Oprah Winfrey announced earlier this month that she will no longer be executive producing the On the Record documentary about Russell Simmons’ sexual assault accusers. It turns out that she didn’t make that decision alone. Her good friend and director Ava DuVernay played a role in her exit.
Winfrey reportedly sent DuVernay the documentary to preview it and her opinion was “harsh,” according to The New York Times. She gave her input about Winfrey’s exit, saying no matter what her ultimate decision was, the odds were against her.
“She’s got Simmons on one side pressuring her, and then she’s got a film on the other side that she doesn’t agree with,” DuVernay said. “So if she walks away from the film, she seems like she’s caving to Simmons, and if she stays with the film, then she’s putting her name on something that she feels doesn’t quite hit the mark.”
The On the Record directors Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering said they were shocked about Winfrey’s exit considering that after her team viewed the doc they seemed to be pleased.
“We absolutely loved watching the latest cut — it’s incredible,” read an email from Harpo after seeing the final product.
“We had a really great working relationship with Ms. Winfrey, Harpo, and Apple throughout the many stages of crafting the film,” Dick and Ziering told the New York Times. “We feel we more than delivered a finished film that is in keeping with the qualities of excellence, integrity and veracity that we hold dear.”
Winfrey stepped down citing differing creative visions from Dick and Ziering. The OWN boss also felt that the film was not ready for the Sundance Film Festival which is this week on January 25th. She also felt there were “inconsistencies in [accuser Drew Dixon’s] account that the film had not adequately addressed.”
Russell Simmons has denied all sexual assault and sexual misconduct allegations.