Amidst continuing controversy over alleged sexual misconduct, it turns out Woody Allen isn’t turning the other cheek to the end of his multimillion-dollar and multi-picture deal with Amazon.
The Oscar winner on Thursday hit the studio division of the Jeff Bezos-founded company with a $68 million lawsuit over the cancellation of a four-film agreement and Amazon Studios killing distribution of Allen’s long-completed and shelved movie A Rainy Day in New York.
“In June 2018, however, Amazon backed out of the deals, purporting to terminate them without any legal basis for doing so, while knowing that its actions would cause substantial damage to Mr. Allen, Gravier, investors and the artists and crew involved in making the films,” reads the complaint, citing breach of contract, filed by lawyers for Allen and his Gravier Productions in federal court (read it here).
“Amazon has tried to excuse its action by referencing a 25-year-old baseless allegation against Mr. Allen, but that allegation was already well-known to Amazon (and the public) before Amazon entered into four separate deals with Mr. Allen—and in any event, it does not provide a basis for Amazon to terminate the contract,” adds the 28-page filing, which also seeks a jury trial.
“After it had obtained the benefit of its association with Mr. Allen, Amazon egregiously rejected its obligations and attempted to terminate the deals unilaterally with absolutely no legal basis,” Allen’s attorney John Quinn said this morning in a statement after the suit was dropped into the court docket. “This behavior cannot go unchallenged and that is why we have brought this suit,” the Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan lawyer noted. “As a matter of law, the facts here could not be clearer. Amazon has no defense and there is no doubt that Mr. Allen and his production company will prevail in this matter.”
An Amazon spokesperson told Deadline the studio would not be commenting on the litigation.
A few years ago, Amazon was rather loquacious about Allen with then-studio boss Roy Price praised the Annie Hall director as “one of the most dynamic and compelling filmmakers of our time.”
Allen was actively sought out by Price in the latter’s early efforts to bolster Amazon’s film unit with big names. After the debut of the sputtering Crisis In Six Scenes limited series in 2016 and the release of Cafe Society, Allen and Amazon inked a new agreement in 2017 that would have seen each movie receive a minimum guarantee of $9 million. The deal also assured the Manhattan helmer his new films would live on at least 500 screens across America with emphasis on major markets like his beloved New York City for a window of 90 days.
Rainy Day In New York, which stars Jude Law, Selena Gomez, Elle Fanning, Diego Luna, Liev Schreiber and Timothée Chalamet, was done and done and ready to go last year. But that deal went south as claims resurfaced about Allen’s alleged sexual misconduct with his daughter Dylan Farrow amid the changing landscape of Hollywood in the emerging #MeToo era. In addition, Price resigned in mid-October 2017 after being suspended over allegations of sexual harassment that became public.
“Despite …repeated requests, Defendants have never identified any basis in fact or any term of the MAA (Multipicture Acquisition Agreement) giving Amazon Content the right to terminate the Allen Film Agreements,” today’s filing declares as it details the deal disintegration process that started in December 2017.
“Instead, Defendants’ counsel merely made the vague statement that Amazon Content’s performance of the MAA became ‘impracticable’ because of ‘supervening events, including renewed allegations against Mr. Allen, his own controversial comments, and the increasing refusal of top talent to work with or be associated with him in any way, all of which have frustrated the purpose of the Agreement,'” the complaint states. “Defendants’ counsel still was unable to cite any term of the MAA or any legal basis to support the Termination Notice.”
During he past year, Micheal Caine, Ellen Page, Greta Gerwig, Rebecca Hall, Colin Firth and several others who have appeared in Allen films said they either regret working with the director or wouldn’t work with him again.