Lionsgate has pulled out of a documentary project about Bill Cosby, Variety has learned. The project was in the works for years with Cosby’s cooperation, and has gained attention since he was released from prison. But now, the company has killed it, opening the door for it to be shopped elsewhere.
Since Cosby was freed on June 30 after his conviction was overturned, his spokesperson Andrew Wyatt has talked up a five-part docuseries by documentarian Michelle Major. According to her credits, Major co-directed and co-produced “Venus and Serena,” a 2013 documentary about the Williams sisters that was distributed by Magnolia Pictures, and was an executive producer on Vice’s “Black Lives Matter: A Global Reckoning” series this year.
More from Variety
Wyatt disputes the assertion that Lionsgate has dropped Major’s Cosby docuseries. Several hours after Variety published this story on Friday, Wyatt responded to a request for comment, and wrote: “I just spoke to Michelle Major and nothing has been canceled by Lionsgate. Your story is in accurate.”
Major has not responded to calls and texts from Variety about the project. A spokesperson for Lionsgate did not respond to Variety’s request for comment. On Friday evening, a source with knowledge of the matter reiterated that the project is indeed dead at Lionsgate.
The question remains about where any documentary project backed by Cosby would ever land. An informal survey by Variety of cable channels that air documentaries and docuseries provoked strong negative reactions about the idea of showing a Cosby-endorsed project.
According to an interview with Wyatt in the Los Angeles Times, as of July 7 when that story was published, a freed Cosby had not yet sat for an interview with Major, but the project was nearly done. In that interview, Wyatt also said that Cosby, 84, also plans eventually to return to the stage, which would require culling “media insurrectionists … who fuel the hate” from the audience, Wyatt said.
Cosby was released from prison on June 30 after serving nearly three years in prison for sexually abusing Andrea Constand in 2004. The disgraced comedian was convicted in 2018 after a cascade of 60 women came forward in 2014 with credible allegations of him drugging and raping them over a period of decades. Cosby has always denied the accusations, though he’d settled a lawsuit with Constand in 2006 for a sum that was later revealed to be nearly $3.4 million. In the deposition of that lawsuit, he admitted to giving women Benadryl and Quaaludes, saying of one encounter: “I give her Quaaludes. We then have sex.”
In a second email to Variety on Friday night, Wyatt wrote: “You have shot a canon and will find out that your story is not true.”
He also denied that Cosby had admitted to giving Constand Quaaludes, which the Variety story didn’t say he had.
Wyatt wrote: “Unfortunately, you represent the journalistic malpractice that we have seen and understand, which makes you a member of those media insurrectionists.”
An earlier version of this story mistakenly reported there are two documentary projects about Bill Cosby.
Best of Variety