For months, the filmmakers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering had a pair of dream partners: Oprah Winfrey and Apple, who had committed to back their documentary about women who have accused the hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons of sexual misconduct. Booked for the Sundance Film Festival and Apple’s new streaming platform, the film was primed to be the next high-profile media moment of the #MeToo era.
Then the film’s future was abruptly cast into doubt last week after Ms. Winfrey withdrew as executive producer and pulled it from Apple, citing creative differences with the directors and suggesting that the picture was being rushed to Sundance “before I believe it is complete.”
But what preceded Ms. Winfrey’s announcement was more than just a dispute over filmmaking. It involved an intense campaign by Mr. Simmons and his supporters to get Ms. Winfrey to pull the plug. That campaign also targeted some of the women in the film on social media and, in at least one case, through direct contact with a family member, in what the women viewed as attempts to threaten and intimidate them ahead of the film’s premiere at Sundance, still scheduled for Jan. 25.
Ms. Winfrey acknowledged to The New York Times that Mr. Simmons had tried to get her to abandon the project. “He did reach out multiple times and attempted to pressure me,” Ms. Winfrey said.
She said he told her that the woman at the center of the film, Drew Dixon, was lying about their interactions. In addition, Ms. Winfrey said, she received phone calls from other people, whom she would not identify, who also questioned Ms. Dixon’s credibility.
Ms. Winfrey said that she still believed Ms. Dixon, though she also thought there were inconsistencies in her account that the film had not adequately addressed, in addition to other issues she had with the film. (The filmmakers say they have voluminous research files corroborating all the women’s accounts.)
Ms. Winfrey said it was those reasons, and not Mr. Simmons’s protestations, that led her to pull support.