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Harvey Keitel is suing over a role. The project in question isn’t any of the upcoming works from his frequent collaborators Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese or Wes Anderson, though — it’s a series of commercials for E*Trade.
The Oscar nominee filed suit Monday, claiming the company signed a contract to feature him in three commercials for $1.5 million. Then the company allegedly returned to Keitel later and told him the campaign was “moving in a different direction” and wouldn’t honor the contract, instead offering him a $150,000 termination fee.
In the lawsuit, which Bushell Sovak’s Victor Bushell filed in New York state court, he claims breach of contract and requests the full $1.5 million plus interest.
The actor, whose credits include Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs and Taxi Driver, apparently was not the financial services company’s first choice. In the complaint Keitel claims E*Trade connected with his agency, ICM Partners, to express interest in another one of its clients, Christopher Walken, who declined to participate in the three ads.
So the company’s advertising agency, New York powerhouse Ogilvy & Mather (which is not named as a defendant), went with ICM’s suggestion of Keitel, states the complaint. The agency allegedly made him an offer — then rescinded it, requesting ICM recheck with Walken. When Keitel’s Pulp Fiction costar said no once more, E*Trade sent a “firm and binding” offer to Keitel, who accepted.
Two days later, the company allegedly emailed Keitel’s agent Karen Sellars and told her the campaign was moving in a different direction.
The company offered Keitel a “kill fee” of $150,000, or 10 percent of Keitel’s prospective pay, to terminate the contract. “By offering a ‘kill fee,’ E*Trade acknowledged and admitted that it had an existing, binding and enforceable contract with Mr. Keitel,” states the complaint.
Keitel, who currently stars in Paolo Sorrentino‘s Cannes-premiered drama Youth, has a history with commercials, including reprising his Pulp Fiction character, the Wolf, for a memorable turn in an insurance company’s campaign. The versatile actor’s other credits include The Grand Budapest Hotel, Moonrise Kingdom, the National Treasure series and Bugsy, for which he received a nomination for best supporting actor.
The Hollywood Reporter has requested comment from E*Trade.
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