Oprah and Apple scrap plans for sexual assault documentary

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Oprah Winfrey says Apple TV+ can have a genuine impact on humanity.
It will still debut later this month, but not on Apple TV+.
Photo: Apple

Oprah Winfrey is stepping away from a new documentary based on the Time’s Up movement. The high-profile film will go ahead, with a premiere scheduled for the Sundance Film Festival this month. But it will no longer hit Apple TV+.

Oprah says she believes and supports the women featured in the documentary. But she feels the project is incomplete and says “it has become clear that the filmmakers and I are not aligned in … creative vision.”

The hugely anticipated film was shaping up to be Oprah’s first contribution to Apple TV+ following her 2018 content deal with Apple. Apple called it “a profound examination of race, gender, class and intersectionality.”

The documentary focuses on the sexual misconduct allegations raised against former music producer Russel Simmons. You’ll be able to see it if you’re at the Sundance Film Festival later this month. But you won’t see it on Apple TV+.

‘More work to be done on the film’

“I have decided that I will no longer be executive producer on The Untitled Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering documentary and it will not air on Apple TV+,” Oprah confirmed in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter.

” I want it to be known that I unequivocally believe and support the women. Their stories deserve to be told and heard,” she added. But as a result of creative differences, Oprah has decided to step back.

“In my opinion, there is more work to be done on the film to illuminate the full scope of what the victims endured, and it has become clear that the filmmakers and I are not aligned in that creative vision.”

Oprah has “great respect” for the mission of Dick and Ziering, who she calls “talented filmmakers.” But their desire to premiere the film “before I believe it is complete” means “it’s best to step aside.”

In support of Time’s Up

Oprah will be working with Time’s Up to support the victims and those impacted by sexual harassment, she added. Time’s Up CEO Tina Tchen said the organization supports those who have spoken out about Simmons.

“These women are brave. We believe them,” read a statement from Tchen. “We support Oprah Winfrey in maintaining that the victims’ stories deserve to be heard on their own terms.”

“As Oprah made clear in her statement, any decision by her and Apple regarding this documentary does not change the underlying facts. We assert Time’s Up’s unwavering support for these survivors.”

Dick and Ziering said they are disappointed Oprah is no longer an executive producer for the film. But they stand by the documentary, which has been more than two years in the making. It will be their eighth premiere at Sundance.

“Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering’s newest film is one of the most powerful documentaries we have ever funded,” added production company Impact Partners. “It is ready for Sundance and we cannot wait for the world to see it.”

A blow to Apple TV+

The news comes as a blow to Apple TV+, which is sorely lacking fresh content after just two months. A number of flagship shows, including The Morning Show and See, have now finished. Another original film, starring Samuel L. Jackson, is on hold for now after its premiere was scrapped.

Cult of Mac has asked Apple for comment.