In 2019, Oprah Winfrey attached herself to a documentary exploring the sexual misconduct allegations made against music mogul Russell Simmons. However, earlier this year, Winfrey made the decision to pull out, leaving the emotional documentary without a home. Now, a new major television network is stepping in to host the project.
Directed by Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick, On the Record features the testimonies of women who claim that Simmons sexually harassed and/or abused them. It was set to premiere on Apple TV+ as part of Winfrey’s mega deal with the streaming service but was dropped when she pulled out of the project, citing personal concerns with the material.
After watching On the Record, Winfrey said that she was worried about the film’s failure to “[capture] the nuances of hip-hop culture and the struggles of Black women.” She asked close friend and director Ava DuVernay to review the documentary, and they reached the same conclusion that led Winfrey to detach herself from the project just days before its Sundance Film Festival debut.
Winfrey also confirmed rumors that Russell tried to convince her not to work with Ziering and Dick. “He did reach out multiple times and attempted to pressure me,” Winfrey told The New York Times. "I told him directly in a phone call that I will not be pressured either into, or out of, backing this film. I am only going to do what I believe to be the right thing.”
“The fierce determination of Drew Dixon and all of the women who bravely chose to share their stories in On The Record moved us profoundly,” said Sarah Aubrey, head of original content at HBO Max in a statement Monday. “I’ve been impressed with Amy and Kirby’s work over the years covering this complex subject matter, and look forward to this film finding the widest possible audience.”
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).