Weinsteins hit with $50 million suit over animated film

Updated: 2011-03-03 15:07


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Fresh off Oscar wins for "The King's Speech," Harvey Weinstein and his brother Bob Weinstein were hit with a $50 million lawsuit on Wednesday claiming they sabotaged production of a troubled animated film.

Filmmaker Tony Leech, a co-director and co-writer of the 2005 animated hit "Hoodwinked!" which was distributed by The Weinstein Co., filed the lawsuit in Manhattan Supreme Court over the much-delayed action-comedy, "Escape From Planet Earth." He was joined by producer Brian Inerfeld and his company Protocol Pictures.

The lawsuit claims the film was "sabotaged...through a potent combination of hubris, incompetence, profligate spending, and contempt for contractual obligations."

Calling the brothers "out-of-control movie executives," the lawsuit depicted Harvey and Bob Weinstein as "a real-life version of Bialystock & Bloom," the bumbling characters from the Mel Brooks satire "The Producers."

The Weinstein Co.'s lawyers fired back, dismissing the suit as "frivolous" and rife with "slanderous" and "irrelevant" personal attacks. They said the makers "were let go after they refused to make the picture which TWC wanted" and were paid more than $2 million "which is what was called for by their contract," they said.

Among the lawsuit's allegations are that Weinstein Co, which the brothers formed in 2005 after leaving Miramax Films, paid the Leech and Inerfeld $500,000 to delay Wednesday's legal action until after Sunday's Academy Awards.

"The King's Speech," which was distributed by Weinstein Co., won four top Oscars, including best picture.

"The Weinsteins...did not want to take the chance that their reputations would be sullied by the truth at a time when the voting for the Oscars was underway," attorney Judd Burstein wrote.

The suit notes that Weinstein Co. believes the $500,000 payment was extorted, a claim the plaintiffs deny.

In bringing the suit, Leech said he devoted four years to writing and directing "Escape From Planet Earth," including relocating from Los Angeles to Vancouver, Canada, to work with Rainmaker Entertainment Inc., also named as a defendant along with Escape Productions and JTM Escape Company.

The lawsuit details a string of events that plaintiffs claim amounted to interference, indecision, cost overruns and breaches of contract by the Weinsteins, resulting in years of delays for a film first expected to be released in 2009.

The suit alleges the Weinstein brothers had conflicting ideas for the film, bombarding the makers with changes that amounted to "Escape" being "entirely re-conceived."

The suit also details casting snafus and claims the Weinsteins breached contracts on other film projects including an adaptation of children's TV series "Fraggle Rock."

It asks for a minimum of $50 million for the problems with "Escape" and another $4 million for the other projects.


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