Hollywood Docket: Martin Scorsese, 'Silence' Producer Working On Settlement
A roundup of entertainment law news, including a producer who attempted to satisfy a legal debt to an actress in an unusual way.
On December 18, one week before Martin Scorsese's Wolf of Wall Street hits theaters, attorneys for the director are scheduled to appear in a L.A. courtroom in an effort to save part of his financial take from the film.
The dispute involves Cecchi Gori Pictures, which has sued Scorsese for failure to live up to an agreement to direct Silence, based on an award-winning Japanese novel by Shusaku Endo about the persecution of a Jesuit missionary in 17th Century Japan. The producer says Scorsese agreed to do that in 1990, and throughout the years, put other film projects first. The parties have come to agreements in the past, and in the latest lawsuit, Cecchi Gori demanded money from Scorsese's recent work, including Hugo and The Wolf of Wall Street.
All that said, this past spring, Scorsese committed to finally working on Silence, and the financing has been coming together. After Scorsese's lawyers filed papers in an effort to undercut Cecchi Gori's legal claims of breach of contract and fraud, the parties suspended the proceedings and informed the court they were working on a settlement.
With the clock ticking on a hearing in the dispute, attorneys for Cecchi Gori finally responded to the director's attempts to strip away some of its claims. Here's the opposition to the demurrer and the argument that the film company sufficiently alleged the ways it had suffered damages from Scorsese's wait to direct Silence.
Don't read too much into it, Cecchi Gori CEO Niels Juul cautions.
"It's a formality and we're moving towards a larger settlement," Juul tells The Hollywood Reporter. "Silence is definitely on track. We have been given dates to start production, and everything is fully financed and pre-sold."
Alluding to the need to have the settlement cover Scorsese's past film work, Juul adds, "Nothing is ever simple in Hollywood."
In other entertainment law news:
- Warner Bros. has settled with Whimsic Alley, a LA shop that sold "Harry Potter" merchandise and was accused of trademark infringement. According to The Los Angeles Times, the parties agreed to a permanent injunction barring Whimsic Alley from displaying any "Harry Potter" trademarks, selling unlicensed "Potter" goods and offering "Potter"-themed services. But the shop owner says the store won't close, only will "make some changes."
- What's the most obnoxious way to pay a court judgment? The answer comes from the Malaysian Digest, which reports that to satisfy one, film producer Erma Fatima paid actress Rabecca Nur Al-Islam in coins. And 224,000 of them. "What did she mean by doing that?" the actress asked. "Is she dissatisfied with her defeat in court? And why did she send me the Quran as if trying to mock me." The actress said that she would return the coins and ask for payment in a more dignified way.
- Over in China, the local controversy over Chinese director Zhang Yimou's admitted breach of the country's one-child policy has paved the way to a lawsuit -- a $164 million one against Yimou, who helmed House of Flying Dragons and Hero. The lawsuit comes from two lawyers who are making a case for fairness, saying that the government's fine based on the director's annual income doesn't go far enough. Chinese media reports have apparently raised the issue of whether the lawyers will be deemed as having proper standing to pursue claims in court.
- Does reality TV about the Miami female population work better with the volume up or the volume down? The Bugarie Group has filed a lawsuit against Stardust Pictures, alleging that the defendant was paid more than $100,000 to produce a reality TV show entitled "The Search for the Ultimate Miami Girl." The plaintiff says that what Stardust delivered had "no sound, muffled or unusable sound," and wants to punish this alleged breach of contract in the amount of about $600,000. "The Reality Show had no value, unless the film produced by Stardust was captured with accompanying and synchronized sound," says the complaint filed in Florida federal court.
- Some shuffling in the legal ranks: Former MPAA general counsel Henry Hoberman has been appointed as vp and general counsel at A&E Networks. He takes the place of Douglas Jacobs, who is now a senior counsel at the company; Bruce Gellman has announced that he is joining the Hansen Jacobson law firm. For the past five years, Gellman has been a name partner at Felker Toczek, having teamed with Patti Felker since she split from Peter Nelson in 2008. "I’m grateful for the experiences and opportunities provided at my prior firm," he says. "I’m confident my clients and I will have a great future here.”; Jill Smith, who served as in-house counsel at Jim Henson Pictures and Dustin Hoffman's Punch Productions, has joined Kleinberg Lange Cuddy & Carlo. She'll bring Hoffman as a client (among others) and joins a practice that recently added Candace Carlo from Greenberg Glusker. TV Guide Network has named David Mandell executive vice president and general counsel. Mandell was recently the top legal executive at Mandalay Digital Group.