Cross Creek Pictures head Brian Oliver was on Thursday evening [30] actively seeking to replace Johnny Depp following the star’s abrupt departure from the upcoming crime drama.

Confusion continued to swirl around the reasons for Depp’s exit on Thursday [30] as various sources appeared to be briefing against each other as to how the situation arose.

Contrary to a report earlier in the day that soft sales in Cannes by co-financier and sales agent Exclusive Media forced the producers to ask Depp to reduce his alleged $20m fee, parties close to the project told Screendaily that the reality was quite different.

According to these sources Exclusive Media, which introduced the project in February at the EFM, had virtually pre-sold the entire world in the run-up to Cannes and finalised key territories on the Croisette.

When details emerged of Depp’s deal it in some way led to the end of his participation on the gangster project.

Sources in the international distribution sector said the calibre of Depp’s replacement and the nature of Exclusive Media’s contracts with Black Mass buyers would determine whether the company is eventually forced to renegotiate deals.

The project is earmarked for a late summer start. Neither Cross Creek nor Exclusive Media returned calls.