Lionsgate/Grindstone has just closed a low-seven-figure deal for London Fields, a film that opened with some controversy as director Matthew Cullen filed suit just before its Tuesday industry screening against producer Chris Hanley over a cut of the movie that wasn’t completely of the director’s making. The adaptation of Martin Amis’ novel stars Amber Heard, Theo James, Jim Sturgess, and Billy Bob Thornton is set to have its public premiere on September 18. The film focuses on a clairvoyant femme fatale named Nicola Six, who has been living with a dark premonition of her impending death by murder. She begins a tangled love affair with three uniquely different men, one of whom she knows will be her murderer.
This isn’t the only Toronto title that was playing in the courts as well as on a movie screen; the Aretha Franklin 1972 church concert pic that Sydney Pollack directed, Amazing Grace, was bounced from its Toronto berth because the singer sued. It was shown in a private buyer’s screening and talks are still going on but I heard bids of $2 million or more are on the table if they can get the legal issues unraveled. The encumbrances on London Fields didn’t stop this deal, which was brokered by CAA.
Here’s what the complaint dug out by my colleague Dominic Patten alleged: “None of the revisionary elements that Defendants have interjected into the film appear anywhere in the script,” the 17-page filing from Cullen and his Motion Theory company claims. “Nor do they have any place in the film, at least not the one that Plaintiffs were asked to direct. Among other things, these elements include incendiary imagery evoking 9/11 jumpers edited against pornography, as well as juxtaposing the holiest city in Islam against mind-control. No cast or crew member signed up for this, nor did Plaintiffs. But Defendants insist upon doing this, and more, in the names of Plaintiffs and others, notwithstanding their objections to the theft of their identities and the false, distorted and perverted associations that Defendants are imposing upon them,” adds the filing by lawyers for the noted video director and Guillermo del Toro protégé.
“To accomplish this feat, Defendants have perpetrated one fraud after another, from the hiring of Plaintiffs based upon false promises, to the ongoing marketing and promotion of their rendition of the film as something which it is not — a film directed by Mathew Cullen,” says the suit.