First Look Image of Johnny Depp as W. Eugene Smith as Production Begins on MINAMATA Directed by Andrew Levitas | The Fan Carpet

First Look Image of Johnny Depp as W. Eugene Smith as Production Begins on MINAMATA Directed by Andrew Levitas

04 February 2019


Minami, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tadanobu Asano, Ryo Kase, Jun Kunimura also join as production begins

Principal Photography has begun on Minamata, directed by filmmaker, writer, and acclaimed artist Andrew Levitas and starring three-time Academy Award® nominee and Golden Globe winner Johnny Depp as celebrated war photographer W. Eugene Smith.

Bill Nighy (The Kindness of Strangers, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest) has joined the cast of Minamata which will co-star Minami (Vision), acclaimed actor Hiroyuki Sanada (Avengers: Endgame, Westworld, Mr. Holmes, The Twilight Samurai), Tadanobu Asano (Silence, The Outsider, Thor, Midway), Ryo Kase (Letters from Iwo Jima, Restless, Silence, Like Someone in Love), and Jun Kunimura (Kill Bill: Vol 1 and 2, Midway). The famed Yôko Narahashi (Earthquake Bird, Unbroken) is the casting director on the film which is currently underway in locations in Japan, Serbia, and Montenegro.



Developed by Depp’s production entity Infinitum Nihil, Depp will also produce along with Infinitum Nihil’s Sam Sarkar, Levitas under his Metalwork Pictures banner and Academy Award® nominee Gabrielle Tana (The White Crow, Philomena). Jason Forman, Stephen Deuters, Peter Watson, Phil Hunt, Compton Ross, Gabrielle Stewart, Stephen Spence, Peter Touche, Norman Merry and Peter Hampden will executive produce. Heads of department include César Award nominated cinematographer Benoit Delhomme (At Eternity’s Gate, The Theory of Everything, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas), production designer Tom Foden (Mirror Mirror, The Village, One Hour Photo) and line and executive producer Kevan Van Thompson (JoJo Rabbit).

Minamata is based on the book by Aileen Mioko Smith and W. Eugene Smith and adapted by David K. Kessler (A Hard Day’s Day). The redemptive thriller, a real-life David versus Goliath story, pitts Smith against a powerful corporation responsible for poisoning the people of Minamata - Japan in 1971. Minamata is an extremely moving story of how one man's powerful photograph impacted the world to take action.

With the glory days of World War II far behind him Smith (Depp) has become a recluse, disconnected from society and his career. But an old friend and a commission from “Life Magazine” editor (Nighy) convinces him to journey back to Japan to expose a big story: the devastating annihilation of a coastal community, victims of corporate greed and complicit local police and government. Armed with only his trusted camera, Smith must gain the trust of this struggling community and find the images that will bring the story to the World.



The victims’ case against the corporation responsible for this environmental disaster represents one of the biggest payouts of all time, with present day sufferers of Minamata disease still in court today seeking compensation. Production has spent time in Minamata meeting some of the victims and their families and the film is being made with their support.

Director Andrew Levitas said of the film, “I am thrilled to be working with such a talented and dedicated team on the story behind one of the most devastating and relatively unknown catastrophes of the past 100 years. Told through the eyes of the extraordinary W. Eugene Smith, widely regarded as one of the most passionate, ground-breaking and uncompromising photojournalists of the 20th century. In his bid to bring the world’s attention to atrocities including the bloodiest conflict in human history, World War II and the horrors of Minamata he put his own life at risk to bring the truth out in his work and capture some of the most poignant images ever taken. Every one of the cast and crew is determined to make the people of Minamata’s voices heard as we begin shooting this film.”

HanWay Films are handling international sales and distribution on Minamata, which will continue in Berlin during EFM next week. The HanWay slate also includes Lone Scherfig’s The Kindness of Strangers, starring Zoe Kazan, Tahar Rahim, Andrea Riseborough, Caleb Landry Jones, Jay Baruchel and Bill Nighy which will open the festival.

Minamata is an Ingenious Media and Rogue Black presentation of a Metalwork Pictures production in association with Infinitum Nihil, WindHorse Entertainment, Magnolia Mae Films, Hanway Films, Headgear Films, Metrol Technology and Lipsync Productions.

CAA Media Finance will handle US rights. Depp, Levitas are represented by CAA along with Sanada who is also represented by Lighthouse Entertainment and Nighy is represented by CAA and Markham Froggatt Irwin.

Photo Credit: W. Eugene Smith Photographing a Fishing Village in Minamata (1973) ©️ 2019 Takeshi Ishikawa

HanWay Films is a UK based international sales and marketing company specialising in quality, high profile and commercially driven films from visionary and unique filmmakers around the world. Established in 1998 by producer Jeremy Thomas, HanWay offers full service solutions; arranging financing, sales, marketing and distribution. HanWay Films has long-term global producing partnerships and represents films from Recorded Picture Company along with projects from third party producers as well as the rights to an extensive film catalogue of over five hundred feature films.

