Cuff was fired two days into the movie’s shoot in the seaside resort town of Playa del Carmen. It had been Cuff’s idea for the film: he was the original director; had secured the rights to the video game it was based on, and had written a script. Two weeks later, the American cast and crew abandoned the production and fled the country amid rumors a drug cartel was coming to the set to settle a dispute with the Mexican drivers, many of whom hadn’t been paid. Many of the American crew say they haven’t been paid either.
Last month, when Deadline first reported on the stalled project, Sergei Bespalov, one of the film’s producers and co-owner of Aldamisa Entertainment, said that “the dispute with Mike Cuff had been settled via confidential settlement between both parties.”
Cuff’s attorney, Richard M. Rosenthal, now says that’s not true. “We made a settlement proposal to the production in April and did not receive a response,” he told Deadline. “We reiterated that proposal in December and have not received a response to that letter either. Therefore there has been no resolution of this matter.”
Bespalov, however, insists Cuff has been paid in full. “We have a settlement document signed by Mike Cuff on 11/04/2016 and a proof of a payment to him,” he said. “It is our position that Mike Cuff does not have any more valid claims against the production.”
Fired back Rosenthal: “That document had absolutely nothing to do with the dispute between Mike Cuff and the production. It was an assignment in connection with the reimbursement to Mike Cuff of monies paid to the co-writer of the screenplay, H.H. Treschnitzer.”
As proof, Rosenthal showed Deadline an agreement, signed on November 1, 2016, in which Cuff, “for good and valuable consideration, receipt of which is hereby acknowledged,” assigned and transferred all his rights to the screenplay to the producers of the movie. But this, he said, was “not a settlement” of the dispute between Cuff and Aldamisa.
“I don’t believe that he has any more valid claims,” Bespalov said, noting that a separate claim for unpaid wages by an American crew member against Aldamisa was recently dismissed by the California Labor Commissioner’s office.
He also says the film will finish production this month in Nevada.