April 08, 2011 8:17am PT by Eriq Gardner
Weinstein Co. Attacks Filmmakers Over 'Sabotage,' 'Hush Money' Claims
The Weinstein Company has officially responded to a lawsuit by two animated filmmakers who claim that Harvey and Bob Weinstein botched the release of computer-animated movie Escape from Planet Earth and then paid $500,000 in hush money to keep the dispute quiet on the verge of the Academy Awards. The Weinsteins want the complaint dismissed on jurisdictional grounds, and in a memorandum to the court, get extremely personal with their antagonists.
The $50 million lawsuit was filed last month by writer/director Tony Leech and film producer Brian Inerfeld, who allege "two out-of-control movie executives" sabotaged their film by keeping the film in a lengthy development process, which included 17+ script rewrites, 200+ animators on payroll sitting on their hands doing nothing, and paying Kevin Bacon to not do a voice-over. The Weinsteins are said to have "eviscerated" the movie's budget and then demanded the plaintiffs relinquish their rights to profit participation when new investors needed to be brought in to fund the film.
In a motion to dismiss filed late last month, the Weinsteins attack the allegations as "little more than the bitter ramblings of vindictive Hollywood 'talent,'" but don't get too waded in examining the merits of what it deems to be the "plethora of irrelevancies and uncontrolled rantings" in the original complaint.
Instead, TWC believes the case should be dismissed because it's the wrong forum to try the case. The company says the written agreement relating to Escape from Planet Earth was negotiated, executed, and ultimately terminated in California, that the work performed on the movie was in Vancouver, and that none of the plaintiffs nor defendants are based in New York.
Plus, the company says that a trial in California will be more accommodating to the nature of the dispute since West Coasters better know their movie biz stuff.
"We also anticipate that this case will require significant expert testimony concerning issues relating to creative control, the meaning of the term 'pay and play,' the commonality and significance of script revisions and other customs and practices in the motion picture business," says the memorandum. "It is far more likely that such expert witnesses will be based in California than New York."
Although a judge will probably avoid a character assessment of each of the parties when examining the jurisdictional challenge, TWC responds to the lawsuit's pointed language -- which called the Weinsteins "a real life version of Bialystock & Bloom" -- by painting the plaintiffs as vengeful and harassing.
The memorandum says that Inerfeld recently claimed to be "facing off a friend in court right now, and I'm going to crush him, move into his house, drive his car, and f*kk his wife, his lawyers' too."
The quote appears to come from a post on a motorbike message board from an anonymous poster. A message left for Inerfeld wasn't immediately returned.