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The Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach drove up the costs of a documentary about Chicago blues icon Howlin‘ Wolf and then bailed on the project, according to a complaint filed Wednesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
Smokestack Lightning: The Legendary Howlin‘ Wolf tells the story of Chester Arthur Burnett and features Auerbach, along with other prominent musicians including Jimmy Page, Buddy Guy and Bill Wyman.
After Auerbach’s interview for the film, producer Smokestack Lightning Inc. approached him about taking on the roles of director and executive producer.
Smokestack claims Auerbach verbally agreed that he would take control of the project in exchange for 9 percent of the profits and one major caveat: He would have complete creative control of the film, which was in postproduction when the deal was made.
“[Auerbach] quickly demanded certain material alterations and vast expansions to the then existing Picture,” states the complaint.
Those alterations and expansions included reshooting interviews, adding extra interviews, licensing specific copyrighted photos, retaining a new writer and “the adoption and use of an entirely new camera and filming format.”
If Smokestack expressed “even a modicum of discomfort” with the skyrocketing costs, Auerbach’s team made it clear he’d consider backing out, according to the complaint, so Smokestack complied with Auerbach’s requests.
Auerbach left the project before it was finished anyway, according to the complaint, and refused to reimburse Smokestack for the costs it incurred because of his changes.
Smokestack is suing Auerbach for breach of a verbal agreement and of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, unfair business practices and negligent misrepresentation. The producer is seeking damages and restitution of no less than $100,000.
Auerbach has not yet commented on the lawsuit.
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