HBO Picks Up Russell Simmons Rape Documentary After Oprah Walks Away

Photo: Coco Curranski / CC by 2.0

On the Record, a documentary that explores sexual assault and rape allegations made against Def Jam Records co-founder Russell Simmons, has been bought by HBO. 

Last month, Oprah Winfrey stepped back from her role as executive producer for the film and said that it would no longer become available through Apple TV+, as was initially planned. Winfrey made clear that she believes the alleged victims, but disagrees with the creative direction taken by the filmmakers, in addition to their decision to show the work at the Sundance Film Festival. 

It appears that the producers were right to send On the Record to Sundance, however, as it received two standing ovations and subsequently drew interest from HBO higher-ups. 

HBO hasn’t announced an official release date for the documentary, but it’s expected to be part of the HBO Max service, which is set to debut in May. Unlike the traditional HBO network, Max will offer non-HBO television shows and a library of content that more closely resembles Netflix’s catalog. 

The Russell Simmons film was created by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, who investigated rape allegations made against Simmons by a number of women, especially Drew Dixon, who came forward via a 2017 New York Times article. The earliest of these claims date back to 1991, and New York State does not have a statute of limitations for first-degree rape. 

Simmons founded Def Jam in 1983, alongside Rick Rubin.

The New York City native exited his executive positions at Def Jam, CNNMoney, and elsewhere in 2017, after Dixon’s story prompted many others to speak publicly of their own experiences.  

Though Simmons has vehemently denied the allegations, he sold his assets in 2018 and relocated to Bali, Indonesia, which has no extradition treaty with the United States.