Legendary filmmaker Roger Corman and his wife Julie have been sued by their sons in a family horror story fit for one of his B-movies. The sons claim their mother has “berated and abused” their father for years to gain control of his vast library of films, which was sold last month to Shout! Factory and China-based Ace Film.
“This verbal abuse was so extreme that several times my father became physically ill as a result,” their sister Mary Corman said in a sworn declaration.
The sons, Roger and Brian, claim that the sale of 270 films under their father’s New Horizons Picture Corp banner – which they refer to as “stolen film properties” – violated an irrevocable trust agreement that would have provided them and their two sisters with $30 million-$40 million each. They are also suing Ace Film and Shout! Factory, claiming they “knew or should have known that the purported sale of the New Horizons catalog included film properties owned by the trust.”
The son’s suit (read it here), filed yesterday in Los Angeles Superior Court, seeks the “preservation and recovery of the trust assets comprising the film library” and “the imposition of a constructive trust over all of respondents’ ill-gotten gains including from the sale or disposition of the trust’s assets.” They’re also seeking double damages against their mother and father, attorney’s fees, and punitive damages. They also claim that their parents, “as likable and charming as they are,” were “unfit” to serve as trustees of the trust.
The trouble began, the sons allege, 11 years ago as their father was approaching his 80th birthday, when he announced that later that year “there would be substantial distributions” to his children “in the collective amount of approximately $120 million to $160 million, with each beneficiary’s share to be between approximately $30 million to $40 million.”
Their mother Julie, however, “disapproved of this plan,” the suit claims, and “became abusive towards her husband and other family members, and commenced to undermine the beneficial interests held by the children notwithstanding the irrevocability of the trusts.”
When their father made this announcement, the suit states, “Julie became visibly upset, engaging in a heated argument with (their father) about his wishes for such distributions. Among other things, Julie insisted to the children that assets in the trusts belong to her, that she is tired for working for free, and that the distributions vowed by Roger would not happen. Julie also insisted that none of the Corman children could meet privately with their father, even for lunch or dinner.”
In a 2009 declaration, their sister Mary Tessa Corman said that “My father has always openly discussed financial matters with my siblings and me. From a young age, we were made aware of our financial situation to an appropriate degree. Our father believed including us in financial discussions would better prepare us for the future. As we grew up, our parents encouraged our further involvement in matters involving the trusts. Family meetings were held, where our parents asked our opinions regarding our trusts and the family would discuss their views regarding distributions and other matters of the trusts.
“Once my siblings reached their mid-twenties, my mother’s temperament regarding the children’s involvement with the trust and these scheduled distributions changed drastically. While my father wanted to continue our family discussions regarding the trust, my mother began acting erratically during these meetings. She would often yell at my father for no apparent reason and our meetings regularly devolved to such a degree that she would become hysterical and leave. While my siblings had moved out of the house at this point, I was still living under the same roof as my parents and became increasingly aware of her verbal attacks against my father.
“After dinners when the trusts were mentioned, she would regularly attack my father later in the evening over his willingness to discuss the trusts with members of the family. This verbal abuse was so extreme that several times my father became physically ill as a result. As the years progressed, my mother’s badgering became a nightly occurrence. My mother no longer believed that any of the children should get the distributions my father had wanted to give us. Because my father still felt strongly that these distributions should be made, my mother continued to yell at him nightly over this. My father would often pled with her to stop and on several occasions offered to resign and give her complete control over finances if she would just stop badgering him.”
Their sister Catherine Corman made similar observations about their mother in a 2009 declaration. “My father has always been very open with the entire family about financial matters. My mother has stated many times that she would like to come to decisions with my father in secret, and not disclose financial information to my siblings and myself. Her demands for secrecy have grown vastly in recent years, to the point where she stops my father mid-sentence if he is about to discuss our finances with us, and throws tantrums if she finds out he has spoken to us about financial matters. Last summer my father said that he wanted to make major distributions to us. He took me to lunch and told me this. He also said the same thing to Brian and Roger. My mother did not want the distributions made, and stopped him from even discussing the distributions with us, much less making them.”
“In sum,” she wrote, “I am extremely concerned by my mother’s words, especially those which have been false or misleading, and actions, especially those which involve secrecy, pressuring my father, or taking legal measures to hide financial information regarding our trusts, which reveal her not to be acting in our interest, but in fact working against the interests of the beneficiaries of the trusts of which she is trustee, and that of which she is special trustee.”
Catherine also said in the 2009 declaration that her mother had hit her in the face, leaving a “large red mark,” after a night of drinking.
Roger and Julie Corman did not respond to Deadline’s request for comment. The suit first was reported by theblast.com.