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Of all the strange ways to get sued, bad-mouthing your work colleagues to your father has got to be up there. Then again, if you’re working in the film industry and your father is Martin Scorsese, these things can happen.
In late April, Catherine Scorsese filed a lawsuit that drew widespread notice thanks to her famous last name. In New York federal court, she alleged that she had provided co-producing and co-directing services on a movie entitled Campus Life. She says the defendant — Jumpview Entertainment — fraudulently promised her 25 percent of the company’s profits and then backed away from an oral agreement, even after she had arranged for her father and actor Ray Liotta to play small parts in the film.
The other side gathered little attention.
Jumpview filed its own lawsuit against Ms. Scorsese in a Pennsylvania county court. The film company slammed her for all sorts of allegedly erratic behavior during the production of Campus Life and threw in some curious legal claims. For instance, getting her daddy to not promote the film allegedly equates to tortious interference. And telling her father that she was deprived of profits allegedly rises to defamation.
Now, both sides are jockeying for position in the lawsuits.
Scorsese is being represented by the same firm — Lavely & Singer — that handles her father’s litigation. Her complaint against Jumpview starts off with a trademark Martin Singer flourish:
“If you want to do business with people who commit fraud, then Defendants are the perfect business partners for you. Similarly, if you want to render valuable services for free despite being promised that you would receive fair compensation, then you should render those services for Defendants. And if you have ever dreamed of working with people who will do anything to benefit themselves at your expense, than Defendants are your dream come true.”
Jumpview and its co-founders Michael Simon and Kenneth Waddell have their own nasty characterization of what occurred and may have even topped what Singer’s firm had to say. Their attorneys say they originally filed the lawsuit in last February. In June, after the case was removed to a federal court, an amended complaint was filed.
Waddell admits offering the younger Scorsese — the two met at New York Film School — a role as a producer for Campus Life and representing that she’d receive a percentage of profits on the film. But Jumpview also asserts all sorts of alleged promises that Scorsese made on her end but didn’t deliver. For example, she offered free studio space, according to an amended complaint filed in mid-June, as well as a free stunt coordinator, free grip and lighting equipment and a free Liotta. These things weren’t free. Liotta, for example, charged $500 a day.
The lawsuit against Scorsese follows with more instances of how she allegedly forced the production to incur expenses and how her “behavior became increasingly erratic and threatening as she felt her contributions were not being appreciated.”
According to the complaint, “In the days leading up to the filming, Scorsese repeatedly stated to Waddell, ‘Keep Michael [Simon] away from me on set or I’m going to kill him.’ To Simon, Scorsese directly stated, ‘I’m going to beat the shit out of you before this film is over.'”
Scorsese allegedly left a threatening voicemail message to one of the actors and undermined an effort to “reel in a bigger name star to replace the actor.” She repeatedly showed up late to the set, states the complaint, berated the art department, sent a profanity-laded e-mail to one of the film’s producers and raised her hands at Simon, which is said to have caused the Jumpview co-founder to grab her wrists in fear that he was about to be beat up as she had promised. Later, Scorsese is said to have portrayed the incident to others as “assault” on Simon’s behalf.
Jumpview accuses Scorsese of essentially engineering a coup on the set and “ensured that no one would promote the film,” including Martin Scorsese, Liotta and one the film’s main actors, Jesse McCartney.
So now the younger Scorsese is being sued for conversion, commercial disparagement, tortious interference, breach of contract and defamation. In a lawsuit that demands at least $350,000 in damages, it says that “Simon and Waddell’s reputations have suffered in the film industry.”
And in perhaps the strangest legal claim of the year, Catherine Scorsese is being charged with getting in the way of the film company’s relationship with Martin Scorsese:
“Upon information and belief, Scorsese interfered with the performance of Martin Scorsese’s contract and asked her father not to promote Campus Life, knowing that Martin Scorsese would have done so to fulfill an implied obligation of good faith and fair dealing implicit in his signing the contract.”
On Friday, Scorsese’s attorneys demanded that the matter be transferred from Pennsylvania to New York. She wants the amended complaint dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction.
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