August 22, 2012 6:58pm PT by Matthew Belloni
Martin Scorsese Sued by Producer Cecchi Gori Over Alleged Deal to Direct 'Silence'
Martin Scorsese has been sued by the production company behind a film project that the Oscar-winning director allegedly promised to make more than two decades ago.
In a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court and obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, Cecchi Gori Pictures, the production company headed by Vittorio Cecchi Gori, claims it entered into several agreements with Scorsese and his Sikelia Productions for him to direct Silence, based on a Japanese novel by Shusaku Endo about missionaries who are sent to Japan in 1683 to investigate reports of Christians being tortured by the emperor.
Cecchi Gori claims it invested $750,000 to develop the property and that Scorsese agreed way back in 1990 to direct it after Kundun (1997). In 2004 and 2011, Scorsese and his company allegedly signed deals to postpone Silence so he could direct The Departed, Shutter Island and Hugo. As part of those deals, Scorsese is said to have agreed to pay "substantial compensation and other valuable benefits, for the right to direct these three other films prior to Silence," according to the complaint. Those fees are said to be $1 million to $1.5 million per film plus up to 20 percent of Scorsese's backend compensation.
The suit claims Scorsese never paid his agreed-on delay fee for Hugo and now has decided to direct Wolf of Wall Street for Red Granite (with Leonardo DiCaprio leading an all-star cast) instead of Silence. "The Cecchi Gori Parties cannot allow their rights to be ignored or compromised by further delay on the part of Scorsese and Sikelia," the complaint alleges.
We've reached out to Scorsese rep Leslee Dart for comment and will update with a response. UPDATE: Scorsese's reps have provided the following statement:
"It is shocking to us that the lawyers for Cecchi Gori Pictures would file a suit pursuing such absurd claims considering the amicable working relationship existing between Martin Scorsese and the principals of Cecchi Gori Pictures.The claims asserted are completely contradicted by, inconsistent with, and contrary to the express terms of an agreement entered into by the parties last year.
The lawsuit filing on the eve of Mr. Scorsese starting another picture has all the earmarks of a media stunt.
Mr. Scorsese is confident that he will prevail in court should Cecchi Gori Pictures actually pursue this meritless action."
The suit, filed by Charles Harder and Marc Rohatiner of L.A.'s Wolf Rifkin Shapiro Schulman & Rabkin, alleges causes of action for breach of contract and intentional misrepresentation.