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Johnny Depp to star as photojournalist W. Eugene Smith in Minamata thriller

Word has come down the wire that Johnny Depp has signed on to star in director Andrew Levitas' (LULLABY) upcoming thriller MINAMATA. As per the deal, Depp has agreed to play renowned war photojournalist W. Eugene Smith in the film, which is based on the book of the same name by Aileen Mioko Smith and Smith and adapted by David K. Kessler. With CAA Media Finance managing the project's U.S. rights, cameras are scheduled to begin filming in Japan and then Serbia at the start of the new year.

The story of MINAMATA begins with Smith as a recluse, and his glory days of World War II behind him. However, after Smith's old friend, Life Magazine editor Ralph Graves, comissions him to return to Minamata, Japan, Smith discovers an even larger story: one that involves the annihilation of a coastal community, and how corporate greed paved the way for a corrupt genocide and a broken system meant to protect its people.

The case of the Minamata poisoning is well known, and represents one of the largest payouts of all time. In fact, many victims of Minamata disease are still pleading their cases in court rooms today. It's a sensitive subject to be certain, which is why the MINAMATA production has arranged to meet with victims and survivors of the ordeal, as part of an effort to create the film with their full support.

“Working with Johnny to give voice to those who have been silently suffering is a responsibility we do not take lightly" said Levitas. "Much like Eugene Smith in 1971, we could not feel more privileged or humbled to be tasked with the mission of bringing this incredible story to the world."

"Eugene Smith's personal redemptive story arc is really human and touching as he opens up and connects to the people in front of his camera," said HanWay managing director Gabrielle Stewart. "His story is extremely relevant as it explores how a powerful image can spur the world into action. It was the image of the Syrian boy found dead on a Turkish beach that galvanized Europe into facing the refugee crisis; we still remember the impact of the Tank Man of the Tiananmen Square photograph; and Eugene Smith's Minamata photograph Tomoko Uemura in Her Bath."

Depp's Infinitum Nihil banner is developing the pic with Sam Sarkar, Bill Johnson, and and Andrew Levitas  producing. Meanwhile, Jason Forman and Stephen Deuters will executive produce.

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