Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty; Alexander Koerner/Getty
The director, 52, told The Wrap that disgraced Hollywood producer Weinstein — who is currently serving a 23-year prison sentence in New York, guilty of criminal sexual act in the first degree and rape in the third degree — sold the film's rights to himself and released it via the Shining Excalibur company.
"In order to tell the story, unfortunately, I'm gonna have to say the name that nobody wants to hear anymore. But, of course, Harvey Weinstein figures into the story," Smith said.
Dogma, about two fallen angels trying to get back into heaven even if it destroys humanity, was written and directed by Smith and starred Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, George Carlin, Jason Lee, Salma Hayek, Chris Rock, Alan Rickman and Linda Fiorentino.
After becoming a relative box office success at the time, Dogma was eventually released on DVD and Blu-ray and was once available in digital form until "the rights lapsed," Smith said. Now it's nowhere to be found, and copies of the discontinued Blu-ray version are sold for about $100 online, The Wrap reported.
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About the time the rights lapsed and the movie disappeared (and before Weinstein's public downfall and conviction), Smith said he doesn't think Weinstein "realized that he still owned that movie. I don't think he realized that it went out of public distribution or anything like that."
Smith claimed that Weinstein called him in 2017 to ask him about a potential Dogma sequel — but then a week later the bombshell New York Times report about the producer's alleged crimes was published. Smith found out that the call, which he had gotten "excited" about, was likely just an attempt by Weinstein to see if Smith was a potential source who spoke to reporters about him.
"He was calling not because he wanted to do anything with Dogma. He wanted to see if I was one of the people who had spoken to the New York Times. I hadn't, because I didn't know any of that stuff," Smith said.
Smith said he later "found out that [Weinstein] was trying to sell the rights to [Dogma]" for $5 million. Smith said he would "have nothing to do with" the project if Weinstein was "still attached to it." He even sought to buy back the movie, which he "felt very dirty about because we didn't want to give him money."
"But at the same time, it's like my movie and he's got it. He's holding it hostage," said Smith. "My movie about angels is owned by the devil himself. And if there's only one way out of this, maybe we could buy it away."
His offers were too low for Weinstein, he claimed.
"Look, I love Dogma as much as the next guy but a) I don't have $5 million and b) that's not what the market bears anymore. We live in a streaming era. The last I heard was from a different company, saying he wouldn't sell me my movie back. I thought, 'What else can I do?' There's not much. You can make a public stink, but I don't think that guy reads the news anymore."
The director, whose Clerks III is now in theaters and previously explained the Weinstein rights issue in a tweet back in 2019, added, "My movie about heaven is in limbo."