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2 YEARS

Legal Fight Clouds Planned 'All of Me' Remake (Exclusive)

Multiple court cases are proceeding as DreamWorks develops of a film about a character who enters a lawyer's body.

All of Me Steve Martin Lily Tomlin - H 2012
Universal Pictures
"All of Me"

On Tuesday, The Hollywood Reporter broke the news that DreamWorks is quietly developing a remake of All of Me, the 1980s body-switching comedy that starred Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin.

The film's development could be complicated because for the past year, Kings Road Entertainment, one of the production companies behind the original film, has been mired in an intense legal fight with Sven Ebeling, a big shareholder who formerly served as head of production at the company.

Ebeling purports to own rights in All of Me, which he let be known in a letter sent to Davis Entertainment, the main production company behind the new remake. And now the question of who actually holds control over All of Me has prompted a new lawsuit.

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The story of this fight begins with Kings Road Entertainment (KRE), responsible for several hit films in the 1980s including the Paul Newman classic Slap Shot, The Big Easy and the Jean-Claude Van Damme cult film Kickboxer.

Since the mid-1990s, KRE hasn't produced any films and instead has relied upon its library of titles. Behind the scenes for the company, however, there's been a lot of drama. KRE has battled the Securities and Exchange Commission over late filings, which led to a revocation of registration and, facing money troubles, the company has turned to new investors who could revitalize it. But then a lawsuit happened.

Last October, Ebeling and West Coast Productions (WPE) sued KRE in Los Angeles Superior Court. WPE claims that in 2007, it purchased 4.45 million shares of KRE. According to a securities filing around that time, WPE and its executors represented themselves as holding nearly 42 percent of KRE.

That same year, Ebeling began serving as WPE's head of productions, responsible for reigniting the company's dormant movie production. He says that his deal entitled him to $150 per hour for his services. He says he was never paid.

Among Ebeling's efforts, according to the lawsuit, was producing a remake of All of Me in collaboration with Davis Entertainment, run by John Davis, the same well-known producer now developing a remake for Dreamworks.

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Ebeling, Davis and KRE's then-CEO Philip Holmes were said to have met to first discuss the remake in September, 2009. "It was orally agreed at the meeting that Ebeling and Davis would actively produce the remake and would be attached as producers to any final product," says the lawsuit. "It was agreed that in recognition of the work they would perform as producers, Plaintiffs would be credited as a producer in the film credits, receive a producer's fee once the film was funded, as well participation in any profits earned by the remake."

Ebeling says he worked with Davis Entertainment to secure a screenwriter, recruit cast, and find a major studio. By December 2010, the project was pitched to Twentieth Century Fox, which passed, but pitch meetings for other studios awaited.

Meanwhile, a similar remake was said to be in the works for The Big Easy.

But Ebeling would soon be cut out of the company. In November 2009, he was suspended as head of production. Then, he says, KRE's leaders "came up with a plan to seize KRE away from Plaintiffs by diluting Plaintiffs' ownership and control of KRE."

Board members including Ebeling were ousted and some of KRE's leaders "unlawfully converted debt into equity," according to the lawsuit. In addition, Ebeling and WCP say that some time later defendants breached fiduciary duties by the issuance of a new controlling share of KRE stock for the benefit of KRE's new leaders including president and CEO Michael Yedor.

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The lawsuit goes on to allege that disclosures were withheld from shareholders and other legal breaches. As a result, the plaintiffs in the case now demand the removal of board members and that the transfer of KRE's control be declared null and void. The plaintiffs want clarity on their purported "ongoing rights to produce KRE films such as All of Me, The Big Easy, Kickboxer, The Good Fight and Rogues."

Ebeling also seeks an injunction to prohibit KRE from further interference with his alleged right to participate in the production of these films.

KRE hit back with a countersuit earlier this year.

According to the cross-claims, KRE admitted that it had entered into a securities purchase agreement with Ebeling and WCP, and that Ebeling became its head of production.

But KRE also said that Ebeling's side had made certain representations when executing the deal, including that WCP would bring to the table five film projects in advanced stages of development, that WCP had good title to these projects, that the films would be produced within two years, and that Ebeling was a successful and experienced movie producer.

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KRE says that none of this was true, and after investigating Ebeling, it found out that he had been convicted of investment fraud in 2004 and that his former production company in Germany had entered bankruptcy in May 2007, shortly before he became involved with KRE. Further, KRE says it found out that Ebeling's old company still owed $9 million and that some of the films he brought over to KRE had been acquired from this same bankrupt company.

So returning fire, KRE asserted some of the same causes of action that Ebeling had made against KRE, including breach of contract, fraud in inducement and breach of fiduciary duties.

Both the lawsuit and countersuit are still pending.

Ebeling's lawyer declined comment.

Lee Williams, KRE's attorney, says, "We believe very strongly that all of the allegations in (Ebeling's) complaint are without merit, that our cross-complaint is with merit. We believe we're going to get a judgment against him...He's trying to extort money out of King's Road."

Despite all this drama, it appears as though Dreamworks is going ahead with the remake. If development does proceed, it will happen as rights to the film are fussed over.

At the end of August, a new lawsuit was filed by KRE against Ebeling and WCP in California federal court.

This time, Ebeling is alleged to have attempted to have asserted ownership over All of Me to Davis and interfere with the development of the new remake. KRE is seeking a declaration that Ebeling and WPE don't own right, title or interest to the copyright in All of Me, a film that rather ironically, features a main character soul-switching into a lawyer's body. Of course, what's on screen will hardly be as surreal as what's happening behind the scenes.

E-mail: eriq.gardner@thr.com; Twitter: @eriqgardner