UPDATE, 3:33 PM: The battle over London Fields continues with producers Christopher Hanley and Jordan Gertner today promising to “vigorously oppose the lawsuit” filed two days ago by director Matthew Cullen. Calling Cullen’s complaint “a publicity stunt,” their statement (see in full below) comes just hours after the Toronto Film Festival on Thursday pulled the pic, based on the acclaimed Martin Amis novel, from its scheduled screenings. On Wednesday, the film wasacquired by Lionsgate/Grindstone in a low-seven-figure deal.
The producers also lamented the removal of London Fields, which was to have its star-studded premiere on Friday, as “an ill-considered decision made against our rights.”
While London Fields joins the Artetha Franklin documentary Amazing Grace — caught in a legal battle between Franklin and producer Alan Elliot — as pics being pulled out of TIFF this year, the reasoning for the two exits differ. As her successful TRO against the Telluride Film Festival displayed, that dispute is about copyright and anti-bootlegging laws. Elliot took the film off the schedule himself to avoid matters escalating. In the case of London Fields, it has more to do with the festival than the filmmakers – at least when it comes to the decision to silence its three set screenings.
The filmmaker-friendly TIFF has a long-standing principle that will it will not screen films where there is dispute from the director over the cut. Even though the pic had been accepted, once Cullen filed his complaint in LA Superior Court earlier this week over unpaid fees and the producers taking over the film, London Fields was on tricky TIFF grounds. With no immediate solution in sight before tomorrow’s public premiere, fest organizers leaned to the director’s favor. This policy proved fatal for American History X back in the late 1990s as director Tony Kaye rebuffed the cut of the Edward Norton-starring film and unsuccessfully attempted to have his name taken off it.
Here is the statement from the London Fields producers today:
We are greatly disappointed that TIFF decided to pull the film from the festival. We have always loved launching our films here, but feel that in particular case there has been an ill-considered decision made against our rights.
It’s the first time we have ever heard of a festival removing a movie from the festival due to its imagery being deemed too provocative.
The timing and the content of the director’s lawsuit shows that it is a publicity stunt. The filing of Mathew Cullen’s complaint violates the arbitration provisions of his own guild, the DGA. Sadly, Mathew can’t deal with the fact that he does not control the final cut of the movie. He was given two deadlines to deliver a “director’s cut” and missed both deadlines. His guild has rules for withdrawing his name from the picture and he missed those deadlines.
The production company will vigorously oppose the lawsuit.
PREVIOUS, 9:25 AM: Two days after director Matthew Cullen filed a fraud lawsuit against the producers over the movie based on Martin Amis’ 1989 novel and one day after London Fields was picked up, the Toronto Film Festival has pulled the pic.
“We have recently learned of a legal matter that has arisen between the director and the producers of the film London Fields,” said a spokesperson for TIFF today. “We have worked to make our festival a public showcase for creative expression through the moving image, however with uncertainty surrounding the creative vision of the version of the film scheduled to be screened on September 18th, we feel it is only appropriate that we remove this film from the Festival lineup. We are hopeful that this matter will be resolved positively, and that audiences will have the opportunity to see the film.”
Essentially, director Cullen is suing producers Christopher Hanley and Jordan Gertner over claims that they hijacked the film and never paid him. Wanting his name off London Fields, he first time feature helmer filed his jury seeking complaint for over $1 million in damages on September 15. Following Aretha Franklin’s legal moves over Amazing Grace, London Fields is the second film to be pulled from TIFF this year over actions in the courts.
Today’s move by the Toronto festival comes one day before the Amber Heard, Billy Bob Thornton, Jim Sturgess, Theo James and Jason Isaacs starring film, which has a cameo by Johnny Depp, was set to have its red carpet premiere up north. No replacement pics have been announced yet for tomorrow’s screening or the ones set for September 19 and 20.