UPDATED & EXPANDED: At least multimillionaire Michael Moore didn’t have the chutzpah to sue Harvey and Bob Weinstein in a court in New York City where they’re based. Because I bet there’s no way a jury in the urban center that suffered through the attack on the World Trade Center twin towers would give Moore a penny. Today, Moore filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and fraud arising out of his audit of his controversial war on terror documentary Fahrenheit 9/11. Moore is seeking at least $2.7 million from the Weinstein Brothers in what he claims are “rerouted” and unpaid profits. Why is it I think Harvey has finally met his match in Michael, and vice versa? The Weinsteins have already paid Moore $19.8 million for his backend profit participation in the movie. Further, the bros are bitching that they were blindsided by the lawsuit: the Weinsteins for the past six months offered to go to mediation on what their reps are calling a “standard accounting dispute” — isn’t that what studios and producers always claim? — but Moore kept rejecting that. Even more bizarrely, as recently as last week, the Weinsteins were chatting with Moore about doing another movie together because insiders tell me that Moore next wants to direct a fictional feature film. (Of course, some partisan circles found the Fahrenheit 9/11 documentary to be claptrap exploitation while others saw it as courageous exposure. But I digress.)
Now the Weinsteins will have their Hollywood pitbull litigator Bert Fields defend them against Moore. “He made $19.8 million in backend profit on a 9/11 movie. And now he wants to beat up the Weinsteins for another couple of million dollars,” an insider complains to me tonight. “He redefines the term greedy for someone in this business who claims to be a Mr. Poverty indie documentary filmmaker.”
But Moore’s attorney Larry Stein’s statement noted this is the first time Michael has ever sued anyone in his 20-year career as a filmmaker. “That should be some indication about how serious this is,” Stein said. “An independent auditor came in and discovered that the Weinsteins had re-routed at least $2.7 million dollars that belonged to Michael Moore from Fahrenheit 9/11… It’s very sad it had to come to this. Michael believes the Weinsteins have been a force for good when it comes to championing independent film — but that does not give them the right to violate a contract and take money that isn’t theirs.”
Trust me, Hollywood accounting tricks are terrible and widespread and lousy for filmmakers who routinely get cheated. And hard to figure out who’s more unpopular: Moore in Red States, or the Weinsteins in Hollywood. I last year opined that people do business with the Weinsteins’ companies often do so at their peril and that my past reporting shows that almost everyone who trusts them lives to regret it, especially the moviemakers who believe Harv’s big promises and then come running to Deadline to complain.
[To anybody who thinks I’ve gone soft on the Weinsteins, you must be new Deadline readers. The fact is that no one wrote harsher articles about the indie movie studio’s 2009 meltdown: (more…)