Broadway Producers Duel Over Efforts to Cast Al Pacino, Keira Knightley and Miley Cyrus

Corey Ross says he wired $200,000 and got nothing. Fraud or sloppy paperwork?
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Keira Knightley

Three ambitious theatrical producers are locked in a legal war with each other. One is alleging fraud while another is arguing that a "term sheet" outlining expected performances from A-list stars hardly amounts to a contract.

Starvox Entertainment, run by Corey Ross, is suing Rubicon Falls Entertainment, headed by R. Scott Reid, and June Entertainment, led by John Ryan Jr.

According to Ross' complaint, originally filed in January and amended last month (read here), these companies planned to mount productions of Sleuth, Grease and Wait Until Dark. The producers were working together and hoped to cast big names. Starvox was fronting money in hopes of securing performances from Al Pacino, Keira Knightley, Miley Cyrus and Gary Oldman.

Ross claims that after a purported contract for Oldman to perform in Sleuth came, he made a $25,000 deposit as an advance yet has not gotten the actor's performance nor the return of his money. Ross alleges that he also paid $45,000 as a deposit for Cyrus to appear in Grease, yet has been stiffed there as well. As for Knightley, Ross says he transferred $75,000 to Rubicon without satisfaction for his planned remake of Wait Until Dark, based on the 1967 film. Ross wanted Pacino to co-star and says he transferred $50,000. He later learned that Pacino isn't doing new material.

Now, Ross is in New York court, alleging that he was duped. He says that representations made to him and signed paperwork shown to him were fraudulent. For instance, after allegedly hearing from Reid in March 2016 that Knightley was on board, he says he later learned from her manager that there was nothing actually signed, and the actress was "back in the U.K. with a new baby and under no circumstances does she want to do a play right now."

"The June Parties' misrepresentations and refusal to return Plaintiffs' $200,000 amounts to such gross, wanton or willful fraud, dishonesty, or malicious wrongdoing as to involve a high degree of moral culpability, making punitive damages appropriate to deter the the June Parties from engaging in similar conduct in the future and to induce Plaintiffs to take action against the June Parties," states the complaint.

When the lawsuit was originally filed, Forbes detailed the legal drama and picked up a response from June Entertainment. A spokesperson for the company at the time blamed Starvox for owing money on a touring production of Sherlock Holmes. "We looking forward to putting these jokers behind us and the courts dropping the case once they find out the truth," the representative stated. "Starvox is a joke and [its founder] Corey Ross is a dishonest criminal."

For the statement, Ross has now added a defamation claim.

On Monday, Reid filed a motion to dismiss. It is largely premised on the argument that the court lacks personal jurisdiction over him. He suggests that Ross should have brought the lawsuit in California because of the location of the defendants.

But the motion also has something to say about whether the causes of action are legally viable. In particular comes some fancy footwork about the alleged contracts in question.

Reid's attorney argues that the contracts aren't really contracts. Here's the one over Knightley's services, and here's one concerning Oldman.

"A cursory review of some of the exhibits attached to the complaint readily reveals that none of the four contracts at issue is what plaintiffs claim it to be," states the motion. "The most forgiving statement that can be made is that each of the supposed contracts is merely a 'term sheet' or 'memorandum of understanding.' Encompassing the material terms, conditions and provisions of the parties' understanding of the contemplated transaction, the term sheet is just a non-binding precursor to the detailed negotiation, preparation and execution of a definitive agreement among the relevant parties."

Reid's lawyer then makes the argument that the documents in question merely regard "intended performance[s]" from the various actors without identification of the location of performances.

The motion (read here in full) also comes with the arguments that the fraud, fiduciary duty and accounting claims all relate to the contract ones and suffer from various deficiencies.