Family Threatens Oscar-Qualifying Run Of Movie Based On Robert Durst Scandal

EXCLUSIVE: Attorneys representing the Gotham-based real estate clan The Durst Organization are threatening to sue over the December release of All Good Things. The Andrew Jarecki-directed drama in thinly veiled fashion tells the story of Robert Durst, who was a suspect in the disappearance of his wife and the murders of two other people. I’ve learned that New York-based attorney Richard Emery, representing the Durst Organization and Seymour Durst’s other son Douglas, has been sending letters threatening legal action to distributor Magnolia Pictures, Jarecki, his CAA reps, and others involved past and present. Those letters are trying to stop the pic’s release in December for a qualifying Oscar run. In a letter sent on September 8 to Magnolia Pictures head Eamonn Bowles, obtained by me, Emery wrote:

“It is currently our plan to sue Mr. Jarecki and Magnolia if you distribute this film. It appears that the current version of the film defames the Durst and the Durst Organization. We will file the action after the film has been released and run its course, so that our lawsuit will not aid the film’s promotion. We recognize that it is very unlikely that any court will  grant a prior restraint enjoining the release of the film. The consequence will be that our lawsuit will not be settled because the harm to the Durst will have been inflicted by release of the film. We will have no choice but to proceed through full discovery, trial and all available appeals, if only because Mr. Jarecki and Magnloia and its insurers will not be able to compensate the Durst and The Durst Family Organization sufficiently to undo the damage. We believe that it is incumbent upon you to convey to any potential insurer that the lawsuit described above, with the goals described, will be filed by The Durst Organization…

“The Dursts and the DO are pained and concerned by the film’s false depiction of their family and their family-owned company as criminal collaborators in the prostitution and drug rings that plagued Time Square in the 1970s… Seymour Durst prided himself on his creative and legally ground-breaking role as an advocate for change in Times Square, and vigorously opposed the old status quo that had permitted crime to flourish in the area. To see a long record of hard work and civic accomplishment so casually maligned in the film is simply intolerable for the family.””

Similar missives were sent directly to Jarecki, who claimed he attempted to get cooperation from Robert Durst but was rebuffed, as well as to his agents at CAA. Ryan Gosling plays David Marks (aka Robert Durst), Kirsten Dunst plays Katie (based on Durst’s wife Kathie McCormack, whose body was never found) and Frank Langella plays real estate magnate Sanford Marks,
a character modeled after Durst Organization patriarch Seymour Durst. The character David Marks is depicted as an uneasy guy traumatized by the suicide death of his mother. After marrying Katie, David Marks seems on the verge of finding happiness when they open a Vermont health food store called All Good Things, hence the movie’s title. But after he’s coaxed by his real estate magnate father to return to NYC and enter the family’s commercial real estate business, David disintegrates into a regular Norman Bates-caliber creep who talks to himself and becomes increasingly abusive to his wife. Before she can file for divorce, she disappears in 1982. The movie strongly suggests that Gosling’s character is responsible for her demise. After he bolts for Texas, he hides out by dressing as a woman and pretending to be mute. The film infers that he also was involved in the killing of a friend (who tried to get money out of him to keep his secrets) and a neighborr who made the same mistake.

The actual Robert Durst was never tried for the disappearance of his wife or his friend. But he was tried for the  murder of his neighbor, Morris Black, whose remains were discovered floating in Galveston Bay. Durst admitted to cutting up the body with a hacksaw and paring knife, but claimed it was in self defense. The Texas jury acquitted him of murder but found him guilty of illegally disposing of a body. He served nine months of a five year sentence. According to reports, Robert Durst agreed to cut all ties to the Durst family trusts in exchange for $65 million.

Jarecki, who made a fortune as co-founder/CEO of Moviefone when the service was sold to AOL, makes his scripted directing debut on All Good Things. He previously directed the Sundance prize-winning and controversial documentary Capturing the Friedmans. There is little complaint over the depiction of Robert Durst in the legal letters that first came to Jarecki from the Durst Organization attorney. Nor are the murders really addressed. Instead, the attorney objects to the film’s depiction of the fictional real estate family’s role in the 42nd Street squalor as a porn/prostitution center and subsequent clean-up.

Right now, insiders tell me the film will be released as planned — platformed on December 3 in New York and opening the following week in Los Angeles to qualify for Oscars. It will then add theaters starting December 17 and into January. It’s been very difficult to gain injunctions against film releases, unless there is a rights clearance issue (The Dukes of Hazzard, Watchmen). The fact that Seymour Durst died in 1995 adds a level of complexity, since the deceased can’t be libeled. But the letters say The Durst Organization will claim corporate defamation.

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