Lawsuit: a claim or dispute brought to a law court for adjudication. That’s how the Oxford English Dictionary defines what Mel Gibson and Bruce Davey have filed against the producers of The Professor and the Madman, a film the longtime Icon Productions partners have been trying to get made for nearly two decades.
In a 21-page suit filed today in Los Angeles Superior Court (read it here), Gibson and Davey claim that they had “various contracts” with producer Voltage Pictures and other defendants to co-produce the film about the origins of the Oxford Dictionary. Gibson is attached to star in the director Farhad Safinia’s film — which the suit describes as “a labor of love for Messrs. Gibson and Davey” — as Professor James Murray, who began compiling the dictionary in 1857, and Sean Penn is set to play Dr. William Chester Minor, who submitted more than 10,000 entries while he was an inmate at an asylum for the criminally insane.
The suit says: “The 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. … Principal photography of the Picture commenced in Fall 2016. From the outset, Defendants disregarded their contractual obligations under the Agreements. Among other things, Defendants failed to provide Icon — much less get its approval of — a final budget for the Picture. Despite a clear requirement to do so, Defendants failed to secure a completion bond, and as such there is no completion guarantor to break a tie in disputes between the parties on budget or shot in part in Oxford, England, Defendants refused to allow critical scenes from the agreed upon screenplay ‘to be shot there. Further, Defendants prevented Mr. Safinia from completing the Picture in accordance with the agreed upon screenplay, and thereby prevented Mr. Safinia from producing a cut of the film to be considered by Mr. Gibson in his selection of the final cut, if required.”
Seeking a jury trial, the suit claims breach of contract and fiduciary duty, promissory fraud and more. Attorneys Shahin Rezvani and Aaron Perahia of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLC in Los Angeles are representing Icon and its partners in the suit.