(Updated with a statement from director Farhad Safinia) EXCLUSIVE: The long legal tussle involving Mel Gibson and director Farhad Safinia against Voltage Pictures over The Professor and the Madman was settled confidentially this week, but the man who once played Mad Max is not happy with the results.
“As the settlement details are confidential, I will not be commenting but I would like to set the record straight as a number of articles have been released that are factually inaccurate,” the Oscar winner told Deadline on Friday following the April 2 settlement (read it here) between Gibson’s Icon Productions and the Nicolas Chartier-run Voltage that was unveiled in Los Angeles Superior Court. A final settlement hearing is now on the LASC calendar for April 15.
“First, neither Farhad Safinia nor I ever walked off of the set, or cause the film to ever go over budget,” says Gibson, who portrays the 19th century Oxford Dictionary co-creator Professor James Murray in the Safina-helmed and Sean Penn co-starring film based on Simon Winchester’s 1998 book The Surgeon of Crowthorne: A Tale of Murder, Madness and the Love of Words.
“Second, as partners in Icon Productions, Bruce Davey and I are huge fans of Simon Winchester’s best-selling book on which the script was based and worked for 20 years to bring this amazing story to the screen,” the Braveheart director and star added.
“This was a labor of love for the entire creative team, and it is unfortunate for all concerned that this film was never finished as written,” Gibson declared. “I regret that this film will never be seen as it was meant to be. Making it was never about money for Icon, it was about bringing this amazing story to the big screen. Sadly that has not happened in the way it could have.”
“The Voltage version of this film is a bitter disappointment to me,” the actor concluded. (See Gibson’s complete statement and that of Safina too below.)
With this week’s ostensive end to the two-year multi-suit legal battle, Vertical Entertainment, which picked up U.S. rights to The Professor and the Madman, is set to release the film later this year.
The settlement follows a federal judge late last month dismissing a copyright-infringement complaint filed by Safinia against Voltage. The writer-director had claimed ownership of the copyright of the project after scripting a 2007 revision of its original 2001 script, but U.S. District Judge Consuelo Marshal didn’t agree.
Gibson’s Icon originally sued Voltage in July 2017 claiming the financing and distribution company had dumped out on their deal by refusing to allow Safinia to complete the film. In part, the disagreement and the various lawsuits spiraled out of a dispute by a disagreement with Voltage CEO Chartier over the film’s shooting location. Gibson and Safinia believed that key scenes needed to be shot in Oxford, England instead of Trinity College in Dublin. Voltage and Chartier resisted, arguing the movie was already over budget and behind schedule. Voltage claimed Gibson and Safinia walked off the movie when the Oxford locations were not permitted.
Gibson also wanted to prevent Voltage from screening the pic for potential distributors.
Now everyone will see the movie, but not the version Gibson intended.
Here’s the full statement:
As the settlement details are confidential, I will not be commenting but I would like to set the record straight as a number of articles have been released that are factually inaccurate.
First, neither Farhad Safinia nor I ever walked off of the set, or cause the film to ever go over budget.
As a co-writer and first time director, Farhad Safinia brought The Professor and the Madman to life while being a consummate professional and at great personal expense. His devotion was represented in his work on this feature as well as in his past accomplishments on Apocalypto and Boss.
Second, as partners in Icon Productions, Bruce Davey and I are huge fans of Simon Winchester’s best-selling book on which the script was based and worked for 20 years to bring this amazing story to the screen.
This was a labor of love for the entire creative team, and it is unfortunate for all concerned that this film was never finished as written.
Over the last two years, we have doggedly tried to film essential scenes in Oxford (which makes sense for a film about the Oxford English Dictionary!). Apparently, it was not meant to be: the shooting script was not completely shot. Therefore, I did not get the opportunity to choose a final cut, and cannot support the film.
Our only objectives were to tell a great story and to showcase the talent of Farhad Safinia who is one of the most talented writers and directors I have worked with. It is my hope that one day the world gets to see all he has to offer.
I regret that this film will never be seen as it was meant to be. Making it was never about money for Icon, it was about bringing this amazing story to the big screen. Sadly that has not happened in the way it could have. The Voltage version of this film is a bitter disappointment to me.
Here is Farhad Safinia’s statement:
I would like to add to Mel Gibson’s recent statement regarding The Professor and The Madman. I echo Mel’s correction of the record that neither of us ever walked off set, nor caused the film to ever go over budget. I would also like to clarify some misreporting saying that we had demanded reshoots and additional scenes to be shot. We never asked for either. All we had ever asked was for the shooting script to be completed. It never was. Numerous essential scenes set in Oxford as well as multiple indispensable scenes set in Broadmoor Asylum were never shot leaving substantial portions of the script incomplete with irreparable gaps in performance and basic story logic. This meant that I was never able to prepare any kind of coherent cut and had no involvement in the version that is being released.
This film was a 12-year labor of love for me. I saw the crew deliver work on it that was truly extraordinary, and do so under difficult conditions. The cast, led by Mel Gibson and Sean Penn, turned in beautiful performances across the board. Mel and his partners at Icon, Bruce Davey and Vicki Christianson, went to superhuman lengths in trying to complete the film. Sean Penn and Simon Winchester, the author of the beloved book on which the project is based, gave steadfast support during a very difficult and disheartening unraveling of events over the last few years. Unfortunately, all of our efforts and entreaties were not to bear fruit. Mel described what is being released as a bitter disappointment. It is the same for me. It will remain one of my greatest regrets that the film we all thought we were making will never be.
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