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The long-gestating biopic of rapper Tupac Shakur is the subject of a lawsuit filed Wednesday by production company Emmett Furla Oasis against Morgan Creek Productions, which Emmett/Furla says has breached the companies’ co-production agreement by selecting a lead actor and setting a budget and production schedule without Emmett/Furla’s approval. The company wants $10 million in damages.
Morgan Creek’s biopic of the slain 1990s rapper has circulated the industry for some time. In the complaint filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, Emmett/Furla principals Randall Emmett and George Furla say “the development of the Picture had stalled and the project was essentially dormant for a few years” by the time they became attached to the film in 2013.
Emmett and Furla say they signed an agreement to produce the biopic with Morgan Creek in September 2013. Terms of the agreement include a production budget not above $30 million, mutual approval for the production schedule and distribution and sales agreements and sole approval for Emmett/Furla of the director (Carl Franklin recently replaced John Singleton) and the actor who would portray Shakur, they say.
“Plaintiffs’ involvement with the project caused the resurrection of the Picture. Specifically, because of Plaintiffs, the Picture was effectively reintroduced into the marketplace after a long period of inactivity, and Plaintiffs immediately advanced the development and production of the picture,” states the complaint.
Emmett and Furla say they arranged a distribution deal with Open Road Films that Morgan Creek rejected, but Morgan Creek then returned to Open Road and inked a new distribution deal in violation of the producers’ agreement to mutually approve distribution agreements.
But the real problems began with the release of this summer’s hit Straight Outta Compton, which centers on Shakur’s California gangsta rap contemporaries N.W.A and even includes Shakur (portrayed by Marcc Rose).
The plaintiffs allege a month after the release of Compton, Morgan Creek required they produce immediate evidence they could pay half the film’s production budget and agree “to new and arbitrary terms that were not part of the original … agreement” or otherwise forfeit their participation in the project. A month later, they say, Morgan Creek informed them the budget for the project would exceed $34 million and renewed the demand for Emmett/Furla to provide 50 percent.
Emmett and Furla refused, they say.
Morgan Creek responds that Emmett/Furla has failed to come up with the money it promised in the time frame required by the contract.
“Their responsibility was to come in with half the budget,” Morgan Creek evp marketing and publicity Greg Mielcarz tells THR. “That didn’t happen. End of story.”
Emmett and Furla claim Morgan Creek has breached the production agreement by “engag[ing] an actor for the title role of ‘Tupac Shakur’ without disclosing his identity” and meeting with foreign distributors, but Mielcarz denies an actor has been cast as Tupac. The film has started preproduction for a planned production start date in early December.
“It’s sad that they are resorting to these kinds of tactics,” adds Mielcarz.
Represented by Hamrick & Evans, the plaintiffs want $10 million in damages and claim breaches of contract, breach of the implied covenant and breach of fiduciary duty.
Updated with comments from Morgan Creek.
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