Photo: Global Road Entertainment.
It’s not very often that a movie studio will shelve a completed blockbuster film, especially one with a big Hollywood name like Johnny Depp attached. In fact, it’s almost unheard of. Yet that’s exactly what happened to City of Lies, the film based off Randall Sullivan’s LAbyrinth, which chronicles theories about the murders of rappers Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G.
City of Lies filming concluded in May of 2017 with an expected release date of May 21, 2018, Biggie’s birthday. An unknown “delay” resulted in the film’s release date being pushed back to Sept. 7, 2018; almost 22 years to the day of Tupac Shakur’s murder in Las Vegas. But the film was delayed again, this time “indefinitely,” weeks before the film was to hit theaters due to rumors leaked regarding a potential lawsuit involving Depp and the film’s location manager after the two had an alleged scuffle on set.
It certainly seemed like an odd reason to pull a completed film so close to its release date, one that likely cost well over $50 million to produce. Was there something more behind the decision?
Perhaps, as recent reports suggest, police influenced the delay, not Johnny Depp’s alleged behavior.
The Daily Beast reports that witnesses on set said there was little to no brouhaha between Depp and the film’s location manger and that the pair spent quality, cordial time together once filming wrapped later that evening.
“They had a little moment, there weren’t punches, there wasn’t anything, just were in each others’ face for a second,” script supervisor Emma Danoff, who was sitting next to Depp when the alleged altercation began, told The Daily Beast. “We shot for maybe another hour-and-a-half after that, we went inside. We finished and the locations guy came up to Johnny and they hugged and it was all cute and that was it.”
So if it wasn’t a scuffle between cast and crew, what caused the studio to pull City of Lies? Director Brad Furman thinks there may be something sinister going on with the Los Angeles Police Department after multiple parties close to the case warned him not to make the film. Sanders said it would be a “risk” for him, while a friend of his with connections to the L.A. underworld advised him against the project. Finally, a police officer Furman hadn’t heard from in 15 years contacted him out of the blue, advising the director to, according to the Daily Beast, “get a burner phone and to cover the camera on his computer so no one could hijack his laptop and figure out a way to frame him.”
“I already knew I was going to be banging up against the police in making this movie and that’s something I had to accept in service of the truth and justice. The threat was real since day one and I decided back then I couldn’t let anything bully me, or this story. But the insanity of this situation is at a point where I walk into my home alone, I find myself like a 13-year-old kid, checking my doors,” stated Furman.
LAbryinth author Sullivan also encountered opposition the last time his book was nearly turned into a film; he believes the LAPD contacted the studio and pressured it to shut the movie down before filming could begin. He believes they want as little interest generated about the unsolved murder as possible.
The LAPD is no stranger to scandals; it was previously sued by The Notorious B.I.G.’s mother, Voletta Wallace, for over $400 million after she alleged they covered up her son’s murder. That civil lawsuit was dropped after the LAPD formed a Federal task force and concluded no police involvement in the murder. However, multiple officers moonlighted as gang members and were found on the payroll of Suge Knight‘s Death Row Records, the rival record company to Bad Boy Records, home to Biggie.
According to The Daily Beast, Global Road Entertainment, the company behind the movie, has yet to comment on the allegations. The LAPD says they have no position for or against the film.
City of Lies currently has no release date.