4:19pm PT by Eriq Gardner
'London Fields' Producer Now Facing Investor's Fraud and Larceny Lawsuit
Muse Productions is now being squeezed in two directions over the troubled film adaption of Martin Amis' London Fields.
Already facing a lawsuit from the film's director, Muse and its principal, Chris Hanley, must now defend themselves from Curiously Bright Entertainment, which alleges it invested $149,000 in the motion picture starring Billy Bob Thornton, Amber Heard and Johnny Depp and is now owed money.
The complaint filed in Los Angeles Superior Court claims a breach of contract, but also promissory fraud and larceny.
"Muse (and Hanley, on Muse's behalf) never intended to keep its promises to pay Curiously Bright, as outlined in the Agreement, as amended," states the lawsuit. "Specifically, Muse and Hanley perpetrated a scheme to induce Curiously Bright (and at least one other investor) to invest money in the production and development of the Picture, without any intent of making payment to Curiously Bright (and the other investor) upon the commencement of principal photography, as required by the Agreement, as amended."
As for the larceny claim, it's alleged that "Muse and Hanley used a portion of the CB Investment amount for their own benefit, diverting it either to other motion pictures or other Muse business needs or for Hanley's personal use."
The plaintiff's history with the film, about the impending killing of a promiscuous psychic, dates back to 2004 when David Cronenberg was attached to direct. In fact, according to the investment agreement (attached as an exhibit), Curiously Bright had a lien against the screenplay in the event Cronenberg didn't direct.
Eventually, directing duties would go to Mathew Cullen, who is currently suing Muse over alleged fraudulent assurances over financing and creative freedom. After Cullen aired his grievances, after the film's stars boycotted and the film was pulled from the Toronto Film Festival, a counterclaim was lodged against Cullen for allegedly breaching his director agreement.
The legal strife over London Fields goes beyond producer vs. director. The investors have a stake.
Curiously Bright, whose investor agreement entitled Lilly Bright and Tricia van Klaveren to executive producer credits, says it has only been paid $110,000 of what it is owed. The company was to be reimbursed for its initial investment with interest as well as given a fee for its role in the film. Furthermore, the plaintiff signed a deal entitling it to 15 percent of contingent compensation.
The lawsuit alleges that Hanley's "false promises" were not discovered until after the film started shooting in September 2013, and thereafter, the plaintiff learned that "Muse and Hanley had perpetrated a virtually identical scheme against their investors in other motion pictures, as well."
The lawsuit doesn't spell those other films. Muse also produced the hit Spring Breakers. Hanley also has been a producer on American Psycho, The Virgin Suicides and Buffalo '66.
In May 2014, Muse became a defendant in a lawsuit brought by Periscope Entertainment, which alleged advancing $300,000 for London Fields and being owed money. At one point, Periscope obtained a court order appointing a receiver for the purposes of collecting on the money. The case was later dismissed.
Now, Curiously Bright is after all sorts of damages — compensatory ones for breach of contract, exemplary or punitive damages for fraud, and trebled damages for larceny (California Penal Code Section 486). Represented by noted entertainment litigator Marty Katz at Sheppard Mullin, the plaintiff also demands the appointment of a receiver to take charge of assets or imposition of a constructive trust over property.
The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to Hanley's reps for comment.