distributor had lost faith in the film. But Keya Morgan, an executive producer on the movie, bristles at the suggestion Lionsgate dumped the film, saying that its producers bought it back so they can arrange for a wider theatrical release.

"It’s a masterpiece. It’s one of the best mob movies I’ve seen in years," Morgan says. "We pulled it, not the other way around. We did two recent screenings and had amazing feedback. We had only had four to five days left in the contract to get the film out of their hands."

Lionsgate declined to comment, but confirmed that Gotti had been extricated from the studio by the filmmakers.

Morgan says he raised $50 million from financiers including Edward Walson (Woody Allen's Cafe Society) to regain control of the film. They paid Lionsgate $4.5 million for U.S. rights. The remaining money would go to a wide-release prints-and-advertising campaign.

Still, it is incredibly rare for a distributor to sell a movie back to a producer just days before its release. And given the current climate in Hollywood in the wake of the sprawling sex harassment scandal, as high-profile industry figures are being scrutinized for any past sexual misdeeds, there has been speculation that Lionsgate offloading the film could be a preemptive move if one of the principals behind the film is under investigation. Kevin Connolly, best known as the star of Entourage, directed the feature starring Travolta and wife Kelly Preston as Gotti's wife Victoria.

But Morgan is adamant that “this has nothing to with scandal, sex, anything like that. I have documentation that we were dying to pull this film back, and I had to beg and John had to beg to get this film back,” he says.

Radar Online did recently unearth a 2000 police report involving Travolta that detailed a claim that the actor groped and assaulted a masseuse at a Palm Springs hotel. According to the report, the officer who investigated the alleged incident said the claim did not meet the criteria for sexual battery. The case was subsequently “closed unfounded.” Travolta also was the subject of a 2012 lawsuit in which two massage therapists accused the actor of sexual assault. At the time, Travolta’s attorney Marty Singer called the allegations “a complete fiction and fabrication,” adding, “None of the events claimed in the suit ever occurred."

Travolta also recently left his longtime agency CAA, which has been drawn into the Harvey Weinstein assault and harassment scandal via its representation of the producer's company and its role in sending actresses to Weinstein hotel meetings. The agency declined to comment, but the decision to leave was Travolta's, according to one source.