HanWay’s slate includes Lone Scherfig’s THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS which is opening the 69th Berlin International Film Festival, screening in competition; Richard Press’ FARNSWORTH HOUSE starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and Ralph Fiennes; Andrew Levitas’ redemptive thriller MINAMATA starring Johnny Depp; two-time Academy Award® nominee Viggo Mortensen’s directorial debut FALLING; Academy Award® winner Ron Howard’s feature documentary on the life of iconic tenor Luciano Pavarotti; Matteo Garrone’s PINOCCHIO starring Academy Award® winner Roberto Benigni; James D’Arcy’s heart-warming comedy MADE IN ITALY starring Liam Neeson and Micheál Richardson; Giuseppe Capotondi’s THE BURNT ORANGE HERESY; Claire McCarthy’s BURNING SEASON starring Naomi Watts and Sophia Lillis; SWEETNESS IN THE BELLY from director Zeresenay Berhane Mehari; Alistair Banks Griffin’s THE WOLF HOUR starring Naomi Watts; Ralph Fiennes’ Nureyev thriller THE WHITE CROW and Sebastian Schipper’s ROADS. HanWay also represents Kim Nguyen’s high-speed drama THE HUMMINGBIRD PROJECT starring Jesse Eisenberg, Alexander Skarsgård, and Salma Hayek; Reinaldo Marcus Green’s Sundance award winner MONSTERS AND MEN; Wash Westmoreland’s COLETTE starring Keira Knightley and Dominic West and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s FARMING starring Damson Idris, Kate Beckinsale and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, which all screened at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Infinitum Nihil has produced "The Rum Diary" directed by Bruce Robinson, starring Johnny Depp; “Dark Shadows” directed by Tim Burton, starring Johnny Depp; and “Hugo” directed by Martin Scorsese. They are currently developing "Fortunately the Milk" at Fox.

In other media they produced the comedy special "No Place Like Home" with comedian Doug Stanhope and have several shows in development including "Muscle Shoals" for ABC, "The Fourth Tower of Inverness" at Amazon Studios and "Meet Mr. Tightwad" with animation studio Shadowmachine.

Founded in 2011 by innovative filmmaker, writer, producer and acclaimed artist, Andrew Levitas, Metalwork Pictures is a fast-growing independent media production company that develops, produces, and finances high quality, international content.

With offices in New York and London, Metalwork Pictures’ is currently in production on Minimata starring Academy Award Nominee Johnny Depp as celebrated war photographer W. Eugene Smith, which Levitas is directing. The company is in post-production on Christoph Waltz’s directorial debut Georgetown (starring Waltz, Vanessa Redgrave, Annette Bening), Julie Delpy’s My Zoe (Daniel Brühl, Gemma Arterton) and Colin and James Krisel’s Last Moment of Clarity (Samara Weaving). Metalwork Pictures produced Ralph Fiennes The White Crow which Sony Pictures Classics will release in April and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s Farming (Kate Beckinsale, Gugu Mbatha-Raw), which debuted at the Toronto Film Festival in September.

Previous credits include: Gavin Wiesen’s The Art of Getting By (Emma Roberts, Freddie Highmore), Flower (Zoey Deutch), Kevin Asch’s Affluenz, Ramin Bahrani’s At Any Price (Zac Efron, Dennis Quaid) and Lullaby (Garrett Hedlund, Amy Adams, Richard Jenkins), which Levitas wrote and directed.

Established in 1981, Etherton Gallery is best known for its expertise in post-World War II American photography. In over 300 exhibitions featuring well over 100 artists, the gallery has showcased the icons of the history of photography as well as the contemporary artists changing its course. Etherton Gallery is dedicated to making great works of photography accessible to novices and experienced collectors alike. The gallery is a long-standing member of AIPAD (the Association of International Photography Art Dealers), and Terry Etherton serves on the Board of Directors. Etherton Gallery participates in fine art photography fairs including the AIPAD Photography Show NY, Classic Photographs LA, Photo LA, and Paris Photo. The gallery has placed work in numerous private and public collections among them: The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri; and Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Terry Etherton is an accredited member of the American Society of Appraisers and is available for appraisals, absentee bidding and collections consultation.

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  1. Jamie L Chaney
    February 5, 2019 at 12:49 pm — Reply

    So excited to see the film. Johnny is such a talented actor! Can’t wait to see what his brilliance delivers! Such an important story with devastating impact on so many innocent people. I can’t think of a better actor to play Eugene Smith!

  2. lindsey depp
    February 9, 2019 at 12:59 pm — Reply

    I can’t wait to see this amazing film , I’m so proud of my husband to be johnny depp

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