Mel Gibson Sues Producer for Sabotaging "Labor of Love" Film

Bruce Davey and Mel Gibson - 2016 6th AACTA Awards - Getty - H 2017
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Mel Gibson is suing Voltage Pictures for "jeopardizing" The Professor and the Madman by failing to honor their co-production deal and allegedly engaging in fraudulent behavior.

Gibson and his producing partner Bruce Davey spent nearly two decades developing the movie, which is based on Simon Winchester's book of the same name about the origins of the Oxford English Dictionary. The actor-producer was set to star in the film, alongside Sean Penn, with Farhad Safinia writing the screenplay and directing. The project "was, and is a labor of love" for the producers and director, according to the complaint filed Monday in Los Angeles County Superior Court. 

Gibson and Davey, through their company Icon Productions, entered into a co-production deal with Voltage in 2015 to create the film, which was slated for release this year. 

"[T]he Agreements require that things such as material changes to the screenplay, change of director from Mr. Safinia to someone else, the final production budget and schedule, and selection of filming locations be agreed to by Icon and Mr. Gibson," writes attorney Jeffery McFarland in the complaint. "Further, as extra insurance that his vision of the film was protected, Mr. Gibson has the right, if necessary, to select the final cut of the film that is released between a cut prepared by Mr. Safinia and a cut prepared by Voltage."

Gibson claims Voltage failed to live up to its end of their deal by failing to provide a budget, secure a completion bond, shoot "critical" scenes in Oxford, execute Safinia's directing deal and pay Icon its producing fee, among a laundry list of other complaints that had the result of "eviscerating" Gibson's approval rights. 

The actor-producer also says Voltage screened to potential distributors an unapproved cut of the film at Cannes.

Gibson and Davey, via Icon, are suing Voltage, and its CEO Nicolas Chartier, for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and promissory fraud. They're seeking not only damages but also a declaration that it can exercise its right to terminate the co-production deal and regain its rights to the film.

Chartier has not yet responded to a request for comment on the complaint, which is posted in full below.