Warner Bros. finds itself stuck in an Australian court in a lawsuit filed by director George Miller over Mad Max: Fury Road, the celebrated 2015 film that grossed more than $375 million worldwide.
Miller’s loan-out company alleges that its deal for the movie provided a $7 million bonus if the final net cost of Mad Max: Fury Road didn’t surpass $157 million. Miller is demanding payment, but by Warners‘ calculation, the film went over budget. Miller rejects this proposition, blaming a series of decisions which he alleges caused substantial changes and delays to the film. He asserts that Warner Bros. shouldn’t take those costs into account. Plus, he is testing a provision under Australian consumer law for Warners‘ alleged misleading and deceptive conduct in making a deal without informing Miller how added costs would factor into budget calculations.
Additionally, Miller is also claiming that Warner Bros. breached a provision of the contract that provided that if a co-financier was sought, Miller’s company would have first opportunity to provide financing on terms comparable to similar financing deals. Warners made a deal with Ratpac Entertainment — a company co-owned by Brett Ratner and, at the time, future Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin — allegedly without extending an offer to Miller’s company.
In response to the lawsuit, which was quietly filed in September, Warner Bros. stepped on the gas and attempted to drive the dispute out of Australia. On Thursday, the Supreme Court of New South Wales rejected Warner Bros.’ application to refer the matter to arbitration in California.
Warners took the position that an arbitration clause incorporated into the letter agreement plus its standard terms for A-list directors and producers meant the parties were bound to arbitrate.
Miller argued his contract was with the Australian corporation, Warner Bros. Feature Productions Pty Ltd, not Warner Bros. Pictures. Further, he put forward that the contract was to be performed substantially in Australia, that one of his claims fell under a Commonwealth statute and the damage he suffered was in Australian jurisdiction.
The Supreme Court of New South Wales favors Miller’s side. Here’s the decision.
A Warners spokesperson responds, “We disagree and will vigorously defend against these claims.”