6:44pm PT by Austin Siegemund-Broka
Taylor Hackford Sued Over Exclusion From Hit Jazz Musical
Louis & Keely: "Live" at the Sahara, a play about the troubled marriage of singer Keely Smith and bandleader Louis Prima, returns to the Geffen Playhouse in December, with Taylor Hackford directing after runs in Chicago and Los Angeles.
According to a lawsuit filed Monday, the drama behind the scenes might be no less turbulent.
Roger Lee Harrison alleges he went to the play written by and starring Jake Broder and Vanessa Stewart during one of the original runs in small theaters in Los Angeles, the Sacred Fools Theater and the Matrix, in 2008.
Hackford did, too, he says.
Harrison says he and the Academy Award winner (Hackford's credits include Ray, An Officer and a Gentleman and the winning short film Teenage Father) independently made investment deals with the playwrights — Harrison allegedly investing $70,000 and Hackford and his wife, Helen Mirren, $40,000 to fund the play’s first Geffen run in 2009, with Hackford directing.
"Disagreements arose” between Hackford and the playwrights around the end of the Geffen staging, says Harrison.
“As a result of said disagreements, there was a cessation of all activities between the parties relative to the play. In approximately 2011, [Harrison] arranged a meeting with all involved parties, orchestrated a rapprochement, and further agreed to act as a co-producer of the play [with Hackford],” continues the complaint.
He says he, Hackford and producer Stuart Benjamin (who is not a defendant) partnered to divide in thirds the expenditures, duties and revenues of further presentations of Louis & Keely and optioned the play for Off-Broadway and other productions.
In subsequent months, Harrison says, he worked to secure investors for new productions, but “during this crucial time period, Defendants…were frequently incommunicado, in part, due to frequent trips outside the country and the fact that Defendant Hackford lived part time in England and Italy.” But when Hackford presented the opportunity for a Chicago opening, he continued to line up investors.
Then in January of 2015, he says, Hackford said he would produce the play in Chicago with Hershey Felder (known for theatrical portraits of composers like George Gershwin and Irving Berlin) and without him or Benjamin.
The play opened in Chicago for March through May, with Hackford directing, Felder presenting and Stewart starring with Tony winner Anthony Crivello (who is not a defendant). It's scheduled to run in Los Angeles in December and in January 2016.
Represented by Los Angeles' Robert Ring and Susan Green, Harrison claims breaches of written and oral contract and fiduciary duty, money had and received, intentional interferences with contractual relations against Broder and Stewart and against Felder and intentional interference with prospective economic advantage.
He seeks $500,000 in damages on seven causes and a judge’s order granting him a producer credit and revenue from upcoming productions of Louis & Keely.
"These matters predate me, and I do not know the individual and have never had any communication from him," Felder tells The Hollywood Reporter. Reps for Hackford, Stewart and Broder have not provided comment at THR's requests.
Oct. 5, 10:05 p.m. Updated with comment from Felder.