Armie Hammer has been dropped from a slew of projects amid disturbing allegations by several women—culminating this month with the Los Angeles Police Department naming him as a suspect in a sexual assault investigation—but it’s too late to remove him from Kenneth Branagh’s Death on the Nile, leaving Disney scrambling to save a production that was already treading water.
The film, a sequel to 2017’s Murder on the Orient Express, which Branagh also directed and starred in as Agatha Christie’s detective Hercule Poirot, had its release date pushed for the sixth time last week when Disney announced major changes to most of its 2021 slate, but the shift largely went unnoticed with the world focusing on the fate of giants such as Black Widow. This time, Nile got kicked from September 2021 to Valentine’s Day 2022.
While that might sound like plenty of time for the studio to come up with a plan, a person who’s seen an early cut of the mystery tells Variety that Hammer’s Simon Doyle, husband of Gal Godot’s Linnet Ridgeway Doyle, is the leading man, while another source says Disney isn’t even thinking about a reshoot or replacing Hammer.
And even if Disney could come up with tens of millions for a reshoot after a crippling year, the rest of the ensemble, including Annette Bening, Russell Brand, Game of Thrones star Rose Leslie, and comedy duo Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French, are too busy to simply be herded back together for another go.
An exec at a rival studio tells Variety that being forthright about the tricky situation may be the only way forward.
“It seems like the only way to go with this is to come out front and say, ‘Hundreds of people worked on this project, and we’re not scrapping it because of one individual,’” the source said, adding that this might be another film to skip the theaters altogether and be shunted directly to Hulu.
Another industry insider says it’ll be no mystery who’s to blame if Nile suffers an untimely demise. Disney could’ve released the film a year and a half ago, well before it started playing 52 pick-up with its titles. According to that source, Branagh was in Morocco in 2019, prepping to shoot Nile, when the Mouse House yanked him home for yet another round of tinkering on the kid flick Artemis Fowl, delaying Nile’s start by another six months.
Although Disney had bet on Artemis launching a franchise to rival Harry Potter, critics cringed and it ended up with a digital premiere.
Of course, none of this addresses what will happen when the studio starts its media push for Nile, when cast members could face uncomfortable questions about Hammer’s alleged cannibal fantasies, “knife play,” and sex assault.
Disney declined Variety’s request for comment.
Hammer, meanwhile, has denied all allegations, calling them “bullshit,” and his lawyer said the actor “has maintained that all of his interactions…have been completely consensual, discussed and agreed upon in advance, and mutually participatory,” after attorney Gloria Allred held a virtual press conference two weeks ago with a woman who accused Hammer of rape.
Hammer had already stepped away from a starring role opposite Jennifer Lopez in Lionsgate’s Shotgun Wedding, left the cast of the Paramount+ series The Offer, and was dropped by WME, when he was let go yesterday from Amma Asante’s Cold War thriller The Billion Dollar Spy.