Cannes: Nina Simone Biopic Screened for Buyers Despite Lawsuit
The long-planned market screening of a biopic about legendary jazz singer Nina Simone starring Zoe Saldana went ahead May 15 despite a lawsuit filed by director Cynthia Mort claiming its British production company has hijacked the film.
The suit was filed May 14 in Los Angeles, just hours before U.K. sales and finance banner Metro International unspooled the film to buyers. Mort alleges producer Ealing Studios Enterprises, has breached the terms of her director deal by cutting her out of the final editing process. She seeks a court ruling requiring her inclusion.
Ealing Studios chief and producer Barnaby Thompson, who landed in Cannes on May 15, declined to comment on the suit.
According to the complaint, Mort, a well-known TV writer (Roseanne, Will & Grace) making her feature directorial debut, spent years getting the project off the ground but was frozen out of key decisions as the $10 million to $12 million project neared completion.
"It's a passion project for everyone involved and we're disappointed with what has happened," responds one source close to the production. "The lawsuit is factually inaccurate. We're considering our options, but the film has gone over well. Zoe Saldana has done a terrific job."
Metro International is handling the film as a result of a management buyout last year of Ealing Metro, the sale and finance banner owned by Ealing Studios and financiers Prescience. So it finds itself selling a project now embroiled in a legal spat.
Metro International CEO Will Machin says news of the suit made for a "nervous couple of hours." But, he adds, it was business as usual as far as the company is concerned. Buyers polled by THR after the screening say they liked the film they saw.