EXCLUSIVE: The Detail was a film that was expected to star Keanu Reeves with the well-regarded second unit director Simon Crane making his feature film directorial debut. The action/adventure film was to shoot in South Africa starting on October 14 and end by Christmas. Producer/financier Steve Richards at Endurance Media was financing along with Millennium. Crew was hired, location scouting had begun, script was being tweaked and all seemed on course. Until Monday. That’s when company founder and chairman Avi Lerner got the call from Richards that Reeves was not going to do the film. That put everything into a tailspin at Millennium.

“I got a call at the beginning of the week and he said Keanu walked away from the movie. I said why? Did he not like the director, the script? No, I was told, he just has a problem with the next movie,” said Lerner who said they were surprised to hear about a scheduling conflict with John Wick 3. Lerner says it made no sense because Wick doesn’t shoot until early 2018, which Deadline independently confirmed. “I said what does this have to do with us? We’re going to start 14th of October and we’re going to be done by Christmas,” said Lerner.

We also confirmed with a rep of Reeves that the actor is not doing The Detail. Two sources told Deadline that any deal with the actor was contingent on the cast and there was no closed deal.

“That’s a lie,” said Lerner. “There was a deal. It was not contingent on cast. We agreed to go over to whomever he wanted to go to. First it was Antonio Banderas, then Gary Oldman. Keanu led us to believe that he was doing the movie. I’ve done 400 movies in my life. We are not going to pre-production if there was not a deal. They knew we were spending money. There was a deal. There was not a signed deal, but we agreed on every point. A verbal agreement is an agreement. I’ve done so many movies. It’s a contract, unless it’s to do with chain of title. We saw the deal on paper. Why should anyone get away with this?”

However, Reeves’ lawyer Scott Sims, also disputed Lerner’s statements, saying: “We did not have a closed deal, and there were several material open deal points. Casting contingency was one of the open deal points so every deal point was not agreed upon, and we did not have signed paperwork. We did not have a verbal agreement on this film.”

Lerner, who has been producing films for 33 years said that they had already hired other actors and crew was counting on this work: “The guy committed to doing the movie. We had a contracts with him, negotiated with his lawyer and had everything done. Every point. For whatever reason he comes back and says he had a problem with the schedule of his next movie at Lionsgate, John Wick. I’m employing a hundred people in South Africa and the director is there, and we are hiring people, and we agree with him on all the creative things on this movie and then he just walks away.”

Lerner, a veteran financier/producer, said he is speaking up and out “to stop this from keep happening to others. He (Reeves) didn’t care about the producer we hired, the director we hired and everyone spent money and relied on the work on the movie. The deal was closed financially and legally, but suddenly he discovered there was a problem with another movie? There was no scheduling conflict.”

Lerner said actors have grown accustomed to doing this “without a thought” about what it does to the crew who rely on the work, the other actors and production people. “These actors do this all the time but they have no feel for the crew, and they get their lawyers and their reps to protect them. Someone needs to talk to him and tell him that you should not do these things to people. It’s not fair and it’s not nice. I don’t care what they think, I tell the truth.”

Reeves, Lerner said, “left us with a big hole of money we already spent and now we have to fire everyone.”

Asked how much was spent on the pre-prod, Lerner said he wasn’t sure but knows it was over a million dollars. “I maybe will ask the legal system in America to go in there to pay us back. Maybe he will be smart enough to pay us back, I don’t know.”

Neither Richards nor WME would comment.