NEW YORK (Reuters) - Woody Allen sued Amazon Studios on Thursday, saying he deserves at least $68 million in damages over their refusal to distribute his completed film “A Rainy Day in New York” and their decision to abandon a four-picture production and distribution arrangement.
Allen, 83, accused the Amazon.com Inc unit of breach of contract for backing out last June, after an accusation resurfaced that he had in 1992 molested his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow.
“Amazon has tried to excuse its action by referencing a 25-year-old, baseless allegation against Mr. Allen, but that allegation was already well known to Amazon (and the public)” before it contracted with Allen, the complaint said. “It does not provide a basis for Amazon to terminate the contract.”
Amazon Studios did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Allen has long denied the allegation by Dylan Farrow and her mother Mia Farrow, who appeared in a dozen of his films and was his longtime partner. He has not been charged.
The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan follows more than two decades of modest commercial fortunes for many Allen films.
Allen has won four Oscars, including best director for 1977’s “Annie Hall,” which also won best picture. Several actresses have also won Oscars for his movies.
But some actors and actresses expressed regret for appearing in Allen’s films after Dylan Farrow’s accusation gained renewed attention in the #MeToo movement, which began in late 2017.
In the complaint, Allen said Amazon Studios had already contracted with him and his Gravier Productions to distribute his films “Cafe Society” and “Wonder Wheel” before entering the four-film agreement in August 2017.
But he said studio executives soon expressed concern about “negative publicity and reputational harm” it faced over harassment claims against its former president Roy Price, and its ties to Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.
Weinstein has denied allegations by more than 70 women of sexual misconduct. The Wall Street Journal said Price has disputed claims against him. Price could not immediately be reached for comment.
Allen said he agreed to delay the release of “Rainy Day,” only to have Amazon Studios cancel their contract altogether.
“Amazon cannot continue in business with Mr. Allen,” Amazon Studios associate general counsel Ajay Patel wrote in a June 19 email.
Six days later, Amazon Studios’ outside lawyer emailed that “renewed allegations against Mr. Allen, his own controversial comments, and the increasing refusal of top talent to work with or be associated with him” supported the decision to back out.
Allen’s lawyers said none of this justified the cancellation. Both emails were attached to the complaint.
The case is Gravier Productions Inc et al v Amazon Content Services LLC et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 19-01169.
Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Howard Goller