The Real Reason Meryl Streep’s New Movie ‘The Laundromat’ Got Sued

When audiences heard that Meryl Streep would star in The Laundromat, a film by acclaimed director Steven Soderbergh, they rejoiced. A collaboration between the two would certainly lead to a good film. What no one expected was that that film, The Laundromat, would lead to a lawsuit. These are the facts behind the interesting case.

Meryl Streep | Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for TIFF

The Origins of the ‘Laundromat’ Lawsuit

The Laundromat is about a 2015 case where a whistleblower leaked hundreds of documents proving that the Mossack Fonseca law firm was creating offshore tax shelters. This scandal was documented in a book called Secrecy World. The Laundromat is based on Secrecy World.

According to Variety, the two lawyers at the center of the scandal – Jurgen Mossack and Ramon Fonsec – claim that The Laundromat counts as defamation, as it depicts them as “ruthless uncaring lawyers who are involved in money laundering, tax evasion, bribery and/or other criminal conduct.” The two men filed a suit in Connecticut on Tuesday asking for a judge to bar the film from being released on Netflix.

The Mossack Fonseca law firm | Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Netflix responded to the incident in a statement, saying “This lawsuit was a frivolous legal stunt designed to censor creative expression. Steven Soderbergh’s film tells an important story about the exploitation of innocent people and the misuse of the world’s financial system.”

Furthermore, Netflix said that the film’s portrayal of the two attorneys was farcical, adding “They are cartoonish narrators who set up shell corporations around the world; it does not depict them as direct participants in criminal activity. Rather, the film saves its pointed critiques for the opacity of the global banking system and the systemic corruption of wealthy individuals that permit that system to perpetuate itself.”

Netflix offices | Mario Tama/Getty Images

According to The Guardian, the streaming service also claims that the film portrays Mossack and Fonsec as “largely oblivious to the ways in which some of the shell entities they have set up are being abused, and it indicts the system for making such enterprises largely, if not entirely, legal.” Netflix also argued that The Laundromat doesn’t count as defamation because the attorneys’ reputations were, by their own admission, soiled long before the release of The Laundromat.

A judge ruled in Netflix’s favor and the film will be released on the streaming platform. In addition to Streep, the film’s ensemble cast includes Gary Oldman, Antonio Banderas, David Schwimmer, and Sharon Stone.

Meryl Streep-Steven Soderbergh Collaborations Besides ‘The Laundromat’

Steven Soderbergh and Meryl Streep | Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

The Laundromat will not be the final collaboration between Steven Soderbergh and Meryl Streep. Streep is also set to appear in Soderbergh’s next film, which is tentatively titled Let Them All Talk. The film will star Streep as an author who goes on a trip to reconnect with old friends. Let Them All Talk also boasts performances from Candice Bergen and Dianne Wiest. Deadline reported that the rights to the film have been acquired by HBO Max. 

Over the past several years, Steven Soderbergh has been relying on streaming platforms to distribute his films. Prior to his two Meryl Streep collaborations, Soderbergh directed High Flying Bird, a sports drama which was released directly to Netflix. Soderbergh also directed Mosaic, a murder-mystery which was released directly to an interactive app.