Lawsuit Claims Profit Rights to Martin Scorsese's 'Silence' Were Fraudulently Transferred

Cecchi Gori, the bankrupt production shop, aims to recover rights to dozens of assets, including Michael Mann's upcoming film 'Enzo Ferrari.'
Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Cecchi Gori Pictures, once an Italian production giant behind such films as Il Postino, Life Is Beautiful and Se7en, has made its first big move since declaring Chapter 11 bankruptcy, filing a complaint on Wednesday against its founder, Vittorio Cecchi Gori, and former owners contending that rights to dozens of film properties, including Martin Scorsese's recently released historical drama Silence, a Scorsese documentary and Michael Mann's upcoming Enzo Ferrari, were fraudulently transferred. The company is now demanding a temporary restraining order and an injunction in a move intended to recover these assets.

In December, Cecchi Gori Pictures' new management described the "power vacuum" that occurred at the company after Cecchi Gori was convicted of financial crimes in Italy related to debt. In bankruptcy papers, new chief executive Andrew De Camara pledged to navigate Hollywood and recover "assets stolen or misappropriated."

Wednesday's filing offers more details and lobs allegations.

According to the complaint, despite liquidations, judgments and a temporary restraining order, in 2015 Cecchi Gori along with "long-time confidant" Gabriele Israilovici transferred assets to another company, G&G Productions. Included in the transfers were 41 scripts, rights to remake three films, and contractual rights related to a settlement agreement with Scorsese.

At the time of the alleged transfers, Cecchi Gori was being run by Niels Juul (now a special consultant at the company), who inquired about rumors of transactions.

"When he inquired with Gori, Israilovici and [G&G managing member Giovanni] Nappi about those rumors, he was told that no transaction was being undertaken and that he should abide by Israilovici's and Nappi's instructions," states the complaint. 

The lawsuit highlights Silence and Enzo Ferrari as two properties of note.

Scorsese and Cecchi Gori went several rounds in court with each other over Silence until the situation was settled in 2013.

According to the new lawsuit, pursuant to the settlement agreement, Cecchi Gori got $900,000 plus 20 percent of Scorsese's contingent compensation for directing the picture. But it's now claimed that Gori "improperly transferred" the Silence rights "for no apparent consideration."

"Juul attended the recent premiere of Silence in theaters, and saw that G&G was listed during the credits for the film, rather than the Debtors as required under the Silence Agreement," adds the complaint.

As for Enzo Ferrari, which was to star Christian Bale as the auto legend until the star exited, Cecchi Gori had a production and development agreement with Mann's company that allowed Cecchi Gori to recover costs, get production credits and more. Cecchi Gori says it was owed $992,326 in outstanding costs, but that its founder improperly transferred rights there as well.

Who now holds the rights?

"The Debtors have recently learned that G&G has purported to transfer certain of the Assets to a third party," states the complaint. "On a recent trip to Mexico, Juul met with an executive of a production and film financing company, who took the position that his company had recently acquired certain of the Debtors’ titles from G&G, either as an outright sale or a purchase of an option to acquire such titles."

In bankruptcy court, Cecchi Gori is now demanding a restraining order so that others aren't "misled about the rightful ownership of the assets," plus demanding avoidance and recovery of the allegedly fraudulent transfers. The debtor is represented by Ori Katz at Sheppard Mullin.

The defendants couldn't be reached for comment.