'Motor City' Producers Face Lawsuits from Gerard Butler, Film Financier

DOWN: Gerard Butler

The actor's surfing drama "Chasing Mavericks" wipes out in its opening weekend, grossing just $2.3 million from 2,000-plus screens, one of the worst bows of the year.

Last September, production on Motor City was suddenly halted just as it was about to begin shooting. The film was to be directed by Albert Hughes (Menace II Society, Book of Eli) and had stars Gerard Butler, Mickey Rourke and Adrien Brody attached. Perhaps most importantly, it had the backing of Randall Emmet/George Furla Productions, which has become an important producer in Hollywood.

Less than six months after production on Motor City was suspended thanks to scheduling difficulties, Randall Emmet/George Furla Productions is now facing multiple legal actions for the move.

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Butler is suing producers for allegedly violating the terms of his deal, which he says was "pay-or-play." But that's not all.

Last Friday, Row 1 Entertainment, a motion picture finance company which provided a bridge loan for Motor City, commenced an arbitration at JAMS, alleging that it is now owed nearly $2.7 million, and that Emmett/Furla has refused to pay. Additionally, Row 1 also filed a lawsuit on Wednesday at LA Superior Court, seeking the issuance of Writs of Attachment to prevent the producer from dissipating the funds it says it is owed.

The decision to pull the plug on the film, reportedly because producers weren't confident they'd make a hard release date, has now triggered a legal backlash.

In his lawsuit, Butler says his attachment to the film was used to pre-sell the distribution rights and raise financing. He further alleges that after months of negotiations, the parties reached an agreement whereby the actor would get fixed guaranteed compensation of $4 million on a pay-or-play basis and contingent deferred compensation of $2 million more.

According to the complaint, "In reasonable reliance on those representations, Butler's agents turned down other potential offers for his acting services during the period of time that he was expected to render services on Motor City and refrained from actively seeking any alternative acting work on Butler's behalf during the period of time that he had committed to render services on Motor City."

Butler says that he was informed on August 31 that the picture had been canceled and that producers didn't intend to pay him.

Rick Rosenthal, an attorney for Emmett/Furla, told TheWrap, which first reported Butler's lawsuit, that it was "frivolous," that the parties "had no written agreement" and that "there were still outstanding deal points that were material to the deal that were not agreed upon."

Meanwhile, Emmett/Furla must also contend with the financier who put up a bridge loan.

According to that lawsuit obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, $1.735 million was made available with an agreement to pay 30 percent interest on the first $200,000 and 20 percent on the remaining amount. Additionally, the maturity date of the loan is said to have been October 9, with monthly late fees of 5 percent of the total amount if defendants failed to repay the principal.

According to the complaint, "As of the time of the filing of this petition, Defendants have failed to repay any portion of the Amount Due and have failed to make any firm commitment to pay the amount due by a date certain."

Alleging breach of contract, Row 1 wants a judge to confirm any award issued in the arbitration and make orders that would aid in the collection.

"This will be resolved according to what the contract says, not resolved according to the filing in an improper forum," Rosenthal tells THR in response.

Both Butler and Row 1 are being represented by Brian Wolf at Lavely & Singer.

E-mail: eriq.gardner@thr.com; Twitter: @eriqgardner