8:58am PT by Eriq Gardner
New Natalie Portman Film at Center of Investor Lawsuit
Hesher, the 2010 Sundance film starring Natalie Portman and Rainn Wilson, is set to be released soon in theaters. It's also the subject of a new lawsuit that claims that "slick lawyers" in Hollywood fraudulently concealed their own financial interest in the picture and induced two New Jersey investors into putting up money just as lenders were about to foreclose on the film.
Gerald Fruchtman and Ian Fruchtman allege they were the dupes of the Hollywood law firm Eisner Frank & Kahan.
All film productions have lawyers; what makes Hesher interesting is that according to the plaintiffs, Eisner Frank & Kahan not only provided legal counsel on the film but were also financial participants as well. And not just any investor. It's claimed that the firm would get 2.5% of gross revenues -- "off the top" from everyone's share of the revenues.
But first, the film needed to be completed, which may not have seemed likely in the run up to Sundance when it's claimed the film was on the verge of foreclosure over failure to pay back loan notes.
The Fruchtmans say they invested $750,000 in the picture, about an anarchist who plays counselor, on word that Portman was involved, but didn't know at the time about the law firm's cut nor the imminent foreclosure of the picture.
The plaintiffs say they got an assurance that their money was the only funding needed to pay down all costs through completion and delivery of the picture to distributors. (Newmarket Films bought the film at Sundance. It's set to soon be released by Wrekin Hill Entertainment, the new shingle for several former top Newmarket executives.)
But the investment might only have bought some time.
The Fruchtmans say that on February 24, they were told of the existence of defaulted loans, including one note-holder who was threatening to foreclose on the film's revenue stream.
In other words, the film is going to come out, but its investors say they might not see any return no matter how it does at the box office and on home video.
The Fruchtmans are suing Hesher Prods; Eisner, Frank & Kahan; Corner Store Entertainment; and various other individuals for fraud, negligent concealment, and breach of contract. They want their money back, plus legal costs and other special damages.
We reached out to Eisner, Frank & Kahan and will update with the firm's comment.