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Roy Price’s days at Amazon Studios have come to an end.
Days after one of the retail outlet and streaming giant’s top producers accused Price of sexual harassment, the executive has resigned as head of Amazon Studios.
Price was placed on a leave of absence Thursday, with Amazon chief operating officer Albert Cheng taking over as studio head on an interim basis. The suspension was considered indefinite, with Price making the move permanent Tuesday with his resignation. (Industry observers did not expect Price to return.) In the wake of the sexual harassment allegations, Price’s fiancee, writer Lila Feinberg, called off their planned wedding. (She was to wear a custom dress designed by Georgina Chapman, the estranged wife to Harvey Weinstein.)
Price’s resignation comes days 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 at the time. 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.)
The news comes after Amazon scrapped Price’s top priority — a $160 million, Weinstein Co.-produced, David O. Russell drama starring Robert De Niro and Julianne Moore — just a day after the executive’s suspension. Amazon on Friday completely cut ties with The Weinstein Co. in the wake of rape and sexual harassment allegations against co-founder and former co-chairman Harvey Weinstein. Per sources, the company had already spent $40 million on the Russell drama. Amazon did not receive any financing from TWC for either show, say those same sources.
Amazon’s relations with Weinstein again became part of the news narrative Thursday when actress Rose McGowan fired off a string of tweets to Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos. The first: “@JeffBezos I told the head of your studio that HW raped me. Over & over I said it. He said it hadn’t been proven. I said I was the proof.” She went on to allege that a script she had in development with the company was later killed. The tweets received heavy attention in part because this was the first time that McGowan had identified her assailant by name.
As for Price, his tenure at Amazon dates back to 2004. During that time, he had overseen the launch of its digital video store and, later, its streaming service.
Amazon’s foray into scripted series has yielded mixed results, with a string of high-profile producers recently going public with their frustrations about working with the streamer. Among them: Goliath creator David E. Kelley, who described Price’s entertainment division as “a bit of a gong show” in a scathing Wall Street Journal piece about the company’s latest struggles in Hollywood. Price was also lambasted for his decision to cancel the well-reviewed drama Good Girls Revolt, with creator Dana Calvo singling out the executive for his failure to learn the characters’ names.
Although Amazon’s Jill Soloway comedy Transparent, starring Jeffrey Tambor, became a critical favorite, and Man in the High Castle and Goliath are said to have been among the streamer’s most-viewed originals, none has broken out the way Stranger Things, 13 Reasons Why and Orange Is the New Black have for rival Netflix. And it was Hulu that became the first streamer to take home a best drama series Emmy, for The Handmaid’s Tale, while Amazon walked away from the awards show empty-handed.
In an acknowledgement of those challenges, the company is currently in the process of a strategy pivot. Looking ahead, Amazon will turn its focus to more global event series a la Game of Thrones. The company recently hired Fox International exec Sharon Tal Yguado to oversee event series and genre programming as it looks to change gears. In preparation, the company has been busy axing a number 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.
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