Portuguese filmmaker Branco and production company Alfama Films sought damages from RPC, claiming Jeremy Thomas’s UK firm was in breach of an agreement to give his company the option to make the film. In his ruling today, Judge Hacon dismissed the claim, saying Branco “never had a substantial chance” of making the film, and stated that Alfama must pay RPC’s legal costs.
The dispute stems from Gilliam entering an agreement with Branco and Alfama in 2016 before relations soured. Later that year, RPC granted an option to Spanish production company Tornasol Films, which led to the picture eventually being produced.
Today’s judgement – which you can read in full here – details how RPC and Alfama battled over whether the latter’s option on the film had expired before it was passed on. RPC argued that, if it did breach the agreement, the film “could only have been made with Mr Gilliam as director; Mr Gilliam would not have agreed to continue working with Mr Branco, so the film would never have been made with Mr Branco as producer” and that “even if Mr Gilliam had agreed to continue as director, the producers would not have been able to raise the finances to enable the film to be made.”
A Court of Appeal had established that the Alfama option had not expired, but Judge Hacon declared that the possibility the film would be made with Branco and Gilliam was “very low” and concluded that the project did not have “a substantial chance” without RPC moving the option on.
The court documents released today include some of the strained correspondence between the parties, including emails between Branco and Gilliam. The case was all heard virtually due to the pandemic.
The Man Who Killed Don Quixote went through a lengthy and troubled production before it finally premiered at Cannes in 2018. The film’s debut was itself a dramatic affair, with Branco seeking to block it from screening at the last minute.
A separate court case between Branco and Gilliam continues in French court.
Deadline reached out to Branco following the verdict. The veteran producer told us that he hasn’t decided yet whether to appeal today’s verdict but that “there are further steps to come” in the long-running saga.