Amazon Studios has said it was “justified” in terminating its film deal with director Woody Allen, alleging his comments in the wake of the #MeToo era “sabotaged” its efforts to promote his movies.
Allen, 83, sued the film and TV distributor, a subsidiary of Amazon, claiming it abandoned a four-picture deal amid resurfaced allegations he molested his adopted daughter.
Allen strongly denies the accusations, which first emerged in 1992.
The filmmaker is asking for more than 68 million US dollars (£52 million) in damages, alleging breach of contract because the company did not distribute the completed move A Rainy Day In New York.
However, Amazon has now responded to the lawsuit, asking a judge in New York to dismiss portions of the case.
In a response filed on Wednesday, Amazon said it entered into a deal with Allen in August 2017, two months before allegations against movie producer Harvey Weinstein sparked the #MeToo era and a wider backlash against abuse in the entertainment industry.
Allen then “made a series of public comments suggesting that he failed to grasp the gravity of the issues or the implications for his own career”, Amazon alleges.
Quoting the director describing the Weinstein case as “very sad for everybody involved”, it claims he expressed sympathy for the mogul.
Months later, in January 2018, Allen’s daughter Dylan Farrow again alleged he had abused her. Allen publicly dismissed those statements as “cynically using” #MeToo for attention.
His comments came as Amazon was trying to promote his film Wonder Wheel, “effectively sabotaging those efforts”, the company said.
The lawsuit then pointed to the reaction from the film industry, which saw a number of actors express their regret of working with Allen and promising to never do so again.
Rachel Brosnahan, Colin Firth and Michael Caine are among those to say they would never work with Allen again.
The lawsuit then added Allen’s comments saying he “should be the poster boy for the Me Too movement” because he had “only (been) accused by one woman in a child custody case”.
Amazon concludes: “Understood in the broader context, Allen’s actions and their cascading consequences ensured that Amazon could never possibly receive the benefit of its four-picture agreement (despite already having paid Allen a 10 million-dollar advance upon signing).
“As a result, Amazon was justified in terminating its relationship with Allen, and Plaintiffs ultimately will not recover any of the relief they seek.”
As it stands, Amazon is only seeking to have four of the causes of action dismissed, alleging they are “duplicative”.
Allen called the allegations against him “baseless”. He has never been charged in relation to the accusations.
His lawsuit, filed in the US District Court in Manhattan, states Amazon Studios’ associate general counsel, Ajay Patel, wrote in a June 19 email that they “cannot continue in business” because of the negative publicity.
Lawyers for the director argue the publicity does not justify Amazon walking away from the contract.
A Rainy Day In New York was completed in 2017 but has been shelved and is unlikely to ever see the light of day. It stars Timothee Chalamet, Elle Fanning, Selena Gomez and Jude Law.
Allen is a four-time Academy Award winner, including the best director Oscar for 1977’s Annie Hall.
Other films include 1979’s Manhattan, 1986’s Hannah and Her Sisters and 1989’s Crimes And Misdemeanors.