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Bohemian Rhapsody screenwriter Anthony McCarten says his Queen biopic, which grossed more than $900 million at the box office worldwide, is listed as losing $51 million on accounting statements issued by 20th Century Fox Film. He’s now suing the producers for breaching contract and demanding a court-supervised accounting review, plus further monetary damages.
According to the complaint filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, McCarten (Darkest Hour, Theory of Everything) had a rights agreement with surviving members of Queen and penned the script after interview sessions. Nevertheless, the film project was in “development hell” for years, continues the complaint handled by attorney Dale Kinsella and his team.
Eventually, the movie did get made, and it was produced by Graham King’s GK Films, among others. The film would be nominated for best picture at the Academy Awards and seems to be one of the biggest 21st Century box office hits, and yet, at least according to this complaint, the parties never fleshed out the exact net profits definition here. As such, McCarten’s 5 percent backend stake remains of questionable value.
In Hollywood, money comes in, and fees and expenses are deducted, and there’s supposed to be contractual guidance on the exact accounting method about what gets counted. Often, there’s disputes over the accounting, but what McCarten’s complaint stresses is that despite a contractual obligation that GK Films negotiate the “standard definition” in “good faith,” that didn’t happen. Instead, Fox’s standard way of calculating profits was used.
“By this action, McCarten seeks to hold GK Films to the promise in the Writer’s Agreement,” states the complaint. “If GK Films had a standard definition on Bohemian Rhapsody, then he seeks the benefit of that definition (plus any customary gives, including via rider) relative to Fox’s off-the-rack definition. If GK Films had a standard definition on its other projects (e.g. Argo (2012); The Town (2010); or The Aviator (2004)), but not the Picture, then he seeks the benefit of that/those definition(s). … And, if as McCarten suspects, GK Films never had a standard definition, then he seeks the benefit of the bargain in the form of 5 percent of any and all amounts GK Films has made on the Picture.”
Despite the fact that Fox distributed the movie and is issuing the accounting statements, the Disney division is not a defendant here. McCarten says his reps negotiated directly with in-house lawyers at GK Films, not Fox, and clearly, there’s a strategy to direct the legal heat there (along with WGAW Inc.).
A rep for GK Films didn’t immediately respond to an opportunity to comment.
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