'Dream Home' becomes nightmare

Row between producer, director delays film's release

HONG KONG -- The debut film of Macau gambling heiress Josie Ho’s movie financing and production outfit 852 Films, “Dream Home," is now delayed due to a legal dispute between the company and the film’s director Pang Ho-cheung (“Isabella”).

The $4 million slasher thriller was originally scheduled for October in Hong Kong, and is the first in a proposed three to five films from the HK$100 million ($12.8 million) fund out of the pocket of Ho’s father, casino king and philanthropist Stanley Ho. Beyond Hong Kong, the film is repped by international sales agent Fortissimo Films.

Director Pang cites “creative difference” as the reason for the row, but he rebukes claims of going over-budget or of him cutting all the gore out of the slasher pic, which is in post-production. In spite of the legal row, Pang continues to work on the edit. “I haven’t received any message telling me to stop working on it,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “I haven’t done anything in breach of contract, and the principle of the case is to honor the contract,” he asserts.

852 Films has issued a statement stressing its right as the owner of the film as well as the confidentiality agreement in the contract it signed with Pang, and that the company will not remark on the case “in the spirit of the law."

The dispute is thought to be about the final cut of the film, although Pang declined to comment on whether he has final cut of “Dream Home” or the details of his contract with 852 Films, citing legal reasons.

“I can only say that, in the past, I’ve always had final cut on all my films,” he said.

The legal proceedings plus discussions between the investor and the director means the scheduled date will not be met. The film might be postponed to as late as March 2010.

“Dream Home” investor, copyright owner and lead actress Josie Ho could not be reached for comment.

But it is believed that an opportunity has arisen for the film to use the editing services of RSA U.K., the film and television production company owned by directors Ridley and Tony Scott.

In “Dream Home," Josie Ho starred as a woman who takes extreme measures to secure her dream home, including an attempt to obtain her father’s life insurance.  The storyline would seem sticky and might provoke awkward questions now in light of Stanley Ho’s ongoing hospitalization since early August after the billionaire had a stroke.

The film has its share of publicity-generating scandals locally in the months before Ho senior’s hospitalization, including an alleged row between Josie Ho and her husband/852 Films co-founder Conroy Chan over a supposed hook-up between Chan and a female minor cast member of “Dream Home." The couple later allegedly reconciled.