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Terrence Malick Has Nine Months to Pay His Movie Investors (Exclusive)

The director's Sycamore Pictures and financiers behind "Voyage of Time" reach a deal to put an end to a lawsuit and countersuit.

"The New World"
20th Century Fox Films/Courtesy of Everett Collection
Terrence Malick

Terrence Malick's Sycamore Pictures has struck a deal with investors who are suing over the director's failure to complete Voyage of Time, a film project described as portraying "the events of our cosmic history, as well as the state of the earth now and the prospects for its future."

The settlement would put an end to both a lawsuit and countersuit, but the deal is contingent on Malick's company satisfying payment obligations.

Last July, Seven Seas Partnership, an investment group, sued Sycamore and alleged that Malick has become too distracted, saying that instead of devoting his time to Voyage of Time, he has "dedicated his energies to four other films in the last five years."

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The reclusive director was to spend time on Voyage of Time, a documentary narrated by Brad Pitt. But the investors appeared to be bothered by Malick devoting his time to Tree of Life, To the Wonder, Knight of Cups and another rumored untitled project said to feature Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender and Cate Blanchett.

The Voyage of Time investors said Malick had already spent $3.3 million of investment money as well as $2.5 million from a not-for-profit foundation "with nothing to show for it" except an Academy Award-winning special effects artist who allegedly quit the film and planned location shoots in the Southwestern U.S., Hawaii, Iceland, Monterey, Chile, Palau and elsewhere. Furthermore, Seven Seas alleged that their money was "co-mingled with other financial assets to support the production of other films by Malick."

In response to the claims, Sycamore brought counterclaims against Seven Seas that said the investor lawsuit was "pretext … in an attempt to justify its wrongful termination" of a financing and production agreement. The counterclaim also says that Sycamore has met its contractual obligations and had assembled a rough draft of the picture. The investors were accused of concocting their story to cover up running out of funds.

Now, after months of negotiations, the parties have gone to district and magistrate judges with a settlement.

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The deal is confidential, but a letter last week to the judges from the attorney for the investors hinted at the terms. Seven Seas has agreed to a stipulation to voluntarily dismiss the lawsuit "to allow Sycamore the opportunity to raise funds without a lawsuit pending," but wants a New York federal court to retain jurisdiction over the matter.

According to the letter, "At the end of the nine months, or such longer period as agreed in writing by the parties, if Sycamore has satisfied its payment obligation to Seven Seas, the parties will file a negotiated joint dismissal of the Action with prejudice. If Sycamore has failed to raise the required funds, the parties may reinstate the Action."

The judge wants the confidential agreement as part of the public record in order to proceed with this plan. Otherwise, the judge says that the case will simply be dismissed.

Email: Eriq.Gardner@THR.com
Twitter: @eriqgardner