Robert Rodriguez was sued today for at least $11 million by an independent producer who claims the Machete Kills director used “threats and intimidation” to damage the film Danny Trejo’s Vengeance and a new Steve Wozniak-endorsed app related to the movie. “Rodriguez feared that the promotion of another film starring Danny Trejo would diminish the Machete Kills brand and would threaten box office numbers and thus set in motion a plan to diminish ITN’s reputation and stifle the success of the film and the App Game,” says the five-count complaint (read it here) from ITN Flix. The company is seeking $11 million in damages plus more to be determined by a jury trial. In a filing in federal court Tuesday in Utah, ITN’s lawyers claim that Rodriguez and Trejo’s longtime talent agent Gloria Hinojosa of Amsel, Eisenstadt & Frazier “bullied, threatened and intimidated all people involved with Film and the App Game to damage sales and sever business relationships.”
As Deadline reported last November, ITN had developed the app Danny Trejo’s Vengeance: Woz With A Coz featuring Apple co-founder Wozniak as a way to promote the movie and create another revenue stream. As well, the company was trying to set up a campaign to promote Danny Trejo’s Vengeance on the marketing coattails of Machete Kills, which Trejo also stars in, by offering an 80-20 split with rival exhibitors of Open Road. Open Road picked up distribution for the Machete sequel in October and plans to release the film September 13, 2013. This is the second Machete Kills lawsuit Rodriguez has to face. In late November, Overnight Productions filed a suit to terminate their agreement with the director to make another movie about the rogue Mexican Federale. It successful, the case would revert all Machete rights back to Oversight and could stop the release of the movie.
Today’s suit claims Hinojosa called Wozniak just before the highly promoted app was set to debut on November 22, 2012, and told him that ITN CEO Gil Medina was a “con man” and had no contract with Trejo. The suit says Rodriguez instigated this call and that Hinojosa knew what she was saying was untrue because as Trejo’s agent she’d seen the various contracts the actor had signed with ITN since 2006. “Wozniak represented to his business associate Rick White, that Hinojosa’s and Rodriguez’s threats were the reason he backed out of his support of the Game App and his business relationship with ITN,” says the filing. ITN’s suit alleges that the loss of the Apple co-founder’s public support and association with the app cost them around $5 million a month starting in late November. As well as seeking financial damages, ITN wants an injunction and a restraining order against all the defendants from making any more defamatory statements and further interfering with ITN’s business relations.” The plaintiffs are represented by Joseph Pia and Sara Payne of the Salt Lake City firm Pia Anderson Dorius Reynard & Moss.