Annapurna Pictures drops director Jay Roach's untitled film about former Fox News chairman Roger Ailes, just weeks before it was set to begin production. The studio had been developing the project, which chronicles the sexual harassment allegations against Ailes, for quite some time - recruiting an all-star ensemble cast to boot.
Earlier this year, Charlize Theron signed on to portray former Fox reporter Megyn Kelly, and it was only a couple of months ago John Lithgow was cast as Ailes. Other prominent thespians involved include Margot Robbie and Nicole Kidman, giving the film a tremendous amount of clout and prestige. Particularly in today's climate, the Ailes movie seemed like the socially relevant film any studio would love to have on their slate, but Annapurna has to pass on it at the last minute.
THR reports Annapurna dropped the Ailes film, with the official reasoning unknown. Some sources claim there were budgetary concerns, but that isn't confirmed. It's worth mentioning the project hasn't been scrapped, and is now on the lookout for a new home. Per Variety, Focus Features may wind up distributing it.
The reported budget for the Ailes movie is roughly $35 million, which is a relatively small amount by Hollywood standards. However, Annapurna is going through quite a rough period. A separate Variety report stated Annapurna President of Film Chelsea Barnard is leaving her position as the studio also let go of the upcoming The Hustlers at Scores, which stars Jennifer Lopez as a stripper out for revenge. THR also notes the studio is hurting financially, which would explain their decision to drop two high-profile films. Last year, the indie house got in the business of distributing their own movies - an endeavor that likely hasn't gone as well as they'd hope. To date, their biggest hit as a distributor is Eli Roth's Death Wish remake, which earned $41.4 million worldwide.
Hopefully, Annapurna is able to find its footing soon, as it still has plenty of noteworthy films on deck. As of now, they're distributing two of this year's biggest Oscar hopefuls in Barry Jenkins' If Beale Street Could Talk and Adam McKay's Vice and handling the Stateside release of Bond 25. That's a fairly tall order, particularly for a studio trying to keep its head above water. It would be a sad day for the film industry if Annapurna ends up going under, so ideally studio founder Megan Ellison will be able to work some magic and get things back on track. In the meantime, they desperately need Vice (receiving a wide release on Christmas) to be a hit this holiday season.