'Ocean's 8' Shoot Change Sparks Legal Battle Over BMW Rental

Oceans 8 Production Still H 2017
Barry Wetcher/Warner Bros.

Warner Bros. and Octane Film Cars are battling over who breached their deal for a vintage roadster to be used in Ocean's 8 after the car's owner backed out of the rental.

The studio fired the first shot in June when it sued Octane.

"Octane materially breached the agreement by, among other things, failing to procure a BMW 507 for use by Warner Bros. in connection with the feature motion picture (a failure that was all but preordained through Octane’s selection of an intractable and unreasonable vehicle owner), and refusing to return to Warner Bros. amounts that were paid to Octane in contemplation of its performance under the agreement," writes attorney James Weinberger in the complaint.

Warners says it agreed to pay $124,500 to rent a BMW 507 for use in filming, with Octane acting on behalf of the studio in coordinating with the car's owner. After exchanging drafts, no written agreement was signed but the studio paid a $100,000 deposit with plans to use the car for a February shoot.

The shoot was pushed back and moved to Los Angeles due to "exigencies of production," and Warners says the vehicle's owner started making "arbitrary and unreasonable demands."

"[T]he BMW Owner insisted that even though the draft agreements no longer accurately reflected the shooting schedule or location, Warner Bros. needed to sign all documents by the close of business that same day or else, as Octane conveyed to Warner Bros., the BMW Owner would “pull the p[l]ug," writes Weinberger. "Notably, and contrary to its obligations as Warner Bros.’ consultant for purposes of ensuring that the transaction took place, Octane made no attempt to salvage the arrangement or assuage the BMW Owner’s unreasonable concerns and expectations."

The owner "pulled the plug" after the studio tried to negotiate negligence liability with the carrier who would be transporting the car. Warners asked for its deposit back, but Octane refused and this suit followed.

Now, Octane is firing back on all cylinders. It claims Warners agreed to pay $200,000 to rent two vintage BMW 507 cars for an Ocean's shoot in New York in early February — and says the studio breached their deal by cancelling one of the cars because it got a better deal through BMW.

Octane acknowledges that it refused to repay the $100,000, but says Warners has no right to its return.

"The Complaint is barred because Warner Bros. failed to perform its contractual obligations, including by, among other things, unilaterally cancelling one of the cars; materially changing the date for delivery of the cars; materially changing the location for delivery of the cars; and refusing to perform its insurance and transportation obligations for the cars," writes attorney Andrea Likwornik Weiss. 

Octane is also countersuing. It says it warned a prop master for the film that the owners of rare cars tend to be "finicky" and they don't need the money they earn from leasing them.

"After significant time and effort, Octane located two 507s, each built in 1958, one in white and one in gray, each worth $3,000,000," writes Weiss. "Because Warner Bros. wanted two identical gray cars, however, it was necessary to have the exterior of the white car wrapped in gray, and its interior draped to change the interior color from red to black."

Because of the high risk of damage from wrapping, Octane claims, many owners refuse to allow it — but it was able to convince the owner to sign off. The car liaison says Warners later cancelled that request and they renegotiated the lesser fee for one vehicle, still to be used in New York in February. Octane says it had no obligation to provide a car for a March shoot in L.A. and Warners used transportation liability as an excuse to get out of their deal without paying contract damages.

Octane is suing for breach of contract, among other claims, and is seeking at least $100,000 in damages. (Read the answer and counterclaims here.)