Woody Allen is hoping to get a prime payout from Amazon.
The 83-year-old director filed a $68 million lawsuit Thursday against the company over the release of his most recent feature film, A Rainy Day in New York, starring Selena Gomez and Timothée Chalamet. Production on the film was completed in 2017, but the movie has been sitting on the shelf, reportedly delayed by concerns over Allen’s past behavior.
According to the suit, obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, Allen—the decades-spanning director of such hits as Annie Hall and Midnight in Paris—signed a series of lucrative deals with the company in 2014, just as Amazon was ramping up its slate of original productions. The multi-part agreement, valued between $68 million and $73 million, would require Allen to write and direct several film and television installments for the streamer, including the mini-series Crisis in Six Scenes, which Amazon released in 2016 to miserable reviews.
The star-studded Rainy Day, which also stars Elle Fanning and Oscar nominee Jude Law, was supposed to be Allen’s follow-up. Instead, according to the suit, its release date was initially pushed back from 2018 to this year, thanks in part to controversy surrounding Roy Price, the Amazon Studios chief who resigned in 2017 amid claims of sexual harassment.
But Allen’s own public image had also suffered potentially career-ending damage. In 2014, adoptive daughter Dylan Farrow wrote a New York Times essay accusing Allen of sexually abusing her as a minor. Two years later, Allen’s son Ronan Farrow contributed a column to The Hollywood Reporter in which he said he believed his sister’s claims. Over the next few years, as the MeToo and Time’s Up movements grew, some former collaborators began distancing themselves from Allen, including Chalamet, who last year announced he was donating his Rainy Day salary to a handful of charities. “I don’t want to profit from my work on the film,” the actor wrote in an Instagram post.
Amazon did release Allen’s drama Wonder Wheel in 2017. But the film was released with minimal fanfare in just a few hundred theaters—and earned less than $2 million, making it one of the lowest-grossing movies of Allen’s career—and seemed to confirm that Allen’s private-life troubles were proving a turn-off with moviegoers.
The continuing controversy over Allen’s past apparently convinced Amazon to scrap the release of A Rainy Day in New York in any form, prompting Allen’s breach of contract lawsuit, which was filed in a New York federal court. “Amazon has tried to excuse its action by referencing a 25-year old, baseless allegation against Mr. Allen,” notes the lawsuit, which is seeking at least $68 million. “But that allegation was already well known to Amazon (and the public) before Amazon entered into four separate deals with Mr. Allen—and, in any event it does not provide a basis for Amazon to terminate the contract.”
As of now, it seems likely that the release of Rainy will be held up further in the courts—that is, if it’s ever released at all. The writer-director has averaged about one movie a year since his Annie Hall heyday in the late seventies, but hasn’t been behind the camera since 2017, making for the longest absence of his career. According to the Internet Movie Database, Allen’s next film is due in 2020, but for a filmmaker whose projects usually command big stars and big attentions, the details on his next release are notably murky. There’s no title, nor are there any confirmed cast members.
“The plot,” the site notes, “is currently unknown.”