- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
Lucasfilm is being taken to court by producer Karyn McCarthy, who allegedly accepted a deal to executive produce Star Wars series The Acolyte over a competing offer that would’ve made her the highest paid producer for Apple. She accuses the studio of breaching her contract in a move that deprived her of a high-profile credit on a major TV series from a competitor and, as a result, millions of dollars.
“Without explanation, without reasons, without justification, Lucasflm told McCarthy it wanted out of the deal,” reads the complaint. “By this time, the Apple offer was gone — Apple had to move on and found another executive producer for Sugar. McCarthy now had neither deal.”
Lucasfilm disputes there was a contract in place, according to the suit. It didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
On April 7, series showrunner Leslye Headland formally offered McCarthy the position to executive produce The Acolyte, according to the complaint. She accepted, in part, because Lucasfilm “assured her that the story arc of the show, as well as the company’s business plan, called for The Acolyte to run for multiple seasons.”
After she accepted the offer, the studio followed up the same day with the series overview and the season one bible, which detailed the show’s outline, character descriptions and world. She immediately started to work, according to the complaint.
“She began extensive research into European production: crew, vendors and structure,” writes Robert Allen, a lawyer for McCarthy, in the suit. “Based upon her expertise and as part of her role as Executive Producer, she had an in-depth discussion with senior Lucasfilm executives about her direction of the production and personnel. Because the series would require her to be overseas for at least a year and probably several years, McCarthy made arrangement to relocate long term.”
McCarthy’s agent, UTA’s David Morris, received an email the next day memorializing the deal, the suit says.
“Here are the broad strokes to the deal,” wrote Candice Campos, vice president of physical production at Lucasfilm in an email sent on April 8 confirming that she would travel to London in June with a 2,500 Euro living allowance and driver on top of a $10,000 tax advice allowance. “We really want to make this work!!”
McCarthy allegedly relied on communications with Lucasfilm, which she says constitute a formal contract, to turn down Apple’s offer.
After negotiating some terms of the deal, McCarthy on April 11 reconfirmed with Lucasfilm her acceptance of the offer and officially commenced work, according to the complaint. She was sent a written memorandum of the agreement memorializing its terms three days later. It provided that the effective date of the contract was April 11, that she was an executive producer and her salary, which was redacted from the complaint.
She continued to work on the series until April 22, when Lucasfilm terminated the contract. Notably, neither side signed the memorandum of agreement, though that doesn’t mean her breach of contract claims aren’t viable.
Lucasfilm allegedly denied the existence of the agreement. The studio offered to pay her $5,000, which she rejected.
McCarthy argues that Lucasfilm’s breach of contract will continue to damage her career and earning potential, because it deprived her of future opportunities that would’ve flowed from being an executive producer on either series. She’s also pursuing special damages from being forced to abandon being an executive producer with Apple for Sugar. “Defendants knew, or should have contemplated, the fact that Plaintiffs’ loss of employment with Apple for Sugar would be the probable result of Defendants’ entering into the Agreement and then promptly breaching it.”
The suit claims breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, promissory estoppel and failure to pay wages upon termination. Blue Stocking, a subsidiary of Lucasfilm that serves as its production entity for The Acolyte, is also named in the suit.
“At the time of Plaintiffs’ acceptance of Lucasfilm’s offer, Defendants were aware that Plaintiffs had a competing offer from Apple that Plaintiffs would have to reject in order to accept Lucasfilm’s offer, thus foregoing a valuable employment opportunity,” the complaint reads. “It was a breach…. for defendants to cause Plaintiffs to reject the Apple offer and make arrangements to move to Europe, only to be terminated before McCarthy had a chance to demonstrate her ability to satisfy the requirements of the job.”
John Fowler, who represented Kevin Shulman in a breach of contract suit over a lost producer credit in Charlie Says that resulted in a $1.9 million verdict for his client, notes that it’s “not necessary that the parties enter a formalized written contract for the agreement to be binding and enforceable.”
“This is a handshake town,” the attorney adds. “Damages in this particular lawsuit have the potential to be substantial given the unique opportunity relating to such a powerful franchise as Star Wars. It is a nearly irreplaceable opportunity lost which would increase not just the monetary damages for lost wages and business opportunity, but also for the value of the executive producer credit itself.”
While breach of contract suits between talent and studios are typically handled in arbitration, McCarthy publicly filed her complaint. She executive produced Ballers and was a production manager for House of Cards.
The Acolyte is described as “a mystery-thriller that will take viewers into a galaxy of shadowy secrets and emerging dark-side powers in the final days of the High Republic era. A former Padawan reunites with her Jedi Master to investigate a series of crimes, but the forces they confront are more sinister than they ever anticipated.”
The project is from creator, showrunner and executive producer Headland (Russian Doll), who will also direct the pilot. Disney+ announced filming has begun in the U.K, with executive producers Kathleen Kennedy, Simon Emanuel, Jeff F. King and Jason Micallef helming the series.
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day