UPDATE: HBO Max has acquired U.S. rights to Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering’s On the Record, following the documentary’s premiere at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.
“Kirby and I are so proud to be teaming with HBO Max to give this film the outstanding platform it deserves and can’t wait for the public to see and hear the voices of these courageous women,” Ziering said in a statement.
The film, which was set to debut at the Sundance Film Festival later this month, was produced under Winfrey’s deal with Apple TV+; as a result of Winfrey’s departure, the streaming service will no longer distribute the documentary.
“I have great respect for their mission but given the filmmakers’ desire to premiere the film at the Sundance Film Festival before I believe it is complete, I feel it’s best to step aside,” Winfrey said in a statement (via New York Times). “I will be working with Time’s Up to support the victims and those impacted by abuse and sexual harassment.”
Winfrey continued, “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.” She added that she “unequivocally believes and supports the women” who came forward with allegations against Simmons in the documentary.
The Simmons documentary focuses on the allegations against the Def Jam CEO by the label’s onetime A&R Drew Dixon as well as other women who accused Simmons of sexually assaulting them.
The film was helmed by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, who previously directed the documentary The Hunting Ground about sexual assaults on college campus.
“Revealing hard truths is never easy, and the women in our documentary are all showing extraordinary strength and courage by raising their voices to address sexual abuse in the music industry,” Dick and Ziering said in a statement. “While we are disappointed that Oprah Winfrey is no longer an executive producer on the project, we are gratified that Winfrey has unequivocally said she believes and supports the survivors in the film.”
The media titan initially announced her involvement in the project in early December 2019. At the time, Simmons was unmentioned as the focus, with filmmakers saying the documentary was about alleged sexual assaults by “a notable figure in the music industry.”
Winfrey’s exit comes a month after Simmons penned an open letter to Oprah on Instagram alongside images of he and Winfrey sitting together during an interview; he re-posted that open letter Saturday following news of Winfrey leaving the project. Simmons also previously contributed to Winfrey’s book The Wisdom of Sundays, a passage that will be excised from future printings following the accusations against Simmons.