October 11, 2012 7:05pm PT by Matthew Belloni
Tommy Lee Jones Loses $2 Million WME Arbitration, Files Appeal
Tommy Lee Jones is appealing an arbitrator's ruling that he must pay his former talent agency William Morris Endeavor nearly $2 million in commissions from the film No Country for Old Men.
In a court filing Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court, Jones reveals that he recently lost a state Labor Commission arbitration stemming from a dispute over his big windfall from the 2007 best picture Oscar winner.
Jones signed on to the Paramount film for a small upfront fee and a slice of back-end profits. When the movie grossed $171.6 million worldwide, Jones brought a claim against Paramount, arguing that he was entitled to millions in extra compensation. An arbitrator agreed, awarding Jones a whopping $15 million based on the terms of his deal.
Soon afterward, WME made a claim against Jones, who by then had left the agency, for its 10 percent share of the arbitration award. And on Oct. 1, after a heated legal proceeding that featured testimony from Jones, former William Morris head Jim Wiatt and Jones' former agent Michael Cooper (now with CAA, which also now represents Jones), the Labor Commissioner sided with WME, awarding it $1.5 million in commissions. The Labor Commissioner on Tuesday tacked on an extra $450,000 in interest, bringing the total to $1.95 million.
"Obviously we're thrilled, we believe it's the right result," WME lead attorney Kerry Garvis Wright tells The Hollywood Reporter. "We don't believe there's any basis for an appeal."
But Jones obviously does. California law empowers its Labor Commissioner to resolve certain disputes between talent agencies and their clients. But if either side doesn't like the result, an appeal can be filed in state court. So on Thursday Jones and his Javelina Film Company filed new court papers claming WME breached its fiduciary duties to him by 1) failing to adequately represent him in negotiations for No Country; 2) failing to communicate a $1 million front-end payday offer from Paramount; 3) failing to assist Jones in his legal fight with Paramount; and 4) disparaging him to the producers of another Paramount movie, True Grit.
The appeal seeks to force WME to disgorge all commissions that WME has received from No Country, plus an order requring it to pay $250,000 for the alleged breaches of fiduciary duties, plus a declaration denying WME any further commissions.
Jones is repped by Marty Singer, Michael Holtz and Andrew Brettler of Lavely and Singer.